Ipala – Seat of Kings (chortí)

Jutiapa and Jalapa, in the southeastern part of the country, are dotted with 11 of the 32 volcanos (roughly 34%) that cover the Republic of Guatemala. Ipala volcano is the most widely heard-of and climbed of those 11 volcanos.

At an altitud of 1650 meters above sea level, it is the third or fourth tallest of the region but climbing it has it’s reward.

I first climbed this volcano with a group of friends in the late 90’s. I remember thinking how easy it was to climb and how pleasant the weather was the entire time.

My experience climbing it this year (20-some years and 4 kids later), my experience was definitely quite different, as I should have expected.

We traveled on Friday, from Guatemala city to Chiquimula avoiding the “fastest route” as we were aware it was under construction which would mean hours of sitting in traffic.

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This route is, in my opinion, the nicest route to Chiquimula because of the light traffic and the views.

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Our first sighting of the Ipala volcano from the road.

Once in Chiquimula we stayed at the Grand Caporal Hotel which I can highly recommend. It was the second time we stayed there as a family and the service, food and accomodations are true to their 4-star rating.

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A true testament to the exponential growth of the cities in the interior of the Republic.

On Saturday we attended a wedding close to our hotel in a place called Los Laureles which is a combination of small hotels and celebration venues located inside a former finca (large farmland). We were pleasantly surprised to enjoy such a beautiful wedding in an unexpected corner of Guatemala’s interior.

Sunday morning we drove from our hotel towards Ipala volcano (about 30 min) ready to climb it in the estimated time of 1 hour. From the road, a sign indicates the entrance to the national park. From the sign it is about a 15 min drive (with increasingly breathtaking sights) up to the parking area where horses can be rented to go up the rest of the way if there is someone who needs the help. It is otherwise an easy climb up to the top

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The weather in this region of the country is usually between 16ºC and 31ºC. But on this occasion we were met with unusually cold temperatures and a wind factor. We arrived at the top of the volcano ready to walk around tha lagoon that is in the crater, take many pictures, maybe have a picnic but it was so cold and windy that we all agreed to  just take the pictures to prove we made it up and then rush back down to the car and head home.

The temperature our phones indicated was 7ºC. Extremely uncommon for this area of Guatemala.

There are many legends surrounding this crater lake. The indisuputable truth is that it was and may still be considered a sacred place for the Mayans. As in many other cultures, mountain tops or high places and water have spiritual significance in the Mayan culture. The views, on a clear day include the nearby volcanos: Suchitán and Ixtepeque.

Our souvenier from this adventure was a cat that we bought for Q25 from a little old lady living at the top of the volcano. My son later named him Mark.

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