Journey to Fuentes Georgina: Geothermal Pools in the Guatemalan Highlands

The early morning Journey to Fuentes Georgina started from the Hotel Lar Antiqua beside the Parque Central. After a cool 20-minute power walk I was at La Rotonda and soon thereafter on a refurbished school bus bound for Zunil and its geothermal pools.

A half hour later, I debarked in the picturesque town, close to 300 meters below Quetzaltenango, yet still greatly elevated in the gorgeously green Guatemalan highlands.

From there, the bus’ conductor and driver pointed me in the direction I needed to go, while telling me I had the option of a 10 km, one-hour walk, or a much faster jeep or car.

Three buses sit parked beside the green two of Zunil, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
Debarking point, Zunil, Guatemala.

Shortly thereafter I purchased three big bananas for 3 Quetzales ($.39). This simple purchase proved to be a godsend.

I questioned the clerk about getting to the termales. She recommended paying for a ride after I climbed the las piedras (the steps), which would turn out to be a rocky and large-cobblestone street that led to a main road.

There I inquired with the first person I saw. He pointed to a narrow road on the left. When I confirmed the way with another person, he offered me a ride for 50 Q ($6.50). I told him I preferred to walk. I would partly regret the decision half-way through the uphill ramble.

The inclined walk was time consuming and energy expending, while the nature was spectacular.

The original idea had been to get to the pools before potential crowds showed up. It was a Tuesday and not a weekend. That helped.

Working man walking on a road in grand nature beside a sign: 'Fuentes Georginas 8.3 km' in Zunil, Guatemala
1.7 of 10 kilometers (1/5 of the walk complete), Zunil Guatemala.

While the walk was tiring, the nature views were exhilarating. I was walking in a cloud forest. It reminded me of learning about this natural phenomenon back in grade school. The terms tropical or subtropical rain forest sounded exotic. Now, many years later, I was living it while making my way towards Fuentes Georgina.

Selfie with beautful mountainous greenery in rural Zunil, Quezaltenango, Guatemala

Stopping and taking photos, the journey took two hours. Power walking without stopping for photos may have taken an hour.

A woman works the land with her child on her back amid stunningly green scenery in agrarian Zunil, Guatemala.
Woman toils with her child on her back, Zunil, Guatemala.

Finally, I reached the impressive hot springs. But I wasn’t in the best of spirits. I’d used a ton of energy and one bottle of water plus three bananas to climb 10 km (6.2 miles). More bio fuel would have been better.

Had I not bought the three bananas, the walk may have caused pain from dehydration. Water wouldn’t have been enough. Fruit was perfect. The bananas provided just enough live energy for the ascent. Still, in hindsight, I should have bought more bananas.

I paid the man at the gate the foreigner price of 60 Quetzales ($7.68). For Guatemalans, the cost is 40 Q, two-thirds the gringo price.

A nature view from a hike to Fuentes Geogina in Zunil, Quetzaltenango, southern Guatemalan highlands.
One of an endless array of spectacular nature views, Zunil, Guatemala.

From there I walked to the site and acquired three red apples for 10 Q ($1.28). They would hold me over until after bathing in the hot springs.

I paid 15 Q ($1.93), for a towel rental and could have paid 15 Q for a locker. They provide the locks and locker or you carry your stuff.

Exhausted, confused and disoriented, I headed up to the locker and pool area. Of the three pools, only one, the biggest one, was open. There were 10 people in it with others ready to get in. It wasn’t crowded per se, but it was sparsely populated either.

Thinking about changing into swim attire, I checked out the locker area. It was crowded. I didn’t see any good space to change.

Exhausted from the climb, I wondered why I’d made the journey.

I returned to the concession stand where I’d gotten the apples. I told the woman about this first-world dilemma. She told me if I pay 25 Q ($3.20) to the towel man, then I could have access to five pools that were a five minute walk away in a different direction.

She was sure I would have the pools to myself.

I paid the extra 25 Quetzales and was handed a ticket.

I went in the direction that the lady told me, to the left, then right and down. Still wiped out from the inclined, high-altitude, I found the fog-shrouded pools. No one was there.

Therapeutic hot springs in nature at Fuentes Geogina in Zunil in the Guatamalan highlands.
The pool at the far end was the hottest and the one I mostly used, Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.

I had the area for as long as my worn body could handle it. The farthest pool was the hottest, while the others were lukewarm at best. I went in and out of the hot one a few times.

Heat submersion felt serene in the cool and foggy area where that lacked sun.

The hottest of the bonus pools at Fuentes Georgina Hot Springs in Zunil, in the Guatemalan Highlands.
The hottest of the bonus pools, Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.

To be alone in unique nature felt surreal.

Finally, I knew my body couldn’t handle more heat. I’d pushed it as hard as I could.

A selfie at the natrually exotic geothermal hotsprings of Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.
After enjoying the heat of the hottest pool, Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.

I’d made a huge mistake not bringing more water. I wasn’t in the habit of buying water in Guatemala. Instead I filled my bottle in guesthouses and restaurants.

Only feeling the desire to collapse into a bed, I wearily made it uphill and back to the main area.

There I saw the lady who sold me the apples and told her what fantastic advice she’d given me.

She sold me a vegetable tamale, hot chocolate and peanut and panela cookies. The latter I shared with her little son, who was forced to be there all day. You see a lot of that in Guatemala and the developing world.

Guatemala is said to have a 25% illiteracy rate. It’s easy to notice why.

It was midday, and getting darker because of rainy season in the high mountains.

After conversations with the woman, about everything from the health benefits of cacao, to the pandemic and its lasting effects on travel and psychology worldwide, she mentioned that foreign tourism has not been close to what it was before la pandemia.

I bade her and her son adieu and left the hot springs area. I greeted the friendly guy who’d sold me the original entrance ticket. Then, while I admiring these coatis, a car was leaving the site.

Coatis at the entrance of Fuentes Georginas in Zunil, in the Guatemalan Highlands.
Coatis at the entrance to Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.

The kind man told the driver that I needed a ride down to the town. The driver got out of the car and said in English:

You need a ride?

Sure. That’d be great.

In reality, It was more than great as I wasn’t in the mood for another long walk, even downhill.

Where are you from?


There was an instant smile. He was a Guatemalan who’d been living in Dedham, MA for years after attending college in Boston. He was on a two-week vacation visiting his original homeland.

So we had endless things to talk about before he dropped me where a bus was bound for Xelá (Quetzaltenango), the place of the Quetzal bird and Guatemala’s second largest city.

Bus coming and two Mayan women wating in Zunil in the Guatemalan highlands.
The bus that would take me back to Quetzaltengo, Zunil, Guatemala.

The bus came and dropped me back at la Rotonda. There I was able to get another colectivo to the center, and closer to the hotel.

The big blue arch and traffic underneath on a gray day in Quezaltenango, Guatemala.  Journey to Fuentes Georgina Post.
The arch in front of La Rotonda, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

After telling one of the family members at the mom and pop hotel about my experience, she couldn’t believe that I’d walked all that way.

Drained, but happy for the morning I’d manifested, I filled my stainless steel bottle with a combination of hot and cold water, and forced myself up the three flights of stairs to my room with a view.

I closed the door, kicked off my shoes, and pleasantly plopped into the comfy bed where a mandatory siesta was the only thing I could fathom.

Cost Breakdown

Service ItemPrice
Colectivo aka Chicken Bus from Xelá to Zuhil7 Q ($.90)
Entrance to Fuentes Georgina60 Q ($7.66)
Entrance to the bonus pools25 Q ($3.19)
Towel rental15 Q ($1.92)
Bus back to Quezaltenango7 Q ($.90)
City bus back to el centro3 Q ($.39)
TOTAL117 Q ($14.92)
Cost breakdown, Journey to Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.

After the return to Hotel Lar Antiqua, I was told there’s a tourist shuttle for 150 Quetzales round trip. That includes the 60 Q entrance but not the 25 Q bonus pools or towel rental.

In total, with the tourist shuttle, total expenditures would have been 190 Quetzales ($24.24). So for 10 extra dollars, you can avoid a lot of walking and logistics by getting a shuttle from your hotel right to the hot springs, and back again.

For door-to-door shuttle information, ask at your accommodation or in a travel shop.

If you want to save the $10 or have more of an adventure You can also take the vintage US school bus from la Rotunda, like I did. Then, from the stop in Zunil, walk up to the 8.3 Kilometers sign and pay a driver 25 Q ($6.50) from there. I would try to haggle that down. At least achieve a small discount.

Any local will put you in the right direction. If you don’t have enough Spanish, use a translator, or maybe the person has lived in the US and speaks English.

Have you visited any exotic natural hot springs? Did it feel medicinal and rejuvenating? Leave a comment below.

Here is the whole set of photos from the journey to Fuentes Georginas, Zunil, Guatemala.

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