Often used as a stop off on the journey to or from Mexico, or as a staging area for forays deeper into the Cuchumatanes mountain range, Huehuetenango has a welcoming if scruffy character. 'Huehue' (way-way) packs in plenty of eating and sleeping options along with some striking mountain scenery, and in Zaculeu has a Maya site well worth a visit.
Huehuetenango was a Mam Maya region until the 15th century, when the K'iche', expanding from their capital K'umarcaaj (near present-day Santa Cruz del Quiché), pushed them out. But the weakness of K'iche' rule soon brought about civil war, which engulfed the highlands and provided a chance for Mam independence. The turmoil was still unresolved in 1525 when Gonzalo de Alvarado, the brother of Pedro, arrived to conquer Zaculeu, the Mam capital, for Spain.