Guide to Cobán and the Verapaz
A Cornucopia of Beauty and Wonder
Copyrights 2001 by BIDAS/Proyecto Eco-Quetzal
2a Calle 14-36 Zona 1, Coban, Tel : 9521047, e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduced with the amable authorization of Jeronimo
Makransky of Don Jeronimo's
On sale locally
Stuff to do of an afternoon
- Vivero Verapaz orchid nursery
- Finca Margarita coffee tour
- Principe Maya Museum
- Calvario Church
- Parque Nacional Las Victorias
Full day trips out of Cobán
- Cecilinda / Rey Marcos Cave
Quetzal Biotope, Cave of Chicoy. Chixim Church
El Salto de Chilascó waterfall
Several days trips out of Cobán
- Lanquin / Semuc Champey
Jungle hike to Río Ikbolay
Rafting on the Cahabon river
Special events and fairs
Lodging and services in Cobán
Hotels, Cafes, Restaurants
Doctors who speak English
Banking, ATM's, and Internet access
How to get to
Cobán is located in the cool, humid mountains of northern Guatemala. Its lush, subtropical cloud forests are perched on top of the watershed dividing the Yucatán Peninsula: the pristine rivers of Alta Verapaz feed into the Chixoy?Usumacinta system (Gulf of Mexico) to the west, and into Lake Izabal?Rio Dulce (Caribbean Sea) to the east. Cobán is the center of Guatemala's gourmet coffee-growing region, and also produces cardamom
and allspice for export.
Because of its unique history (Alta Verapaz was never "conquered"; rather, Juan Matalbatz, the chieftain of the warlike Q'eqchi Indians, voluntarily converted to Christianity and allied himself with the Dominican priests), the indigenous people of Alta Verapaz have preserved their language and customs to a remarkable degree. The dominant language of the Alta Verapaz remains Q'eqchi, and Pocomchí, not Spanish. The Q'eqchis and Pocomchís are shy and wary of strangers, but if you can say a few words in their language, they become warm and friendly ("en?kwan-bee" means
"hello"; "ban?tee?osh" means "thank?you").
The elevation of Cobán is 5000 feet and the average temperature is 70 degrees. Annual rainfall of 70 inches makes the countryside green and lush. The dry season (March through May) can be quite hot; the winter months (December - January) very cold and damp. There are no particular health hazards in highland Verapaz, so no special precautions are necessary
(however it is advisable to avoid eating street food).
How to get from Guatemala to Cobán: Buses from Guatemala City leave hourly from Transportes Escobar - 8 Avenida 15-16 Zone 1 - Tel: 251-1878 every day except Christmas. During holidays (Easter week, September 15th,
Christmas - New Years) it is advisable to purchase tickets a day in advance.
Note: there is no regularly scheduled transportation from Cobán directly to Peten. However it can still be accomplished through a succession of three chicken buses through Sebol, or Chisec to Raxruja then to Sayaxche and from there to Flores (see chapter 9:
How to get to....). Also by guided tours. This offers the ambitious traveler a chance to see the striking beauty of the Alta Verapaz usually only seen by the local inhabitants. The roads are rough but well worth the trip. Once the border of the Petén is reached the road improves dramatically. See also: Heading north from Lanquin.
Stuff To Do Of An Afternoon ?
Vivero Verapaz orchid nursery - over 35,000 plants embracing 650 species of orchids collected by the late Otto Mittelstaedt. There are miniatures which can only be examined with a magnifying glass, and other varieties the size of large bushes. Some orchids are fragrant (such as vanilla and a coconut-scented variety) and others are fetid (such as an orchid pollinated by mosquitos, which stinks like a sweaty mammal). And there are many examples of Guatemala's national flower, the Monja Blanca (white nun - Lycaste
virginalis, var. Alba).
Services: guided tours cost Q10 per person and take from ½ hour to 2 hours, depending on one's interest. The nursery is open every day between 9 am and noon, and between 2 and 5 pm. There are furnished bungalows for rent;
call 952-1133 or 951-4202 for information.
How to get there: It's a 40-minute walk from the central park in Cobán on the old road to Guatemala City (see city map; there's a large sign at the entrance
to the nursery). Or, you can take a taxi from the central park for Q10.
Coffee Tour - Finca Margarita in downtown Cobán offers a tour of the coffee plantation. Bilingual (Spanish-English) guides explain the history of the plantation and demonstrate the culture and processing of coffee. The tour ends with a coffee-tasting in which you will learn to distinguish between Prime (lowland) coffee, Semi-Hard bean (middle altitude) coffee, and Hard bean (high altitude) coffee; as well as learn to distinguish between the
different blends of gourmet coffee.
Services: guided tours cost Q15 per person and take 1 ½ hours. The tours are available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 12:30 pm, and from 1:30 to 5 pm; and on Saturday mornings from 8 am to noon. For more information
How to get there: Finca Margarita is located three blocks from Cobán 's Central Park, at 3a Calle 4-12 Zone 2.
Principe Maya Museum - this is a varied collection of Mayan artifacts, including carvings in mother of pearl and jade; polychromatic pottery; magical and ceremonial objects; work tools and implements of warfare; hieroglyphic panels; and a replica of a Mayan tomb. There is also an important collection of clay figurines representing warriors wearing animal masks. The name "Principe Maya" is taken from a statue in the Museum's collection of
a Mayan prince, replete with quetzal headdress.
Services: The museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm, and the cost of admission is Q10 per person. The owners are available for informative talks about the
various objects in the collection
How to get there: See city map. 6ª Ave 4-26 Zona 3, T9521541
Calvario Church - The Calvario is the most sacred site in Cobán, the focal point of religious practices throughout the year, but especially on Good Friday. Several altars are erected on the incline leading up to the chapel. The first of these is Los Tigrillos, which is for making wishes - one lights a candle and prays to the power of the spot for help in making the wish come true. The second altar on the ascent is San Salvador: this is the lover's altar, and a candle burned here carries the wish for love. The highest altar, across from the entrance to the chapel, is La Calavera: candles are burned here to ask for
health. The present chapel was constructed around 1810. Within its whitewashed walls burn hundreds of votive candles - on the floor, on altars, on the railings. Q'eqchi supplicants kneel before the image of Christ and speak to him of their sadness and devotion with murmured prayers, whispered plaints, and soft crying. Outside the chapel, the view across the terrace is a magnificent panorama of the city of Cobán , nestled in rolling green hills. To the southeast rise the Rocja mountains, dominated by the cloud-shrouded Mt. Xucaneb, the highest point
in Alta Verapaz.
How to get there: see Cobán city map.
Parque Nacional Las Victorias - this 84 hectare park is a natural reserve with marked footpaths on the northern edge of Cobán . It's a great place to walk, jog, or just relax and contemplate nature. The forest shelters a large and varied population
of birds as well as ornamental and medicinal plants.
Services: There are picnic tables, benches and fireplaces for barbecuing. Camping is permitted (there are toilets but no showers). Entrance fee is Q1 for adult or Q.50 for
child nationals, and Q5 for foreigners.
How to get there: see Cobán city map.
Full Day Trips Out of Cobán ?
Cecilinda / Rey Marcos Cave (San Juan Chamelco A.V.) - Cecilinda is a bathing / picnic spot where a spring gushes forth from the mountainside into a series of pools and waterfalls. The recently discovered Rey Marcos cave is located above the spring, and contains some of the most beautiful decorations of any cave in Central America - huge stalagmites with filigree ornamentation in translucent stone, as if squeezed from a tube by a pastry chef. In addition to the cave and pools, there is an artificial children's pool, and scenic hiking trails up the mountain through lush rainforest.
Services: There is a restaurant featuring typical Guatemalan cuisine open on weekends, also a tienda with soft drinks and snacks. Picnic facilities are available. Entrance to Cecilinda is Q10 per person; guided tour of the cave costs an additional Q10 and includes helmet and light. It is open Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm, but special arrangements can be made on weekdays with Ivan Fernandez at 951-2756 or 951-4356 (call a day in advance). For US$12 per person ( 3-person minimum) Ivan will pick you up at your hotel in Cobán , provide a tour of the cave and a snack, and return you to your hotel. Inquire at the Internet Café in Cobán . Overnight lodging is available at the nearby hotel Don Jeronimo's (Tel: 308-2255), which also
offers hiking trips, tubing and swimming.
How to get there: From Cobán take the bus to San Juan Chamelco (see city map). In Chamelco, take a bus or pickup truck going to Chamil from the corner of zero Calle and zero Avenida. Ask the driver to let you off at the Rey Marcos cave (at the hermita / puesto de salud in aldea Santa Cecilia). Continue straight another 100 meters following the signs to Cecilinda. Or, you can take a taxi from the cathedral in Cobán (in front of Supertienda El Gallo)
directly to Cecilinda for Q50.
Quetzal Biotope - Chicoy Cave - Chixim Church (Purulha B.V., Tactic A.V.) - These three attractions can all be visited in one day if you have a car or
take a tour (inquire at Internet Café in Cobán ).
Biotopo del Quetzal: Right on the Guatemala-Cobán highway at km 160 (4 kms south of Purulha, B.V.) there is a remnant of the formerly huge cloud forests of Guatemala, the Biotopo del Quetzal. The University of San Carlos protects this 11 km² area, a small part of which is open to the public. Cloud forests are the most beautiful of tropical forests. Every tree seems to be the work of art of a Japanese florist, being covered with mosses, red flowering bromeliads and carpets of orchids. The reason for all this splendor is the high humidity in the air - Caribbean clouds run into these mountains and drop their rain, which is why epiphytic plants, which have no major roots, can grow on the branches of trees. While bromeliads get their water from the rain, storing it in their leaf rosettes, orchids store the water in their succulent bulbs. With a bit of luck you'll see a resplendent quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, which come to aguacatillo trees across the highway in the mornings. You can do an hour walk on the Biotope´s trails, and take a swim at the end in one of the little creeks. Right next to the Biotope there is a huge clearing covered by something that looks like a huge black tent. This is a
plantation of leather leaf, a fern used by florists.
Services: Hours are from 7 am to 4 pm, and admission is Q 20. Rangers are there to answer your questions. There is a space for camping and barbecue stands. There is a tienda with snacks and soft drinks in the Biotopo itself. Additionally, lodging is available nearby: Hotel Los Ranchitos (on the highway right after the Biotopo) offers inexpensive bungalows, restaurant, and a cheap tienda. Hotel La Posada del Quetzal, at km 157 offers a pool, garden and comfortable bungalows with fireplaces. Tel 208-5958, 367-1771, 367-1772. Lodging and meals (with bar) are also available at Hotel-Restaurant Ram Tzul at km 158, which has waterfalls and swimming spots of its own. Tel:
335-1805, e-mail: email@example.com
How to get there: From Guatemala City, ask the bus driver to let you off at the Biotopo del Quetzal. From Cobán, take a Guatemala City bus and ask the driver to let you off at the Biotopo. Tours are also available from the Internet
Chicoy Cave - Cueva Chicoy is not really a cave, but rather a sinkhole of perhaps sixty meters diameter, so no flashlights are needed. A natural cathedral, it has anticline and syncline walls, clusters of stalagmites stretching up to fifteen meters in height, and a high, vaulted ceiling. The entrance of the cave is covered by forest. If you enter in the morning (11 a.m.), there is still mist and the sunrays enter the cave through a green filter. Be careful with the slippery descent. The cave has strong vibrations: the Mayans use the cave of Chicoy for healing and making wishes (if you want to do the same, bring candles to light at the main altar behind the stalagmites), and it is often the scene of important Mayan rituals, such as the ceremony marking the beginning of the 260-day sacred year - Cuaxaquib (8) Batz (Monkey).
Services: Entrance fee is Q5. There are public latrines and a picnic area below the cave.
How to get there: The cave is located 1 km in from km 169 on the Cobán - Guatemala highway, 4 kms north of Purulha, B.V. From Cobán you can take a Guatemala or Purulha bus and ask the driver to let you off at Finca Chicoy. From the Biotopo you can hike the 8 kms or flag down a bus going north.
Chixim church - this church has a miracle Jesus which attracts pilgrims from all over Guatemala (particularly on January 1st and 15th, the day of the Black Saint of Chixim). The walls of the room to the left of the main altar are covered with plaques of thanksgiving for miracles ascribed to El Señor de Chixim. The terrace in front of the church affords a spectacular panoramic view of the Tactic valley. A few steps down from the terrace, to the right, is the monument of Jesus Lopez (ask at the tienda for permission to enter); this is a room full of macabre (albeit with a sense of humor) mosaics with religious
connotations, made by late shaman Jesus Lopez.
Services: Tactic has several hotels: Pensión Central 3a calle 4-10 zona 1; Pensión Sulmy 4a ave. 1-02 zona 2; Hotel Villa Linda 4a calle; Eco-Centro Chixim on the main highway just south of town offers private bungalows
and a restaurant.
How to get there: From Cobán , take a bus to Tactic A.V. (see Cobán city map). Chixim church is a half-hour's walk up the hill from downtown Tactic. Additionally, the famous colorful guipiles of Tactic can be seen in the central
Sachichaj - This is a 15-meter high waterfall which cascades from a cave into a turquoise lagoon of breathtaking beauty - a great place to picnic and swim. It is highly recommended that you take a guide since it's easy to get
lost in the maze of paths leading to it.
How to get there: You can get a tour from the Internet Café in Cobán . If you are in your own vehicle, the road from Cobán to Chisec crosses the Sachichaj river at km 24. Just past this point on the left is Tienda y Comedor Reina where you can hire a guide. Leave your vehicle at the old army encampment
and walk 40 minutes to reach the waterfall.
El Salto (Chilasco, B.V.) - This is a series of waterfalls, four in all, which drop 130 meters altogether and thus is one of the highest waterfalls in Central America. The final waterfall of 40 meters drop is the most impressive. El Salto is reached via a 2 hour hike through the virgin cloudforest of the Sierra de Las Minas Biosphere Reserve, which contains a wide variety of fauna. From here it is another 5 hours' hike to the Los Albores camp in the heart of
the Biosphere Reserve.
Services: Guides are available for Q30 from Defensores de La Naturaleza in Chilasco and it is possible to rent a horse for Q30. There's a rustic cabin at Rio Concepcion where you can spend the night. More information is avail-
able from the Defensores de La Naturaleza.
How to get there: Chilasco is located 12 km from the turnoff at km 145 on the highway from Guatemala to Cobán . You can get a bus to Chilasco from the terminal in Salama B.V. at noon, or from the crossroads on the main highway (El Cumbre) at 12:30 pm every day. Return buses leave Chilasco at 3 pm. Tours can also be booked from the Internet Café in Cobán .
Several Days Trips Out of Cobán ?
Lanquin / Semuc Champey:
Lanquin: Lanquin is a small town located 64 kilometers west of Cobán (3 ½ hour's bus ride). Just off the central park is a 400 year-old church containing an original silver altar and many religious relics. Located 1 km. from town is the cave of Lanquin through which flows the Rio Lanquin (take your own flashlight; it has happened that the lights in the cave go off unexpectedly, in which case you are trapped until someone decides to turn them on again). The first night in Lanquin, whether you explore the cave or not, you should go out to the river's edge at dusk to watch the bats fly out of the cave. It is most definitely an impressive sight to watch several millions of bats swarm out of the cave and fly down the river. You can swim in the river that flows out of the cave (if you like). If you have a tent, you can camp at the mouth of the cave.
Services: Hotel El Recreo is very nice (but costly); Hogar del Turista, El Retiro (next to the Cahabon river 300 meters from town on the road to Cahabon), and other hospedajes are quite cheaper. It's not a bad idea to buy some cheese and snacks in the supertienda in Cobán before you leave so you have something good to eat during the journey. Also, the last bank and ATM until Peten are in Cobán, so you'd better get all the cash you need there.
How to get there: you will need a minimum of 3 days (unless you take the one-day tour: it's a long drive, 8 hours on the road to and from - consult Hostal de Acuna or Internet Café in Cobán for details of the one-day tour. Cost = about $35 / person, 3-person minimum). Buses for Lanquin leave Cobán a block from the terminal de buses market at 6 and 11 am and 1 and 3 pm, and get you into Lanquin about 3 hours later. The cost is Q8.
Semuc Champey: This is a series of Travertine pools and waterfalls in virgin rainforest, located 11 kilometers from Lanquin. The place is incredible; you have to see it to believe it. Also it's a really fun and beautiful place to swim in and explore. When the water (which is rich in calcium carbonate) passes over the lip of a dam, it is agitated, which causes the water to evaporate and deposit calcium carbonate on the top of the dam. Thus the dams are being built up faster than normal erosion can wear them down. The pools and waterfalls occur on top of a huge cave through which flows the Rio Cahabon.
Services: Entrance fee is Q20; parking fee is Q5. You can buy cold beer and soft drinks from the government commissary at the entrance, but not food. There is a dressing room to change into bathing suits. There are places to picnic and barbecue. If you have a tent, there is a place to camp. The latrines leave something to be desired.. Do be careful of leaving belongings; the local youths have discovered that thievery pays off (i.e., leave your valuables back in Lanquin, or hide them well in the bushes, when you go off
How to get there: Leave your heavy belongings in the hotel in Lanquin - just take a day pack with swimming suit, towel, and food. EARLY in the morning, get yourself out on the road to Champey. There's lots of coffee / cardamom fincas on that road, and the finqueros will give you free rides. You can also rent a pickup truck in Lanquin to take you and bring you back for about Q 120 (ask around). Or, you can walk: it's a 3-hour walk down, and a 3-hour walk back (through tremendous heat - 11 km up and down the
mountain from Lanquin).
To head north from Lanquin: Take the 5 am or 7 am bus from Lanquin to Pajal (the crossroads). The buses from Cobán to Sebol pass Pajal at roughly 7:30, 8:30, and 8:45 am. From Sebol, you can take a bus to Raxruja. You can either hitch a ride with a pick-up or ride a bus to Sayaxche. From Sayaxche you can catch a bus to Flores, Peten. A good place to stay in Raxruja is Hospedaje Agua Verde.
To go to Poptun: Take the 5 am or 7 am bus from Lanquin to Pajal (the crossroads). Flag a bus or truck going to Fray Bartolomeo Las Casas (known locally as "Fray" or "Las Casas"). In Las Casas take a truck going to Poptun. There is a bus from Las Casas to Poptun, but it leaves at 3:00 am,
arriving in Poptun at 8:00 am.
Proyecto Eco-Quetzal (PEQ): PEQ takes tourists to remote areas of the rainforest which are only accessible on foot. The guides are rural Q'eqchi Mayans who sometimes know very little Spanish, but who know the forest intimately and have received thorough training as guides. They take visitors by bus, launch, and on foot to the heart of the rainforest. The visitor stays in the guides' homes (which have been outfitted with beds, mattresses, latrines, bathing facilities, and boiled drinking water). You share in daily Q'eqchi life, hear the stories of the aldeas, and with luck might participate in Q'eqchi rituals and celebrations. In addition you will experience beauty of the subtropical rainforest, and in all likelihood will see the resplendent quetzal bird in its natural habitat. Participation in this project is not only a unique cross-cultural exchange opportunity, but also helps protect the
Services: For Q 320 you get a guide for three days, lodging for two nights, 6 meals, registration fee. Q 110 for each additional night. The PEQ office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm. It is located at 2a Calle 14-36 Zone 1, Cobán . Tel/fax: 952-1047. Detailed descriptions of available tours are available by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Proyecto Eco-Quetzal: this 10 year old NGO is dedicated to conserving and protecting the rainforests by offering economic alternatives to the indigenous occupants such as agricultural projects, candle manufacture using wax from the arrayan tree, and ecotourism. PEQ has lowered the deforestation rate to a 0.1% in the 70 square km area in which it operates.
Candelaria Caverns: The Candelaria Caverns are sacred to the Q'eqchi Mayans. The Candelaria River passes through a mountain via a subterranean network of grottos. The principle gallery is monumental, with a width of 20 to 30 meters and a height of up to 60 meters, and it is filled with large blocks of breakdown and is graced by gigantic stalagmites. It is 200 meters long and has occasional windows to the outside world piercing its walls and ceiling, which create a light show on the rocks and water from the sunlight which filters through the jungle outside the cavern. Some of the caverns have carved ladders or platforms constructed by the Mayans. It is possible to swim in the river and sunbathe on the banks near the eco-camp. This area is threatened by fires and logging by the local population, and a team of French led by Daniel Debreux are trying to enlist the help of local communities to protect it and create a national park. The people of Muqbilbel run the camp, and some of them are studying tour-guiding in France. There is some conflict between the local community and the conservationists.
Services: Tours of the caverns cost Q25, which includes a professional guide fluent in Spanish and French. It is also possible to rent boots. The tour of the smallest cave takes 2 hours. It's also possible to tour the caverns in a boat; this tour takes two days and enables you to see parts of the caverns inaccessible by foot. This expedition costs Q250 and includes overnight accommodations. Make your reservation at least two days in advance with Sergio Sierra at Tel: 710-8753. Accommodations: At the eco-camp the French have built first-class bungalows and kitchens, with beautiful and peaceful gardens. The cost is US$ 50 per person per day, which includes all services and a tour of the cave. It is also possible to camp at the entrance at Doña America's in the Rancho Rios Escondidos: in this case you should hire a guide at the Cooperativa Sechaj (see below).
How to get there: Two day (+ one night) tours are available from Hostal de Acuña for US$ 270 per person (2 person minimum) which includes food, lodging, and guided foot tour of the caverns. If you are on your own: from Chisec take the road to Raxruja for 20 kms. to the bridge over the Candelaria River. The Cooperativa Sechaj is located 2 km. past the bridge. Here you can engage a guide for the first cave. The most famous caves are 6 ½ kms. past the bridge on the right side, where there are two signs announcing "Escuela de Autogestion" (there is no sign for the caverns - on the left side of the road is a hill which is the center of finca Rancho Rios). Enter here and go
past the oil pipeline for 5 minutes to the eco-camp.
Laguna Lachua: Lake Lachua is like a little Caribbean sea set down in the tropical rainforest of Alta Verapaz. The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation including mahogany and cedar trees, and fauna such as jaguars (whose footprints can often be seen around the lake), giant shad which frequently pop out of the crystalline waters, and abundant birds such as parrots and toucans. In the distance - reflected in the mirror of the lake - you can see the wooded peaks El Peyan and La Sultana. The water of the lake contains so much calcium that the northern rim, where the water leaves the lake, has rock formations which appear like shells of calcite; and trees which fall into the water quickly turn into calcite skeletons. The water also has a high level of sulphur, which is where the name "Lachua" comes from (in Q'eqchi' "Li chu ha" means "the fetid water"). The sulphur indicates the probable presence of petroleum beneath the lake. If you cross the lake in a launch, what looks to be a white beach is actually a mire, so be careful not to sink into it.
The lake is 173 meters above sea level, and is 222 meters deep (thus beneath sea level), which is major puzzle for geologists. One theory holds that the lake was formed from a large salt deposit; another theory is that the lake is a meteorite crater, and the rest of the meteorite which formed the lakebed fell near Cobán in the Nim Tak'a depression, where one also finds meteoritic rocks of the same age as those around Lachua. Lachua is a National Park with a total area of 14,500 hectares (the lake itself occupies 400 hectares). The Peyan river empties into the lake, and the Lachua, Tzetoc and Del Altar rivers drain it. The climate is hot and extremely humid, with an average temperature of 26° C, rainfall of 3.3 meters, and humidity of 91%. The abundance of mahogany in the park has caused problems between conservationists and illicit loggers, who can earn up to ten times the going wages of a laborer by cutting down mahogany trees. The governmental authorities (UICN and INAB) who administer the park have adopted strategies of vigilance, and also seeking economic alternatives for the rural populations around the park. For example, UICN sells high-quality organic chile, chocolate, and honey made in the surrounding communities; by purchasing these products - as well as by visiting the lake - you can help the communities' sustainable economic projects.
Services: The park has a capacity of 84 day visitors and 21 overnight visitors, so it is not a good idea to visit during the Easter or Christmas holidays when it quickly becomes crowded. Admission costs Q40; boat rental Q7 per hour; and a guide costs Q30 (this must be arranged in advance at Tel: 704-1509). Camping costs Q20, beds with mosquito netting cost Q60. There are showers, toilets, barbecue fireplaces, and a large round hut shelter. You must bring your own food and drinking water, and take your trash out when you leave.
How to get there: Hostal de Acuña offers 2 day (+ 1 night) tours for US$90 per person (2 person minimum), which includes food, lodging, and guide. If you're on your own: heading east from the Cobán - Playa Grande crossroads it is 5 km (road to the right) to the entrance to Lachua (watch for thatched Administration building and signs on the left). You then have to walk 4 km through the hot, moist jungle to get to the lagoon.
Jungle hike to Río Ikbolay: This deep blue river winds its way through the jungle and disappears behind a mountain barrier, continuing its way below the surface in caves. The water reemerges in natural spring fountains and is so saturated with calcium that it cements its own path through the virgin forest. There is a beautiful cave, formerly also an underground arm of the river, with gorgeous white stalagmites. The Q´eqchi´ host community of Rokjá Pomptilá colonized this area twenty years ago. They are growing cardamom below primary forest shadow. They will guide you and share their everyday life in the jungle with you. The community is beautifully situated at the edge of the river, which is always inviting for a refreshing bath. The community of Rokjá sits right in one of the biggest tropical rainforest reserves of Guatemala in the vicinity of Laguna Lachuá. Your visit helps this community to keep on protecting their forest.
Services: A tour costs Q 320 for three days and two nights, guide, food and bed included. Every additional night Q 110. A motor boat round trip to the natural spring fountains costs an additional Q 100. See Proyecto Eco-Quetzal, above. You can contact your guide in Eco-Quetzal, Cobán, 2aCalle 14-36, Z1, T9521047.
Rafting on the Cahabon River: Class IV river trips down the Cahabon and Polochic rivers pass through beautiful canyons and tropical rainforests. Top-notch physical condition is required.
Services: Two companies offer tours lasting from 1 to 4 days:
Maya Expeditions, 15 Calle 1-91 Zone 10, Guatemala City - local #104. Tel: 363-4955, Fax 337-4666, e-mail
Argueta Ramiro Augusto, Lote 30, Mz. B. Barrio Santo Domingo, Carcha A.V. Tel: 952-1413. Cost from Cobán about US$185; from Guatemala City about US$235.
Special Events and Fairs
The titular fairs of the different towns are good opportunities to observe Mayan culture, customs, cuisine, music, dance, and religious observances. There is a parade opening day, and various activities and expositions depending upon the town. If you plan to visit Cobán during Holy Week, the Media Maraton, or the Folklore Festival / Fair, it is highly advisable to book
hotel reservations in advance.
January 20-25 Rabinal B.V. Fair. See the only precolombian theatre show left in both Americas: A sad piece about a rebellious King with Maya-Achí
Music and vivid dance.
January 22-25 Tamahú A.V. Fair
May 1-4 Santa Cruz A.V. Fair. See the dance of the Guacamayos.
May 4-9 Tucurú A.V. Fair
2nd or 3rd Sunday in May - HALF MARATHON - this 21 km race from Cobán to Carcha and back attracts world-class contestants. Entrance fee of Q50 can be paid at any bank.
June 10-13 Purulha B.V. Fair
June 21-24 Chamelco A.V. Fair
June 24-29 Carchá A.V. Fair
July 20-25 Cubulco, B.V. Fair: See the Palo Volador, where two drunk men spiral down a ritual pole
July 21-26 San Cristóbal A.V. Fair
Last week July Cobán, - FOLKLORE FESTIVAL - the festival includes examples of indigenous handiwork; typical cuisine; and Mayan ceremonies, music and dances. The culmination of the festival on Saturday evening is the election of Reina Rabin Ahau (Daughter of the King) from contestants representing all the Mayan towns in Guatemala. Mayan customs, traditions, costumes and music are presented. Entrance fee Q50 (seats) or Q 40 (stands), and reservations must be made in advance with Prof. Marco Aurelio Alonzo at 951-1709 or 951-1657.
August 1-6 Cobán A.V. Fair
August 11-16 Tactic A.V. Fair
August 22-28 Lanquin A.V. Fair
First week December - COBÁN ORCHID EXHIBIT - a vast exhibition of the finest orchids contributed by collectors from all over Guatemala. Held in the convent (next to the cathedral) Entrance fee Q2.
It's easy to learn Spanish in Cobán because - since it's not a "tourist town" - students have to speak Spanish at all times. There are two schools:
Active Spanish School, 3 Calle 6-12 zona 1 - $ 110 per week including host family. The teacher of this small school also conducts excursions to Cobán's many natural wonders. Get to know Cobán´s finquero-nightlife and the
- Escuela De Español Muq'bil' B'e, 6 Avenida 5-39 zona 3 - $ 100 per week including host family. The teacher's specialty is Maya Q´eqchi classes which are very popular. He conducts after-school activities if there are more than three students enrolled.
Lodging and services in Cobán
R Restaurant, TV Television, BP Privat Bath, BC Comunal Bath, CB CableTV, LV Laundry, AC Hot Water, P Car Parking, TO Tours, TC Credit Card, CH Traveller's Cheques, TH Phone in every room
Hostal Doña Victoria, Q 103, 3a calle 2-38 z 3, T9522213, BP, AC, R, Bar,
La Paz, Q 30, 24 , 6a av 2-19 z 1, T9521358, BP, BC Clean, quiet
Mansión Armenia, $ 14, 7a av 2-18 z 1, T9522284, TV, CB, P, Café, BP, TC, CH
Monterrey, Q 20, 15, 6a av 1-12 z 1, T9521131, basic
Oxib Peck, Q 96, 1 c 12-11 z 1., T9521039, BP, TV
Perla María, Q 48, 4a av 1-25 z 3, T9521988, BP, TV, R, P
Posada de Carlos V, Q 70, 1 av 3-44 z 1., T9513502, BP, TV
Rabin Ajau, Q 66, Calle Minerva, 5-37 z 1., T9522296, R
La Posada, Q 153, 1a calle 4-12 z 2, T9521495, BP, CH, TO, R y Café, elegant colonial atmosphere, excellent food, but next to traffic
Villa Imelda, Q 60, 4 av 2-21 z 4, T9521008, TV, CB, P, R BP, AC, CH
La Providencia, Q 36, Diagonal 4 2-43 z 2, T9521209, LV, P Q10-15, R , Café, BP
Hostal D´Acuña, Q 30, 4a calle 3-11 z 2, T9521547, R, BC, LV, AC, TO, TC, CH, clean, nice atmosphere, good food
Celinda, Q 66, 2a av y 4a calle z 3, T9512765, TV, CB, P, R, BP, AC, CH, TH
Posada Villa Real, Q 35 BC, Q 60 BP 6a av 1-81 z 4, T9512526 TO, R
Monja Blanca, Q 42, T9521702, BC, nice atmosphere
Alemán , Q 25, 2a calle 1-23 z 1, T9521501, P, BC, AC, basic
Posada de Don Francisco, Q 135, Salida a Carchá km 2.5, T9521509, P, TO, BP, AC,TV, CB, R, TC
Real Carcha, Q75, San Pedro Carcha, T951-6442, R, TV, BP, AC, P
Sauna Xucaneb, Q 70, Km 220 car Sn Juan Chamelco, T9513415, BP, AC, TC
Don Jerónimo's, $ 25 (3 vegetarian meals included), San Juan Chamelco, T3082255, R, TV, BP, AC, P, peaceful and relaxing
Café Tirol, western end of the park; you'll have a hard time finding a café with more different kinds of coffee, mocha and chocolate
Pasteleria Suiza, 5a Calle 2-96 Z 3, finger licking pralines and cakes
Café La Posada, western end of the park; good cakes, a nice colonial atmo-
sphere and a good view of the activities in the park
Café Santa Rita, south side of the park, inexpensive food and cakes
Hostal D´Acuña, good European-style menu, nice atmosphere, 4a calle 3-11 z 2
El Refugio, great steaks, tortoise soup, typical food, 2a calle y 2 av z 4
Boca del Río, 3a calle y 1 av z 3
Hacienda Imperial, Kak´ik´(Q'eqchi soup), great steaks, 1a calle 4-11 z 1
Kam - mun, Chinese food, 1a calle 8- 2 z 2
La fonda del Black, good local food, but often from the freezer, just before Pte. San Vicente on the old road to Guatemala
Doctors who speak English :
The Centro Médico Galeno gives 24 hour medical services and has a team of English-speaking doctors of different medical fields, 2a calle 3-08 Zona 3, (night entrance is at the back). T9513175, See city-map.
BANCAFE, accepts Traveller´s Cheques: Thomas Cook, Citicorp, has cash ATM for VISA, 1a Av 2-66 z 2, T9521011
BAM, accepts Traveller´s Cheques: Thomas Cook, Citicorp, obtain cash with MasterCard, 1aCalle 2-24 z 3, T951-3642 /43
Banco de los Trabajadores, accepts Traveller´s Cheques: American Express, Thomas Cook, Citicorp,Diagonal 4 3-12, Zona2,
Banco del Ejército, accepts Traveller´s Cheques: American Express, obtain cash with MasterCard, 1aCalle 5-24 zona
Banco Industrial, has cash ATM for VISA, 1aCalle 4-36, Zona 1
Internet Access and Car Rentals :
Internet Café, 1a Calle 3-13, Z 1, T9514040, To send e-mails Q 10, receive Q 5, Use one of 12 Computers Q 0.50/ min,
email@example.com , Tours, Tourist info, fax, collect calls
CyberCobán .com, 3a Ave 1-11, Z 4, T9511777, To use internet on one of 8 Computers 3-18 min Q5, 18-33 min Q10
Inque renta Autos, 3a Av 1-18b z 4, T9521994, Car rental
Tabarini Rent A Car, 5a Av 2-43 z 1 , T9513282, Car rental
Fun Stuff ?
Cine Turia on Cobán's central park, mostly action features with subtitles and poor sound, Q 7 and Q 10.
Kikoés Tasca - Blues bar and German restaurant, European atmosphere, good food, pricey, older crowd. 2a Ave 4-33, Z 2
Keops - Bar, Disco, Q 35 cover charge. mix of music, mostly latin. High-class crowd. On Friday and Saturday, 3a Calle 4 - 71, Z 3
Le bon - Bar, Disco, Restaurant, Q 15 cover charge, US Pop, Latin/Latin rap. Adolescent crowd. 3a Calle 2-38, Z 3
Tofuba - New Disco, 2ª Calle 16 Ave, Z 2
Milenio - Bar, Disco, restaurant, pool tables, TV to watch sports. No cover charge. Mix of music, take requests.
Older finquero crowd. 3a Ave 1-11, Z 4.
Hostal Doña Victoria - Bar, 3a calle 2-38 z 3, T9522213
Sociedad de Beneficencia - irregular open merengue parties, swimming pool, ping-pong, 2a Calle, 6-16, Z 2.
How to get to...
From, To, travel fare, travel time, departure time, departure location
Guatemala to Cobán, Q 30.00, 5 hrs., Every 30 min from 4:00 to 17:00, Monja Blanca office 8.Ave 15-16, Zona 1, T2511878
Cobán to Guatemala, Q 30.00, 5 hrs., Every 30 min from 2:00 to 17:00, Monja Blanca office 2aCalle 3-77, Zona 4, T9513571
Cobán to Carchá, Q 1.00, 20 min., Every 15 min., Campo No 2 near football stadium
Cobán to Chamelco, Q 1.00, 20 min., Every 15 min., Escuela de Enfermería (5 Ave. and 4 Calle Zona 3)
Chamelco to Don Jerónimo's, Q 1.00, 20 min. , 11, 12, 2:30 & 4 hrs, Behind of the church of Chamelco, there are also irregular pick-ups
Chamelco to Caves of Rey Marcos, Q 1.00, 25 min, 11, 12, 2:30 & 4 hrs, Behind of the church of Chamelco, there are also irregular pick-ups
Cobán to Tactic, Q 2.50, 50 min., Every 20 min., Campo No. 2 near football stadium
Cobán to Biotopo El Quetzal, Q 5.00, 1:20 min., Every 20 min., Campo No. 2 near football stadium
Cobán to El Estor, Q 18.00, 7:00 hrs., 5:30, 7, 8,9, 11 and 13, Campo No. 2 near football stadium
Cobán to Chisec, Q 15.00, 3:00 hrs., iregular, Mercado la terminal
Chisec to Candelaria, Q 3.00, 1:00 hrs., iregular, From Chisec with pick-ups
Cobán to Playa Grande and Lachuá, Q 40.00, 4:00 hrs., iregular, Mercado la terminal
Cobán to Lanquín, Q 8:00, 3:00 hrs., 6:00, 11, 13, and 15 hrs., Office near Mercado la terminal, 3 Calle between 1st and 2nd Aves. Zona 4.
Lanquín to Semuc, Q 10.00, Q 200.00, 2:00 hrs., Before 9:00 a.m., Later hire pick-up at the central park of Lanquín
Cobán to Las Casas, Q 15.00, 4:15 hrs., 5:30, 6:30, and 10:00 a.m., Office in Carchá, bus comes to Cobán and stops at Dispensa Familiar and then in the central park of Carchá
Guatemala to Salamá, Q 14.50, 3:30 hrs., From 4:45 to 16:45, 11 Av. Y 17 calle 11-32 Z. 1
Salamá to Guatemala, Q 14.50, 3:30 hrs., From 4:45 to 16:45, One block from the parque, T9401809