Coban: Eco-Tourist Epicenter
Coban is a small, enchanting city situated in Guatemala’s highlands. It was founded in 1543 by an order of Dominican priests, and today it serves as the state capital of Alta Verapaz. Coban only boasts a population of about 70,000, but it is a very vital center in the coffee and cardamom production industries. The city and the region have a lot to offer visitors including several affordable hotels and plenty of adventure. Many people are drawn here by the many ecological treasures. Waterfalls, caves, animal reserves and amazing local plant life make Coban a very popular destination amongst Eco-Tourists. Lush and tropical, don’t let the nearly ever present rain daunt your mood. It’s nothing a little umbrella can’t make bearable.
Set eyes on Semuc Champey
In the native tongue, Semuc Champey is translated: “Sacred Waters.” It lives up to its name. Semuc Champey contains a natural limestone bridge with a spectacular view of the river that runs beneath it. The site is freckled over with many waterfall, pools and streams, all of them ideal for a swim. The entire area conveys this immunity from time, a sense of being away from any modernity or staining distractions. Even though it’s nearly three hours outside of Coban, it’s a destination you don’t want to miss!
Natural Cave Formations
All throughout the region surrounding Coban, it is relatively easy to find caves and caverns. One of the most popular cave destinations are the caves of Languin, locally known as Las Grutas de Languin. These caves are some of the most visited caves in the entire country, and are incredibly large and beautiful, with several fantastic natural formations. There is even a river flowing through and below the caverns. These caves are a wonderful place to go exploring and offer a destination the entire family will enjoy.
The Search for the Quetzal
When you aren’t busy crossing over natural limestone bridges or ducking through various cave formations, you might want to take the time to visit some of Coban’s regional natural reserves. One of the better known is the El Biotopo de Quetzal, with its amazing hiking trails and rich plant and orchid life. Orchids flourish in Guatemala, and in this region over 650 different species can be found. But, don’t be fooled by the reserves name: it’s hard to spot a quetzal out here, since most of them have moved on to higher ground. For your best chances of spotting one of the beautiful green, small beaked birds, resplendent with a long elegant single green tail feather, head out early in the morning, while the dew is still fresh and the temperatures are mild.
If you want to experience Coban and Alta Verapaz to the fullest, one of the best ways to do it is to journey through them like a local. That way, you can really get the feel of the daily life; you can see the outskirts of many of the surrounding traditional villages and learn some of the local hotspots. And the best way to live like a local is to take the “chicken buses.”
Now, be warned, these are a far cry from the private tourists buses some people might be convinced to take, but it’s a whole lot of fun. The buses are smaller, typically crowded and a bit uncomfortable. The outside is gaudily painted in bright colors. But, the fare is cheap, and the people are incredibly friendly. You can hear the trill of their talking, the peddling of ice creams and treats, the snoring of the old man sitting next to you. You can smell the food, the air, the sweat of long days and hard labor. It makes for an authentic Guatemalan experience.
Across the miles of the state of Alta Verapaz, and all around its capital of Coban the world is an oyster and the pearls are limitless. Natural wonders, caves and ponds, pools and waterfalls. Elusive state birds and friendly natives: all are waiting to welcome you to Coban.