Coban town in Guatemala is quite known among travelers as the home base for their adventures in the region. It is also a very important social and commercial hub for all the surrounding towns, villages, and tourist destinations. Cobán is also the gateway for some of Guatemala’s best eco- and adventure-tourism destinations and activities.
It is located in the Verapaz area of Guatemala, known for being home to a beautiful cloud forest and one of the last places where you get to see Resplendent Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.
Many years ago when the Spaniards founded this town it was called “Ciudad Imperial”. Today it is a 4,000ft. town where you will find lots of hotels, restaurants, internet cafes and bars.
Near Coban you will see many cardamom plantations. This is the main industry of the area. It was brought by German immigrants in the mid 20th century. Cardamom and coffee are grown in this cool, moist mountain climate. Today, cardamom is Guatemala’s fourth-most-important cash crop behind coffee, bananas, and sugar.
Cardamom is an important ingredient in the curries and cuisine of India, where it’s also believed to be a medicinal herb and an antidote for snake and scorpion venom. In Scandinavia, the spice is used to flavor bread and pastries, and across the Middle East, it’s often added to coffee and thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
There are many places to visit here but the most popular ones are the natural turquoise pools of Semuc Champey and the huge complex of the Lanquin Caves. But that’s not close to being the only places to visit in the area.
The Top 7 Things to Do in Coban:
1. Candelaria Caves
These are the entrance to a large cave complex that you can access this cave through a place called Raxruha. you can hire tours that leave from Coban, take you tubing in the Candelaria River and end to a visit to a dry fraction of this cave system.
Tours are usually available from 8am to 5pm and, aside from the transportation fee, you will have to pay a small entrance fee that goes from $5 to $10.
This used to be an important place for ancient Mayans, in fact you still can see some of their altars.
2. Biotopo del Quetzal
It is located about 30 minutes by car away from the main Coban Town and it is by far one of the most important reserves in the country. It was founded in 1975 with the aim to protect the local cloud forest and the endangered quetzal bird.
But there are 87 more bird species and 58 mammal species for you to look for between the trees.
There are two trails, a 2km one and a 4km one. In both of them, you will be able to see little streams, small waterfalls, and virgin cloud forest. Try to get there really early in the morning for a better chance to see the beautiful quetzal.
The entrance fee is around $5 per person.
3. El Calvario Church
A visit to El Calvario is the perfect chance to experience how syncretism works in Guatemala. This may look like a traditional catholic church from the outside but if you pay attention you will be able to see that old Mayan traditions never died.
On the left side of the church, you will see a small chapel that locals use for lighting candles, a lot like they do in Ancestral Mayan Rituals.
4. Las Victorias National Park
This is another great option for all of those nature and adventure lovers. Before 1980 it was a cattle and dairy ranch, but the owners decided to turn it into a National Park.
This park is located over 82 hectares of land and offers many trails that take you to visit the natural surroundings, including a lagoon.
There are picnic and camping areas that you get to use for an extra fee. Making it a safe and fun place for families.
5. Mayan Prince Museum
This is the place to go if you are looking to see artifacts and pottery from Mayan days that has been found in the surroundings. Glyphs, inscriptions, and sculptures are also a part of the prehispanic objects that are shown in the five rooms that are open to the public.
Finca Santa Margarita is a place where you get to learn all about coffee plantations and how coffee is processed in this region.
The tour will take you around the plantation, for a coffee tasting experience and by the time you leave, you will have the option to buy some of their coffee or local artisan’s work.
Coban’s climate is perfect for growing orchids, in fact, if you take a walk through the local forests you might be able to see a few on the trees.
Orquigonia offers extremely informative tours where you not only get to go out to nature with a guide, but you also get shown a movie/documentary with even more information about these plants.
By paying for a tour with them you are supporting local tour guides and helping the organization to continue with their amazing research and conservation projects.
Coban and the surrounding area is filled with a couple of the best attractions of Guatemala, mainly natural beauties. The terrain is a bit rough but it is worth the effort.
Note: It is recommended to use a tall car or SUV for exploring the area.
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