Coffee plantations and botanical gardens, Mayan history, eco-adventures and the resplendent beauty of Alta Verapaz await in this appealing mountain town.
Cobán is an attractive city set amid the lush cloud forests and mountains of central Guatemala. The city began as a Mayan settlement before passing through Spanish and German hands. Visit coffee-growing farms, admire colorful orchid gardens and learn about centuries of Mayan history. Cobán is the capital of Guatemala’s central Alta Verapaz region and a gateway to the region’s cornucopia of natural splendors.
You’ll find several major attractions within walking distance of pretty Parque Central La Paz, which marks the center of Cobán. Browse the stalls selling fresh coffee beans, spices and a rainbow’s worth of fruits at the Mercado Central. See displays of pre-Colombian costumes, jewelry and pottery at the Museo El Príncipe Maya. Explore a coffee plantation, watch coffee-making demonstrations and sample the Verapaz bean at Finca Santa Margarita.
On the outskirts of the city center is Parque Nacional Las Victorias, a forested park with walking trails, a children’s playground and picnic grounds. Enjoy views of the city and surrounding mountains from the rooftop of the Capilla El Calvario church. Check out nearby Capilla de la Ermita de Santo Domingo Guzman, a chapel that celebrates Cobán’s patrón saint.
Just a 30-minute walk from Parque Central La Paz is Vivero Verapaz, a nursery home to some 650 species of orchids. In the last months of the year it hosts a national orchid festival. Catch a local bus to Orquigonia for a guided tour of another orchid garden.
Located about 137 miles (220 kilometers) from Guatemala City, Coban is easy to reach by intercity buses. The city has a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and plentiful cafés in which to sample locally produced coffee. Visit in late-July for Rabin Ajau, a festival of folkloric dancing and indigenous traditions.
Rent a car and discover Alta Verapaz’s wonderland of natural attractions. Swim in the pools and waterfalls of Semuc Champey. Marvel at the emerald-green Lagunas de Sepalau and Bombil Pek sinkhole, near Chisec. Go rafting on the Río Cahabon. All are within a 2-hour drive of Cobán, via mountainous landscapes. Travel agencies in the city arrange daytrips.