Cobán, Alta Verapaz

The misty alpine town of Cobán sits within the highlands of Las Verapaces. This moderately sized town (pop. 65,000) is close to several natural attractions and has good hotel and restaurant options.

Cobán, Alta Verapaz Best Things to Do

Biotopo del Quetzal, Guatemala
Biotopo del QuetzalCobán, Alta Verapaz

Make a trip to the Bíotopo del Quetzál to look for quetzals with jewel-toned green plumage. Their feathers were used as currency by the pre-Hispanic Mayans. They dwell in the branches of the aguacatillo trees, which are identifiable by their avocado-shaped fruits.

Bird Watching
Naturalist Guide
Nature Walk
Cahabon Rafting Tour, Guatemala
Cahabon Rafting TourCobán, Alta Verapaz

Río Cahabón offers the best opportunity for whitewater rafting in Guatemala. The river rapids cover a variety of difficulty levels, ranging from class I to IV – all but the most difficult rapids. Much of this 7.5-mile route has class III and IV rapids.

Nature Walk
Rafting
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Area Guide

The town itself may seem unappealing at first, especially if you arrive in bad weather—the town center is nondescript and can see heavy traffic at times. However, Cobán quickly reveals its charms as soon as you set foot in the countryside.

The mountains surrounding Cobán are filled with evergreen forests, coffee plantations, and freshwater streams. This idyllic environment makes Cobán a favorite of nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts; the town even has a small national park in the middle of town. There is, however a rainy mist known locally as chipi chipi that is present throughout much of the year. This can make Cobán feel drab, but the natural wonders and occasional sunshine make it more than tolerable.

Cobán is an important site for gourmet coffee production, and also produces allspice and cardamom for export. During the 19th century, Cobán had a sizeable German population. When World War II hit, the United States pressured the Guatemalan government to expel all Germans. Even so, there are still pieces of German influence scattered about the city. Sights in Cobán include a Maya archaeological museum, orchid nursery, and church dating back to 1810.

Cobán has some of the country’s best coffee, and while here you should try to tour a coffee plantation. Visiting a working coffee farm is a great way to learn about the ins and outs of the planting, picking, roasting, and exporting process. You’ll also be treated to a cup of tasty gourmet coffee.

There are a number of nearby attractions for travelers to explore. Some of the best include the Semuc Champey pools, a series of stepped limestone pools, and the Languín caves. Other popular options include the Quetzal Biotope, Chixim church, and Chicoy cave, all of which are south of Cobán. The Sachichaj waterfall, located north of town, is also a good choice.