Cobán and around

The cathedral and centre of the Imperial City of Cobán, www.cobanav.net, is perched on a long, thin plateau with exceptionally steep roads climbing down from the plaza. To the south the roads are filled with the odd, well-preserved colonial building and a coffee
finca
. There is year-round soft rainfall, known as
chipi-chipi
, which is a godsend to the coffee and cardamom plants growing nearby. Most visitors use the city as a base for visiting sights in the surrounding area, trips to Semuc Champey, Languin and as a stepping off point for rafting trips on the Río Cahabón. There's a
tourist office
on the Parque Central. English is spoken, they have lots of information and can help organize tours. For information on northern Alta Verapaz and the southern Petén, check www.puertamundomaya.com.

Sights

The
cathedral
is on the east side of the Parque Central and dates from the middle of the 16th century. The chapel of
El Calvario
, in the northwest, has its original façade still intact. On the way up to the church are altars used by worshippers who freely blend Maya and Roman Catholic beliefs. Its worth climbing the 142 steps to get a bird's-eye view of Cobán. The
Museo El Príncipe Maya
, is a private museum of pre-Columbian artefacts. The
Parque Nacional Las Victorias
, has two little lagoons in its 84 ha. There are paths and you can picnic and camp, loos but no showers, but check with the tourist office about safety before going. The daily market is near the bus terminal. Starbucks coffee fans can check out where their mug of the old bean comes from - direct from
Finca Santa Margarita
.
Don't miss a visit to the flower-filled world of
Vivero Verapaz
, an orchid farm with more than 23,000 specimens, mostly flowering from December to February - the best time to go - with the majority flowering in January.

Around Cobán

Southeast of Cobán (8 km) is
San Juan Chamelco
with an old colonial church. A one-hour walk from here is
Aldea Chajaneb
. Along this road are the caves of
Grutas Rey Marcos
, and
Balneario Cecilinda
.
San Pedro Carchá
is 5 km east of Cobán on the main road and used to be famous for its pottery, textiles, wooden masks and silver, but only the pottery and silver are available now. The local food speciality here is
kaq Ik
, a turkey broth.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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