Coban Stories and Tips

Around town

Templo El Calvario Photo, Coban, Guatemala

Cobán is a bustling town, with few tourists that I could see. Even when we spent a day going around to some minor "tourist" attractions, we didn’t see another confused-looking soul. While we would find the touring masses later in our Guatemala trip, for now we were experiencing exactly what we had set out to find in Guatemala – daily life going on as if we weren’t even there.

Our first stop was a large park called Parque Nacional Las Victorias (entrance fee US$0.75 per person). This is a haven of green solitude right on the very edge of chaos. It was just a short walk from our hotel to the entrance of the park – enter at junction of 9a Avenida and 3a Calle. Once inside, there are many hiking options in the 82-hectare national park. Camping is also available, but I’m not sure of the security of the area.

Directly next door to the park is the best view of Cobán that you can get. Climb the stairs at the junction of 7a Avenida and 3a Calle to the entrance to Templo El Calvario. This humble Catholic church has a not-so-modest view of town and the surrounding mountains. The church itself is also pretty, as is the simple stone cross that seemed to look down on the town, almost guarding it.

On the opposite end of town from the park and the church is Finca Margarita. This farm grows and processes my absolute favorite, dare I say life-saving, beverage of all times: coffee! I never knew what was all involved in getting me may daily dark happy juice. The beans are grown on bushes, and unfortunately the beans do not all ripen at the same time. Therefore, the beans really are picked by hand (like they say in the advertisements). They are also sorted for quality by hand – the tour guide said that just one bad bean can ruin 50 good ones. Before roasting, dry beans are a jade green color. They are normally shipped at this point for roasting in their final destination. We did get to see and sample some roasted beans at the end of the 45 minute tour, and roasted beans are sold for a great price if you have room in your backpack or suitcase to carry them home! Hours: 8am-5pm Monday-Friday, and Saturday mornings. You do not need reservations (English or Spanish speaking guides available). Cost: 20 quetzales (US$2.50 per person) for the tour and samples. Entrance at 3a Calle 4-12, Zona 2.

The final town site that we went looking for was a privately-owned Museum of Mayan Art (6a Avenida 4-26, Zona 3). This was a small but excellent museum. Some of the most interesting carvings were figures posed in Buddhist-style lotus positions. The faces of the figures were also had Asian features. In addition to the figurines, there was Mayan jewelry, molds, tools, pottery, and more. Expect to spend 30-45 minutes. Cost: 15 quetzales (US$2 per person).

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