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Uspantán

Uspantán is a rather remote highland town and for a long time was dismissed by travelers for being too difficult to reach. The poor road conditions, often caused by severe landslides from the steep faces of Cuchumatanes, meant journeys were long and arduous. However, since the roads between Sacapulas, Nebaj and Cobán (partially completed) are now paved, stopping off in Uspantán on your way to the Maya ruins and the Verapaces makes total sense.

The town itself quite understated but the area prospers in historical, cultural and social traditions and customs, with the surrounding countryside is a wealth of beautiful scenery, rivers, flora and fauna.

At the center is the usual market and plaza, which is a park it its northern half and a ball court in the southern. Nearby which you’ll find: Internet (7a Ca. and 6a Av., next to the market, with printing, skype, scanner, Q5/$0.5 an hour); BAM (Monday to Friday 9a.m. – 5p.m. and Saturdays 9a.m. – 1p.m.); a police station (6a Av. and 5a Ca.); tuk-tuks opposite the police station; public restrooms south of the square; and a pretty church east of the plaza.

Tourist office is located in municipal buildings on the east side of the square and is attended to by a mix of local and VSO staff members. The enthusiastic group runs various guided tours with transport, lunch, entrance fees all included from $7-20 per person. Day trips offered are:

o Pena Flor - the old Uspantan capital city, also known as Tz’unun Kaab’

o Laj Chimel – birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. See www.lajchimelecoturismo.com.

o Balenario Sechum Chola – local co-operative farming village with spring-fed swimming pool

o Cerro Sagrado Xoconeb’ – a sacred ceremonial site in honor of the God Ajaw

o Catarata de Los Regadillos – a stunning waterfall accessed along a mountain path

o Laguna Danta – a lake mysteriously full in the dry season and empty in the rainy season.

Visit the office, open daily, or contact via Tel: 502-7951-8125 / 502-5635-5943. E-mail: visituspantan@gmail.com, Maresperanza0027@gmail.com.

There are a number of hotels in town; some are a lot better than others but all pretty cheap so it is worth taking a look before you put down your bags. The newly-built and well-looked after Hotel Don Gabriel it right in the center of town and with its grand sweeping staircase and spotless 39 rooms it is arguably the best place to stay. There is also a lovely garden roof-terrace with views directly to the mountains, pretty pagodas to sit under and lighting for evening drinks. Standard single room is Q40/70 ($4.8/8.4), double Q80/130 ($9.6/15.6) (shared/private bathroom), or Q100 ($12) per person with a ‘tina’ (bathtub) with hot water and T.V. There is secure parking and wheelchair-accessible rooms. Dollars and Quetzales accepted but no credit cards. 7a Av. and 6a Ca. Tel: 502-7951-8540, Cell: 502-5196-6892. Email: hoteldongabriel@yahoo.es.

The Hotel Uspanteka is not far from the northeastern end of the square and is a good budget option: single rooms are Q20/30 ($2.4/3.6) and doubles Q40 ($4.8), with a 4-bed room going for Q80 ($9.6) (all shared bathrooms). There are no mod-cons such a T.V.s or towels, only some rooms have windows and the mattresses are quite thin but there is hot water and it is clean. 5-18 6a Ca. Tel: 502-7951-8078.

Dona Leonor is another hotel which seems to be popular, with cable T.V., WiFi, parking, laundry service and a comedor. Single rooms cost Q75 ($9), doubles Q130 ($15.6) and triples Q165 ($20) all with private bathrooms. 6a Ca. and 4a Av. Tel: 502-7951-8045 / 8041.

Food-wise, there are a few cafes in the center and some food stalls around the square. Restaurante y Pizzeria Picadelly is great for breakfast; the ‘tipico’ is very generous, with chorizo, plantain, eggs, beans, cream and tortillas for only Q30 ($3.6). The menu also features burgers Q14-30, pizza Q40-70, sandwiches Q10-25, steak Q26, chicken dishes Q28, seafood Q35-40. Coffees and licuardos are available but no beer. 7a Av., between 7a Ca. and the plaza. Tel: 502-5055-3881. Open daily 8a.m. – 9p.m.

There is also Pizza Emanuel at 6a Calle, opposite Hotel Don Gabriel. Tel: 502-5588-5728.Café Portal de la Villa is on 6a Avenida, between 6a and 7a Calles, with a ‘Sarita’ ice cream shop nearby.

Getting to and away from Uspantán is much easier than it used to be, now that the roads are paved and thus there are more mini buses traveling between Sacpulas, Nebaj and Coban via Uspantán. Mini buses park-up around the plaza, just opposite the church. To Quiché and Cobán buses go every 30 minutes between 4a.m. and 4p.m. and costs Q25/Q30 ($3/3.6). The 76-kilometers ride to Cobán takes about 2 1/2 hours with the second-half of the journey on a dirt road. It is about half the distance and time to Sacapulas.

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Other places nearby Uspantán: Santa Catarina Palopó, Acul, San Lucas Tolimán, Jaibalito, Nebaj, San Antonio Papoló, Panajachel, San Juan Cotzal, Departamento Del Quiché and Santa Cruz Del Quiche.







By Joanne Sykes

Born and raised in Yorkshire, England, Jo is currently working as a freelance travel writer in Latin America. With degrees in...

10 Jan 2010

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