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Sitting at more than 1,320m above sea level, the mountain air and coffee aroma of Alta Verapaz’s capital city lure you into a world of misty forests and Mayan culture. A small, laid-back town, Cobán has many surprises in store for those who have a thirst for unexplored terrain and ancient civilizations.

Founded by a friar, Bartolomé de las Casas, the town voluntarily converted to Christianity thanks to the friar’s approach towards the natives. Previously named ‘Tierra de Guerra’ (Land of War) due to the resistance met by the Spanish conquistadors, the region was then renamed ‘Verapaz’ (true peace). When a local chief, Juan Matalbatz, refused to kneel before the Spanish Emperor Carlos V, he was brought before the king, to whom he said, ‘A king should not bow before another king.’ Cobán was then given the prestigious title as ‘the Imperial City’ in 1538. Since then, Cobán plays a significant role not only in the Verapaz region, but also in the country.

As a major gateway into the region’s natural wonders, Cobán is moving forward in the eco-tourism industry. From canopying to rafting, the adventure seekers will find endless opportunities to get off the tourist trail. Set in a treasure trove of untouched reserves, it is within proximity to remote Mayan tribal villages and famous sites like Lanquín and Semuc Champey. With good infrastructure, Cobán serves as an excellent base to recharge and obtain information about the region. A few kilometers away is the Biotopo El Quetzal, one of the few places in the country to spot the rare quetzal bird. The turquoise waters of Laguna Lachuá and the mystifying Candelária caves are also within a few hours’ ride from Cobán.

With a population of 65,000 inhabitants, this town is relatively prosperous and optimistic. Generating most of its income from producing and exporting coffee and cardamom, Cobán owes its success to the favorable weather conditions. The early 19th century saw major migration of German coffee-planters trying to reap profits from the export industry. When World War II struck, the U.S. government coerced Guatemala into deporting the Germans back to their country. These days, German influence is still evident in Cobán and its surrounding villages.

Compared to the rest of Guatemala, this region puts more emphasis on the preservation of the Mayan heritage. Many women in Cobán still dress in their distinct huipils and most residents speak Q’eqchi as their first language. Although most Cobaneros can also speak Spanish, the Mayan descendants from some surrounding villages are only fluent in their native dialect. Visit these rural communities to get a taste of the past and how it connects to their present.

These days, Cobán’s wide choices of authentic restaurants and country-style hotels make visiting it a comfortable and insightful encounter. Dining in Casa D’Acuña and El Peñascal can be a unique gastronomic experience. Don’t forget to sample the town’s specialties like kak-ik and tiú to tease your taste buds.

Neighborhoods in Cobán: Grutas Rey Marcos, San Pedro Carchá, Tactic, San Cristóbal Verapaz, San Juan Chamelco, Sachichaj Waterfalls, Balneario Las Islas,

Other places nearby Cobán: Chisec, Biotopo De Quetzal, Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, San Jerónimo, Rabinal, Cubulco, San Rafael Chilascó, Parque Nacional Laguna Lachuá, Río Ikbolay and Playa Grande.

By Nellie Huang
28 Sep 2009

Top Hotels in Cobán

Casa Luna

Popular with budget travelers seeking comfort and a homey environment, Casa Luna offers rustic, clean rooms and a grassy patio lined with hammocks. Located two blocks away from Parque Central, it is ...
Cobán, Guatemala

Casa D’Acuña

With inexpensive rooms and an attractive setting, Casa D’Acuña is highly recommended for its great value and reliable reputation. An exotic orchid garden welcomes you as you thread the alluring ...
Cobán, Guatemala

Hotel Los Faroles

This modern 4-story hotel is gleaming with a fresh and contemporary look. Strikingly different from other hotels in town, it stands out with its clear-cut design and affordable prices. Its clean and ...
Cobán, Guatemala

Things to do in Cobán

Parque Central

135115This relatively small triangular park represents the heart of the city, where major activities take place. The park is flanked by the cathedral, Palacio de Gobernacíon and Municipalidad (Town Hall). ...
City Park
Cobán, Guatemala

Templo El Calvario

135116Built atop a hill overlooking Cobán, the temple is 137 steps away from the city center. At the start of the long stairway, visitors are greeted by a shrine where locals pray and leave offerings. ...
Historical Building
Cobán, Guatemala

Parque Las Victorias

135117Further north of Templo El Calvario is a densely forested nature reserve that acts as a retreat from the city. This 84-hectare national park is close to the city center, and has extensive walking ...
Cobán, Guatemala

Museo El Príncipe Maya

135118For history and culture buffs, this private museum is a must. Despite its small scale, it showcases an impressive display of Mayan artifacts, ceramic ritual plates, weapons and jade jewelry. With ...
Cobán, Guatemala

Vivero Verapaz

135120A visit to this orchid haven is interesting whether you are a plant-lover or not. The nursery is home to more than 400 of the 770 orchid species found in Guatemala. The best time to visit is between ...
Other Activity
Cobán, Guatemala

Finca Santa Margarita

Cobán is home to the best coffee in Guatemala. Set up by one of the region’s pioneering German coffee planters, Erwin Paul Dieseldorff, this working coffee farm brings you behind the scenes of ...
Other Activity
Cobán, Guatemala


As Cobán serves as a jumping-off point for most visitors to the region, few actually stay and explore the town. Those who do, however, might find Cobán an intriguing and diverse place to visit. ...
Other Activity
Cobán, Guatemala
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