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Purulhá and the Corredor Biológico del Bosque Nuboso

The small, friendly village of Purulhá, set snugly amid the steep mountains of the Sierra de la Minas, is not really a tourist destination per se. But it sits right in the middle of the cloudforest of the Corredor biológico del Bosque Nuboso, a 28,000-hectare protected area, which counts 15 private reserves. These are definitely worth a visit of at least one day, to wander through coffee fincas and ancient forests towards hidden waterfalls, and of course to spot the quetzal, Guatemala’s star feathered inhabitant. A good time to visit is February, March, and October to December, for better chances of quetzal-spotting, and during the fiesta patronal of Purulhá, from June 6 to 13, in honor of San Antonio de Padua.

If you decide to base yourself in the village, where you might be the only foreigner, you will be absorbing the quiet atmosphere of poor, small-town Guatemala: passerbys will greet you with a polite “buenos días,” children will giggle, youngsters will swagger in front of your camera, but mostly people will be happy to ask you lots of questions about yourself and your country. A good place for a stroll and colorful photo ops is the market, which runs almost the entire length of the village, towards the back when you come from the highway.

There are a few basic services, several comedores and one hotel. The Banrural bank between the city hall and the church has a 5B ATM which accepts international cards, there are a couple of cybercafés including KpNet on the street leading from the highway to the market, and there is a health center in Barrio La Cruz, as well as Dr Berta Ramos’ private clinic in the Barrio El Centro. The one and only hotel (not counting one truck-driver joint outside of town) is El Descanso de San Antonio in the Barrio El Centro (Tel: (502) 5514-1640 or 7941-7426). The rooms may be a bit dark, but they are clean and the beds comfortable, and are equipped with TVs. A room with shared bathroom costs $6, one with private bathroom $9.60. Attached to the hotel is a friendly cafeteria which serves a large variety of breakfasts of eggs, cereal, oatmeal or pancakes for $1.20 to $2.40, sandwiches and lunches for $2.40 to $3.60. There are little comedores and street food stalls scattered about, but the one real restaurant, which sits on the highway, is Montebello (Tel (502) 7941-7418, e-mail: It serves BBQ for four to six persons ($40), all types of meat like churrascos, lomitos, hams and ribs of pork for $6.60, as well as breakfasts.

The Montebello, which comprises a private reserve with coffee finca, is also a good place to enquire about packages in the surrounding private reserves, since the manager, Brenda Lemus, is also the president of the Asociación del Corredor Biológico del Bosque Nuboso (Tel: (502) 4877-7431, e-mail:, URL:, which counts the main reserves along the road and fosters sustainable eco-tourism in the area. They offer two- and three-day packages ($277 and $437) including transport, food, lodging in the hotels of the reserves and visits to waterfalls, Mayan caves, orchid nurseries, weaving workshops and of course to quetzal conservation parks. You may also go to one of the reserves independently, since nearly all of them offer lodging, restaurants and activities. They are all set along highway CA-14 and if you are traveling by bus, ask to be dropped off there; a few are: Country Delight (Km 166.5, Tel: (502) 5709-1149, rooms from $40/person), Finca San Rafael (Km 164, Tel : (502) 2365-7229, E-mail: fincasanrafael(at), rooms $18/person), Hacienda Río Escondido (Km 144, Tel: (502) 5208-1407, E-mail: ecorioescondido(at), cabins from $78), Posada Montaña del Quetzal (Km 156, Tel: (502) 5976-7689, E-mail: hpquetzalcoban(at), rooms from $20). The more backpacker-oriented one is Ranchitos del Quetzal (Km 160.5, Tel: (502) 5368-6397, E-mail: ranchitosdelquetzal(at), rooms from $7.25).

Another great source of information about eco-tourism is the Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza in Purulhá (2a avenida 2-17, Barrio El Carpintero, Cel: (502) 5881-6077, E-mail: dmatanzas(at), URL: The Foundation also welcomes volunteers who speak Spanish and are interested in projects preserving natural resources and educating local communities.

Purulhá atlitude 1570m, population of the municipio 45,000


Other places nearby Purulhá and the Corredor Biológico del Bosque Nuboso: San Rafael Chilascó, San Jerónimo, Parque Nacional Laguna Lachuá, Rabinal, Biotopo De Quetzal, Río Ikbolay, Cubulco, Cancuén, Cobán and Chisec.

By Andrea Davoust
After more than two years of working and living out of a suitcase in Eastern Europe and in various improbable African countries that no-one has ever...
08 Dec 2009

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