Verapaz is a region of Guatemala that is actually broken into two different districts: Alta Verapaz Department and Baja Verapaz Department. Most attractions lie in Alta Verapaz, with plenty of adventures to be found among the rainforests and waterfalls around towns that still maintain a thriving Mayan culture. For more information about Lake Atitlán, click here
With people slowly discovering all that the area has to offer, Verapaz has developed a dual beauty of sorts. Those seeking to engage with Mayan culture are able to experience it at some of its strongest, while those interested in a thrill can take to the caves and rivers.
Part of the Maya civilization in pre-Columbian times, Verapaz was ironically given the name meaning “true peace” when the Spanish took over. The Mayans that inhabited the area were known as fierce warriors, and they managed to hold off the Spanish conquistadors, even as they took over the center and south of Guatemala. The Spanish had no success in taking over until Bartolomé de las Casas arrived.
Originally a historian from Spain, Bartolomé de las Casas was one of the earliest settlers in the Americas. Seeing the wickedness with which his fellow Spaniards treated the natives, he attempted to find a peaceful way to gain influence in these new lands. He tried his methods in Venezuela, and after that went horribly wrong, he sought answers in the Catholic church. He became a friar, and then began his religious mission in Guatemala. Through converting many people to the Catholic faith, as opposed to fighting, he managed to gain control in the region of Verapaz.
Despite the change-based nature of this process, a large population of the Mayans clung to their culture. This makes the Verapaz region one of the most ample in tradition in Guatemala to this day.
Attractions throughout Verapaz are most easily reached from the city of Cobán. The city itself doesn’t have much of interest, but it has plenty of hotels you can choose to sleep in at night and store your luggage in during the day.
There are hostels right on the main road to stay in or just beyond the road are some great options. Casa Luna and Hotel Don Juan Matalbatz are both cheap options with friendly staff and a homey feel. For a higher comfort level and price point farther from the main road, you can find equally amazing staff at Casa Q’qechi.
Guatemala tends to maintain spring-like weather throughout the year, meaning there is no specific season that you should absolutely avoid. If rafting is an important part of your itinerary in Verapaz, you might actually want to take advantage of Guatemala’s rainy season roughly from June to February. If rafting isn’t something you’re particularly interested in, then it may be worth it to avoid the rainy season.
A nice cup of coffee can easily be found throughout Verapaz, as the region is one of Guatemala’s best for coffee production. Xkape Koba’n is a little café in Cobán that has great hot drinks from coffee to hot chocolate. It also has traditional dishes such kak-ik, a spicy turkey stew flavored with different chilies. Aside from that example, the café is quite vegetarian-friendly.
Cobán is also home to some international food such as steaks, but those actually take a backseat to the more common fusion restaurants. Kardamomuss is a common stop for people looking for these blended cuisines.
There are no direct flights into Cobán, meaning your best option is a Monja Blanca bus out of Guatemala City. It’s not very expensive and the buses are rather comfortable, but the trip can take up to 5 hours. You may be able to find private means of transportation there that could be somewhat faster, but it will cost a significant amount more.
There may not be much to do in Cobán, but within the city’s reach are plenty of experiences of both the adrenaline-inducing and more leisurely varieties including: