I interrupted a long bus ride with a three night stay in the bustling town of Cobán, about 5 hours north of Guatemala City. It was nice to finally have a private room in a small inn, the Don Juan Matalbatz hotel. The hotel was two blocks off the central square, close to Las Victorias National Park, and a ten minute walk from the shopping mall. Although Cobán is on the main route between Guatemala City and Lanquín or Flores, not many tourists stop here. However, I took advantage of the quiet to get some work done and explore a little more. The town may not initially look like it, but the residents are mainly well-to-do Guatemalans.
I swear by guidebooks, and Lonely Planet or the Rough Guides usually get the job done. My guidebooks suggested a trip to the nearby Coffee Tour Chicoj where I took a two hour guided tour and learned about the coffee harvest, history, types of beans, and got to sample some fresh brew. The collective farm is run by local families who rely on the land for their livelihood, including the tourist dollars that come from their guided tours. The land was beautiful, and having gotten a short education of Guatemalan history while in the capital, I had a deeper understanding of the origins of coffee planting and production in the country. It was a valuable visit.
The next day, I took a short hike through Parque Nacional Las Victorias, a beautiful but hilly jungle park where you can hike the trails, picnic, camp, and enjoy some quiet. Although the park ranger was friendly and tried to be informative, the map at the entrance to the park was virtually useless. My hike was beautiful but short for this reason, as I wasn’t in the mood to get lost for hours!
In the evenings I enjoyed the street food and a few glasses of wine at Cafe y Vino, off the main square. Cobán is the closest main town to Lanquín, so its also the place to stock up on any snacks or other items you may need before heading to Semuc Champey. I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to stay here, but its a great option if you need a short break from the long bus rides, or find yourself delayed on the way to Lanquín.