Introducing Cobán & Central Guatemala
Not so much an attraction in itself, but an excellent jumping-off point for the natural wonders of Alta Verapaz, Cobán is a prosperous city with an upbeat air. Return visitors will marvel at how much (and how tastefully) the town has developed since their last visit.
As you enter Cobán, a sign says ‘Bienvenidos a Cobán, Ciudad Imperial, ’ referring to the city charter granted in 1538 by Emperor Carlos V.
The town was once the center of Tezulutlán (Tierra de Guerra, or ‘Land of War’), a stronghold of the Rabinal Maya.
In the 19th century, when German immigrants moved in and founded vast coffee and cardamom fincas (plantations), Cobán took on the aspect of a German mountain town, as the finca owners built town residences. The era of German cultural and economic domination ended during WWII, when the USA prevailed upon the Guatemalan government to deport the powerful finca owners, many of whom actively supported the Nazis.
Today, Cobán is an interesting town to visit, though dreary weather can color your impression. Most of the year it is either rainy or overcast, dank and chill. You can count on sunny days in Cobán for only about three weeks, in April. In the midst of the ‘dry’ season (January to March) it can be misty and sometimes rainy, or bright and sunny with marvelous clear mountain air.
Guatemala’s most impressive festival of Indian traditions, the national folklore festival of Rabin Ajau with its traditional dance of the Paabanc, takes place here in the latter part of July or in the first week of August. The national orchid show is hosted here every December.
There is not a lot to do in Cobán itself except enjoy the local color and mountain scenery, but the town is a base for marvelous side trips, including to the Grutas de Lanquín and the pools and cascades of Semuc Champey.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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