Vivero Verapaz orchid nursery - over 35,000 plants embracing 650 species of orchids collected by the late Otto Mittelstaedt. There are miniatures which can only be examined with a magnifying glass, and other varieties the size of large bushes. Some orchids are fragrant (such as vanilla and a coconut-scented variety) and others are fetid (such as an orchid pollinated by mosquitos, which stinks like a sweaty mammal). And there are many examples of Guatemala's national flower, the Monja Blanca (white nun - Lycaste virginalis, var. Alba).
Services: guided tours cost Q10 per person and take from ½ hour to 2 hours, depending on one's interest. The nursery is open every day between 9 am and noon, and between 2 and 5 pm. There are furnished bungalows for rent; call 952-1133 or 951-4202 for information.
How to get there: It's a 40-minute walk from the central park in Cobán on the old road to Guatemala City (see city MAP; there's a large sign at the entrance to the nursery). Or, you can take a taxi from the central park for Q10.
Coffee Tour - Finca Margarita in downtown Cobán offers a tour of the coffee plantation. Bilingual (Spanish-English) guides explain the history of the plantation and demonstrate the culture and processing of coffee. The tour ends with a coffee-tasting in which you will learn to distinguish between Prime (lowland) coffee, Semi-Hard bean (middle altitude) coffee, and Hard bean (high altitude) coffee; as well as learn to distinguish between the different blends of gourmet coffee.
Services: guided tours cost Q15 per person and take 1 ½ hours. The tours are available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 12:30 pm, and from 1:30 to 5 pm; and on Saturday mornings from 8 am to noon. For more information call 951-3067.
How to get there: Finca Margarita is located three blocks from Cobán 's Central Park, at 3a Calle 4-12 Zone 2.
Principe Maya Museum - this is a varied collection of Mayan artifacts, including carvings in mother of pearl and jade; polychromatic pottery; magical and ceremonial objects; work tools and implements of warfare; hieroglyphic panels; and a replica of a Mayan tomb. There is also an important collection of clay figurines representing warriors wearing animal masks. The name "Principe Maya" is taken from a statue in the Museum's collection of a Mayan prince, replete with quetzal headdress.
Services: The museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm, and the cost of admission is Q10 per person. The owners are available for informative talks about the various objects in the collection
How to get there: See city MAP. 6ª Ave 4-26 Zona 3, Tel: 952-1541
Calvario Church - The Calvario is the most sacred site in Cobán, the focal point of religious practices throughout the year, but especially on Good Friday. Several altars are erected on the incline leading up to the chapel. The first of these is Los Tigrillos, which is for making wishes - one lights a candle and prays to the power of the spot for help in making the wish come true. The second altar on the ascent is San Salvador: this is the lover's altar, and a candle burned here carries the wish for love. The highest altar, across from the entrance to the chapel, is La Calavera: candles are burned here to ask for health. The present chapel was constructed around 1810. Within its whitewashed walls burn hundreds of votive candles - on the floor, on altars, on the railings. Q'eqchi supplicants kneel before the image of Christ and speak to him of their sadness and devotion with murmured prayers, whispered plaints, and soft crying. Outside the chapel, the view across the terrace is a magnificent panorama of the city of Cobán , nestled in rolling green hills. To the southeast rise the Rocja mountains, dominated by the cloud-shrouded Mt. Xucaneb, the highest point in Alta Verapaz.
Parque Nacional Las Victorias - this 84 hectare park is a natural reserve with marked footpaths on the northern edge of Cobán . It's a great place to walk, jog, or just relax and contemplate nature. The forest shelters a large and varied population of birds as well as ornamental and medicinal plants.
Services: There are picnic tables, benches and fireplaces for barbecuing. Camping is permitted (there are toilets but no showers). Entrance fee is Q1 for adult or Q.50 for child nationals, and Q5 for foreigners.