Cecilinda / Rey Marcos Cave (San Juan Chamelco A.V.) - Cecilinda is a bathing / picnic spot where a spring gushes forth from the mountainside into a series of pools and waterfalls. The recently discovered Rey Marcos cave is located above the spring, and contains some of the most beautiful decorations of any cave in Central America - huge stalagmites with filigree ornamentation in translucent stone, as if squeezed from a tube by a pastry chef. In addition to the cave and pools, there is an artificial children's pool, and scenic hiking trails up the mountain through lush rainforest.
Services: There is a restaurant featuring typical Guatemalan cuisine open on weekends, also a tienda with soft drinks and snacks. Picnic facilities are available. Entrance to Cecilinda is Q10 per person; guided tour of the cave costs an additional Q15 and includes helmet and light. It is open Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm, but special arrangements can be made on weekdays with Ivan Fernandez at 951-2756 or 951-4356 (call a day in advance). For US$12 per person ( 3-person minimum) Ivan will pick you up at your hotel in Cobán , provide a tour of the cave and a snack, and return you to your hotel. Overnight lodging is available at the nearby hotel Don Jeronimo's (Tel: 301-3191), which also offers hiking trips, tubing and swimming.
How to get there: From Cobán take the bus to San Juan Chamelco (see city map). In Chamelco, take a bus going to Chamil from the corner of zero Calle and zero Avenida. (buses leave at 11, 12, 2:30 & 4 ). Ask the driver to let you off at the Rey Marcos cave (at the hermita / puesto de salud in aldea Santa Cecilia). Continue straight another 100 meters following the signs to Cecilinda. Or, you can take a taxi from the cathedral in Cobán (in front of Supertienda El Gallo)
directly to Cecilinda for Q50.
Quetzal Biotope - Chicoy Cave - Chixim Church (Purulha B.V., Tactic A.V.) - These three attractions can all be visited in one day if you have a car or take a tour (inquire at Internet Café in Cobán ).
Biotopo del Quetzal: Right on the Guatemala-Cobán highway at km 160 (4 kms south of Purulha, B.V.) there is a remnant of the formerly huge cloud forests of Guatemala, the Biotopo del Quetzal. The University of San Carlos protects this 11 km² area, a small part of which is open to the public. Cloud forests are the most beautiful of tropical forests. Every tree seems to be the work of art of a Japanese florist, being covered with mosses, red flowering bromeliads and carpets of orchids. The reason for all this splendor is the high humidity in the air - Caribbean clouds run into these mountains and drop their rain, which is why epiphytic plants, which have no major roots, can grow on the branches of trees. While bromeliads get their water from the rain, storing it in their leaf rosettes, orchids store the water in their succulent bulbs. With a bit of luck you'll see a resplendent quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, which come to aguacatillo trees across the highway in the mornings. You can do an hour walk on the Biotope´s trails, and take a swim at the end in one of the little creeks. Right next to the Biotope there is a huge clearing covered by something that looks like a huge black tent. This is a plantation of leather leaf, a fern used by florists.
Services: Hours are from 7 am to 4 pm, and admission is Q 20. Rangers are there to answer your questions. There is a space for camping and barbecue stands. There is a tienda with snacks and soft drinks in the Biotopo itself. Additionally, lodging is available nearby: Hotel Los Ranchitos (on the highway right after the Biotopo) offers inexpensive bungalows, restaurant, and a cheap tienda. Hotel La Posada del Quetzal, at km 157 offers a pool, garden and comfortable bungalows with fireplaces. Tel 208-5958, 367-1771, 367-1772. Lodging and meals (with bar) are also available at Hotel-Restaurant Ram Tzul at km 158, which has waterfalls and swimming spots of its own. Tel: 335-1805, e-mail: email@example.com.
How to get there: From Guatemala City, ask the bus driver to let you off at the Biotopo del Quetzal. From Cobán, take a Guatemala City bus and ask the driver to let you off at the Biotopo. Tours are also available from the Internet Café.
Chicoy Cave - Cueva Chicoy is not really a cave, but rather a sinkhole of perhaps sixty meters diameter, so no flashlights are needed. A natural cathedral, it has anticline and syncline walls, clusters of stalagmites stretching up to fifteen meters in height, and a high, vaulted ceiling. The entrance of the cave is covered by forest. If you enter in the morning (11 a.m.), there is still mist and the sunrays enter the cave through a green filter. Be careful with the slippery descent. The cave has strong vibrations: the Mayans use the cave of Chicoy for healing and making wishes (if you want to do the same, bring candles to light at the main altar behind the stalagmites), and it is often the scene of important Mayan rituals, such as the ceremony marking the beginning of the 260-day sacred year - Cuaxaquib (8) Batz (Monkey).
Services: Entrance fee is Q5. There are public latrines and a picnic area below the cave.
How to get there: The cave is located 1 km in from km 169 on the Cobán - Guatemala highway, 4 kms north of Purulha, B.V. From Cobán you can take a Guatemala or Purulha bus and ask the driver to let you off at Finca Chicoy. You can also hire a taxi from Cobán to Chicoy / Chixim, waiting for you for an hour in each place, for about $40 round trip (this should be negotiated in advance). From the Biotopo you can hike the 8 kms or flag down a bus going north.
Chixim church - this church has a miracle Jesus which attracts pilgrims from all over Guatemala (particularly on January 1st and 15th, the day of the Black Saint of Chixim). The walls of the room to the left of the main altar are covered with plaques of thanksgiving for miracles ascribed to El Señor de Chixim. The terrace in front of the church affords a spectacular panoramic view of the Tactic valley. A few steps down from the terrace, to the right, is the monument of Jesus Lopez (ask at the tienda for permission to enter); this is a room full of macabre (albeit with a sense of humor) mosaics with religious connotations, made by late shaman Jesus Lopez.
Services: Tactic has several hotels: Pensión Central 3a calle 4-10 zona 1; Pensión Sulmy 4a ave. 1-02 zona 2; Hotel Villa Linda 4a calle; Eco-Centro Chixim on the main highway just south of town offers private bungalows and a restaurant.
How to get there: From Cobán , take a bus to Tactic A.V. (see Cobán city map). Chixim church is a half-hour's walk up the hill from downtown Tactic. Additionally, the famous colorful guipiles of Tactic can be seen in the central market.
Sachichaj - This is a 15-meter high waterfall which cascades from a cave into a turquoise lagoon of breathtaking beauty - a great place to picnic and swim. It is highly recommended that you take a guide since it's easy to get lost in the maze of paths leading to it.
How to get there: You can get a tour from the Hostal Acuña or Doña Victoria. If you are in your own vehicle, the road from Cobán to Chisec crosses the Sachichaj river at km 24. Just past this point on the left is Tienda y Comedor Reina where you can hire a guide. Leave your vehicle at the old army encampment and walk 40 minutes to reach the waterfall.
El Salto (Chilasco, B.V.) - This spectacular waterfall drops 130 meters and thus is one of the highest waterfalls in Central merica. El Salto is reached via a 2 hour hike through the virgin cloudforest of the Sierra de Las Minas Biosphere Reserve, which contains a wide variety of fauna. From here it is another 5 hours' hike to the Los Albores camp in the heart of the Biosphere Reserve.
Services: Admission is Q8 for adults and Q4 for children. Guides are available for Q30, and it is possible to rent a horse for Q30. In Chilasco inquire of the Comite de El Salto; arrangements can be made in advance with Defensores de La Naturaleza - 19 Ave. 0-89 Zona 15 VH II, Guatemala City. Tel: 369-7777, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. There's a rustic cabin at Rio Concepcion where you can spend the night.
How to get there: Chilasco is located 12 km from the turnoff at km 145 on the highway from Guatemala to Cobán . You can get a bus to Chilasco from the terminal in Salama B.V. at noon, or from the crossroads on the main highway (El Cumbre) at 12:30 pm every day. Return buses leave Chilasco at 3 pm. Tours can also be booked from Hostal de Acuña or Doña Victoria in Cobán .