Besides the pools, the hiking around Semuc Champey is absolutely fabulous. the area is permeated with lush jungles, rich flora and fauna that most people do not have the luxury of experiencing at home.
There is a trail up to a lookout called El Mirador. This trail rises steeply along the valley walls, sometimes feeling like you're climbing rather than hiking. Indeed, there are several ladders along the way, so don't fool yourself, it is not a walk in the park. But the views from the top are spectacular. You can see the pools far below, any bathers looking like tiny specs of color on the aqua ovals. To the sides run the Rio Languin, pushing through the limestone rock to create this deep canyon.
The Semuc Champey lagoons are probably the most famous landmark around Coban. These aquamarine pools are gorgeous, formed from limestone runoff of the nearby river. It is a gorgeous site to relax for a day. One can hike up to el mirador, a look out from the mountainside. Or just lay around in the pools. Or even, if you're feeling adventurous, hike down some of the waterfalls and then jump off the last one into a huge pool. Semuc Champey is a wonderful place.
Las Grutas de Lanquin are the famous caves near the town of Lanquin, full of bats and interesting animal-like formations. However, for a real adventure treat, head towards Semuc Champey. Right before you cross the bridge, there is a sign for Bak Na caves. These caves involve scrambling over formations, on ladders, even swimming through dark pools and a rope climbing exercise, should you be brave enough. The best part is that the caves are not equipped with electric lights, and there are no headlamps or flashlights at the entrance. Instead, they give you a candle, light it up, and wish you good luck! It is a crazy but amazing adventure, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Semuc Champey area.
Every market has a slightly different focus. The markets in Coban are less languorous than in Santa Elena, less hectically squeezed than in Antigua. Coban is a mountain town, and the produce on offer is a bit different too.
Cardamom is wonderful. It's a spice that smells a little bit like Vick's, but nicer of course. It is used in Indian cooking, Arabian coffee, and European pastries. The smell of cardamom permeates Coban. Unlike coffee, cardamom is dried in dryers (it would rot otherwise). I went to talk to a dealer and he gave me a little baggie of seeds on the house. Maybe he had heard I am the Vindaloo king!
There are several crops being grown at the Finca Santa Margarita.
Photo 1 - Sugar Cane
Photo 2 - Bananas
Photo 3 - Such an attractive oasis, near the center of town!
Photo 4 - Avocado Tree
Photo 5 - Tiny but super-hot little chili peppers
Photo 1 - The worker roasts the beans carefully, not by smell or by time but by color. Same beans for espresso and regular, but the espresso beans are roasted to a darker point.
Photo 2 - Traditional Guatemala coffee bag.
Photo 3 - Packed coffee, ready to go (for sale $3 a pound).
Photo 4 - Sample
Photo 5 - No splashy entrance. And the door is locked during the siesta (1:30 to 2:30).
There are several coffee tours in Coban. The easiest one to catch is right in town.
Photo 1: Coffee beans ripening.
Photo 2: Discarded pulp (will be recycled as mulch and fertilizer).
Photo 3: Peeling machine, followed by an agitated bath.
Photo 4: On the left, the best coffee drying. On the right, the lesser coffee (separated through flotation) which will become instant coffee.
Photo 5: Senora Carmen Hun, who speaks better English than she thinks.
Coban is a Mayan industrial city with some interesting photography on the street. I spent time walking around and taking pictures of the men and women in their traditional dress. The bright colors of the buildings provide a great background.
The cobbled path leading uphill to the El Calvario is intimidatingly steep and steals one's breath, but vendors and parisoners do it regularly, so I figured I should too. At the top, I got some great shots of the Church, the people, and the city of Coban. I didn't take images of the Church interior, but it wasn't as grand as some churches in Guatemala that I'd seen. The location on top the hill is spectacular though.
Coban is a good place to hang out, there are several streets with colonial buildings, and even some hints of the German past.
Is a small but interesting museum. A private collection with fine examples of mayan pottery, jewelry and a impressive stelae from Cancuen. There´s a Q15.00 fee to visit the exhibition.
And old church built in 1810 and located in a hill, with great views of the city and the nearby park of Las Victorias, is maybe Coban´s most interesting sight.
Coban's central plaza is lively and noisy. The dignified cathedral struggles for attention with an unbelievable "early school of Star Trek" gazebo.
The Calvario represents the Stations of the Cross. For the tourist, it offers increasingly attractive views of the city as you climb up the hill. It is, reportedly, dangerous after dark.