Chelemhá Cloud Forest Preserve
A turnoff at Highway CA-14’s Km. 180 heads east for 22 kilometers to the town of Tucurú, from where it’s another 26 kilometers via a rugged dirt road passable only in 4WD vehicle to the fantastic Chelemhá Cloud Forest Preserve. This privately managed protected area comprises 500 hectares of primary cloud forest and is part of the Sierra Yalijux mountain range, said to harbor Guatemala’s highest density of quetzal populations. The reserve forms part of an important migratory corridor to and from the Sierra de las Minas.
On the outskirts of the reserve, the Maya Cloud Forest Lodge (tel. 7941-7674, www.chelemha.org, $50 per person) is a comfortable, well-equipped wooden cabin built right into the side of the mountain in an environmentally friendly manner. Each of its four rooms comes with private hot-water bath and two beds. There are a lounge, dining area, and an observation deck with outrageous views of the forest-clad mountains in the vicinity.
Its Swiss-born manager serves delicious European and international dishes for breakfast ($7), lunch ($10), and dinner ($12). Activities include hikes through the reserve along trails with local Kekchí guides, visits to a local village, wildlife-viewing and, of course, bird-watching. This is one of the best places in the country to spot a quetzal.
Volunteer opportunities in the reserve are available through Unión Para Proteger el Bosque Nuboso (UPROBON, tel. 7941-7674, uprobon [at] chelemha [dot] org), which manages the park. It also offers opportunities for scientific study and research.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com