A very scenic road leads east toward Alta Verapaz. If you’re traveling by bus, you’ll probably need to overnight in Uspantán, a small town nestled in the Cuchumatanes Mountains, which is actually a very pleasant place with clean streets and friendly folk. Hoping you may wind up staying here by choice, the local government has installed a Municipal Tourism Office (Municipal Palace, 1st Floor, tel. 7951-8125) to help you make the most of your visit.
Recreational opportunities include hikes through the backcountry to the wonderful waterfall of Los Regadillos, hikes to Peña Flor and the neighboring site of Tzunun Kaab’ along streams to another waterfall, witnessing a Mayan ceremony on the Xoqoneb’ hillside just outside of town, and hiking or biking to the agricultural village of Cholá, where you can bathe in a refreshing spring-fed pool.
Perhaps the most alluring option is a visit to Laj Chimel, the birthplace of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú and the gateway to Guatemala’s fourth-largest cloud forest, where you can try your luck at spotting the elusive quetzal.
There are some good options for accommodations, all except one in the range of $10–15 d, including Casa Blanca (2a Avenida and 6a Calle Zona 3, tel. 7951-8049), where the rooms have cable TV and hot water. There’s also ample parking if you’ve brought a car.
Hotel Montana (5a Avenida 4-60 Zona 3, tel. 7951-8025) has clean rooms with hot-water private bath and cable TV housed in a pleasant peach-colored building.
Offering minibus service to Cobán at 5 a.m., Hotel La Villa (tel. 7951-8046) has rooms with private or shared bathroom centered around a patio/parking lot.
Centrally located Hotel Posada de Doña Leonor (6a Calle 4-09 Zona 1, tel. 7951-8045) has well-furnished rooms around a garden courtyard with shared or private bath and cable TV.
Entirely with shared-bath rooms, a good budget option is Hotel Uspanteka (4a Calle 5-18 Zona 1, tel. 7951-8078, $6 d).
For food, there’s Café Don David (5a Calle 3-27 Zona 1, tel. 7951-8169) serving light meals, dinners, and snacks that include sandwiches and Guatemalan food.
Comedor San Miguel (4a Avenida 3-29 Zona 1, tel. 5592-1833) serving basic Guatemalan fare is another decent option.
Across from the soccer stadium, TV Café El Golazo (tel. 7951-8027) is a good place for breakfasts, cakes, and sandwiches.
Banrural (7a Avenida Zona 4), two blocks from the central plaza, changes cash dollars.
Buses to Cobán (four hours, $3.50) leave early at 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Heading west to Sacapulas are six daily buses continuing to El Quiché starting at 3 a.m. until about 4 p.m.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com