Coban View from El Calvario

Coban, Guatemala Travel Guide: Plan Your Trip

In City Guides, Guatemala by Erik @ DIY Travel HQ

Coban offers connections to many places in Guatemala but if you find yourself here, our Coban Travel Guide will tell you where to stay and the things to see & do.

Find more inspiration in one of the Guatemala guide books below! 

Coban El Calvario Church
El Calvario is the highlight of Coban.

Coban, Guatemala Attractions

Independent travelers like us often get laid over in Coban in order to head to Semuc Champey and Kanba Caves.

W recommend purchasing travel insurance before any trip to Guatemala. We’ve been using World Nomads through 80+ countries over the past 12 years and have been really happy with their coverage and services.

Without further ado, let us tell you what’s worth seeing before heading to Lanquin

1. El Calvario

By far the highlight of Coban is El Calvario, a pagan church located up a hill via a winding staircase.

There are great views of the, less than spectacular, city from the top.

Coban Stairs to El Calvario Church
Stairway to heaven?

However, what happens inside is the curious aspect as it is a mild version of Cathedral San Juan Bautista in Chamula.

Burnt wax that mirrors blood can be seen outside El Calvario at offering stations on the path up, which foretells what happens inside.

Coban El Calvario Church Ritual Offerings
Is that wax or blood?

The interior décor of El Calvario is unassuming. Pews line the floor, regressed statues grace the walls, and an altar resides at the head of the church.

The faithful light numerous candles and pray to God at the front of the altar. When their prayers are complete, they circle behind the altar counterclockwise.

Coban El Calvario Altar
Dare to witness the secret lives of Pagans?

What we discovered behind the altar was shocking.

There were feathers stuck to the rear of the altar with wax.

Coban El Calvaio Pagan Feather and Candle Offerings
Out of sight. Out of mind.

Just before leaving one family left a duck with broken wings on the donation box hidden behind the altar.

It is as if Christian and Pagan religions were merged, and God was ok with this since it was behind his back and out of sight.

I’m curious what the missionaries we met on the street think of this mix of beliefs.

Coban El Calvario Duck Offering
Offering animals to God’s workers reminds me of Buddhists giving food to monks.

Upon making an offer and saying a set of prayers, the truly religious made sure to never turn their back on God in an act of deference.

Then when leaving the hollow grounds, all worshippers became more lighthearted. Visiting El Calvario is definitely top of our list of things to do in Coban, Guatemala.

Coban El Calvario Faithful Walking Backwards Showing Deference
You can never turn your back on God!

3. Parque Central La Paz

While we were in Coban, there seemed to be a different event happening at Parque Central La Paz each day. We witnessed a 7K race, protestors thrashing corn husks, and a marching band at 6:30 am!

Notable buildings surrounding the plaza are the cathedral, Palacio Municipal, and Palacio Departamental.

Coban Palacio Departamental
Colonial architecture in Guatamala.

4. Mercado Central

To the right of the cathedral is Mercado Central.

Fruits and veggies are the main items for sale, but you may find some other odds and ends you didn’t know you needed as well.

Coban Mercado Central Vendors
Someone is camera shy!

Grab some rambutans at 2 for Q1 / $0.14. In case you don’t know, they are similar to lychee and have a red spiky exterior.

You also have no choice but to partake in a sermon as you peruse the goods on offer.

Coban Mercado Central Sermon
From colectivos, to churches, to markets…you can’t escape the word of God.

Things to do Around Coban, Guatemala

The area surrounding Coban is home to numerous coffee plantations, which Guatamala is renowned for. Unfortunately, Finca Santa Margarita has recently closed so you cannot conduct a tour in Coban itself. There is the coffee farm Co-operativa Chijoj nearby though, but we did not visit.

Those that prefer tea over coffee can visit the Chirrepeco Tea Plantation.

Last but not least is Orquigonia, an orchid garden.

We decided to skip both these attractions around Coban in favor of moving on to Lanquin & Semuc Champey but they may be of interest to some.

Coban, Guatemala Hotels

Your best bet for budget accommodation in Coban is Hotel La Paz.

Doubles with a shared bathroom go for Q61 / $8.35. The rooms are basic, but clean. There is no Wi-Fi.

Coban Hotel La Paz
Sometimes I feel there is something keeping us apart in our relationship.

We stayed at the Hospedaje (Q80 / $11) next door our first night when they did not answer the bell. We realized the next day there is a night bell by the car port.

Otherwise, check-in at the office further down.

Regardless, Hotel La Paz is worth the trouble to find staff.

Coban Hospedaje
Anyone up for watching Teen Moms, the only English program?

Food and Drink

We have only been in Coban at night time, and the best place to eat is at Parque Central La Paz.

There are multiple food carts selling mini-meals. Prices range between Q10-20 / $1.35-$2.70 depending on the portions.

Try the popular vendors near the cathedral as they tend to give more meat. Corn can also be found on the CORNers. Corny…I know 🙂

Drinks can be bought ahead of time at the Despensa Familiar on the north side of the cathedral.

Those craving American comfort food can try McDonalds, Pizza Hut, or Dominoes on the west side of town.

Transportation

The bus terminal can be found north of the center on Ruta 9.

Many touts will offer rides to Flores.

Our next destination was Nebaj (Q50 / $6.85, 4.5 hours), which only departs at 6 am and 1 pm.

Coban Bus Terminal
You are invisible without a backpack, but watch their eyes light up when you return wearing one.

Colectivos to Lanquin (Q25-30 / $3.45-$4.10 depending on company) depart near 3 Avenida and 5 Calle regularly. The last guaranteed colectivo from Lanquin is at 4 pm.

We arrived in Coban from Rio Dulce. See our post Quirigua if you plan to stop at the UNESCO ruins along the way like we did.

Otherwise, Fuente del Norte has a 8:30 am bus (Q50) to El Rancho. Upon departure, walk along the road connecting CA-9 with CA-14 until you see a colectivo headed to Coban (Q30 / $4.10).

Coban, Guatemala is off-the-beaten-track! Check out our Coban travel guide and find out everything you need to know to plan your trip #coban #guatemala #centralamerica

*** The Final Word: Coban can be skipped but it’s worth a morning of exploration as Semuc Champey requires a full day ***

Visited in July 2016

Updated in February 2020

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