Collectively known as “Las Verapaces,” the departments of Alta and Baja Verapaz are mostly mountainous, remote, and clothed largely in verdant forests. Guatemala’s national bird, the resplendent quetzal, and its national flower—a rare orchid known as the monja blanca— inhabit the cool cloud forests of this region. This is probably Guatemala’s most overlooked area in terms of tourism potential, as it sees surprisingly few visitors.
The recreational opportunities and natural attractions are boundless and include spectacular waterfalls, cool mountain forests, mysterious caves, Mayan ruins, turquoise lagoons, and white-water rivers. Perhaps because Guatemala has always had more fame as a cultural destination, its equally splendid natural attractions have been overlooked. This tendency seems to be changing.
Although it might seem the Verapaz Highlands are a continuation of the Western Highlands , they are unique in a number of ways, including their settlement patterns, history, climate, geology, and population. You won’t find much traditional attire being worn in these parts, particularly among the men. The women tend to wear traditional skirts with white blouses not nearly as colorful or intriguing as those worn elsewhere in the highlands. Still, Mayan culture is very much alive and well in the mountain towns and villages of the Verapaz Highlands. The stunning mountain scenery is on par with that found in the Western Highlands.
Perhaps most exciting for the visitor is the palpable sense of the Verapaces’s being a well-kept secret just waiting to be told. It’s easy to fall in love with all that this wonderful area has to offer. New and increasingly comfortable accommodations with greater sophistication in services make this Guatemala’s ecotourism frontier.