While essentially a continuation of Guatemala's western highlands, the mountains of Alta (Upper) and Baja (Lower) Verapaz have always been set apart in a number of ways. Certainly, the flat bottomed Salamá valley and the mist soaked hills around Cobán are physically unlike any of the country's other mountains areas. Baja Verapaz, the more southerly of these two departments, is sparsely populated, a mixture of deep river valleys, dry hills and lush tropical forest, dotted with tiny hamlets. Just two roads cross the department; one connects the fiesta towns of Salamá, Rabinal and Cubulco, while the other runs from the eastern highlands, occupies the Alta Verapaz, the wettest and greenest of Guatemala's highlands, ocuppies the higher land to the north.

Local people say it rains for thirteen months a year here, alternating between straightforward downpour and drizzle of the chipi-chipi, a misty rain that hangs interminably on hills, although the mountains are now being deforested at such a rate that weather patterns may soon be disrupted. For the moment, however, the area's alpine terrain remains almost permanently moist, coated in resplendent vegetation and vivid with greenery. The capital of Alta Verapaz is Cobán, from where roads head north into Petén, west to el Quiché, and east to Lake Izabal.

The history of the Verapaces is also quite distinct. Long before the conquest local Achí Maya had earned themselves a unique reputation as the most bloodthirsty of all the tribes, said to sacrifice every prisioner that they took. Their greatest enemies were te K'ichè, with whom they were at war for a century. So ferocious were the Achí that not even the Spanish could contain them by force. Alverado's army was unable to make any headway against them, and eventually he gave up trying to control the area, naming it Tierra de Guerra or Land of War.



This is a green and beautiful area to enjoy nature and culture; Catch glimpse of Guatemala's emblematic national bird in dense cloud forests of The Verapaces; el Quetzal, Cool off in the turquoise pools in Semuc Champey, explore extraordinary limestone caves system and chambers in Lanquín, Grutas del Rey Marcos and Candelaria's Caves; and an exceptionally beautiful jungle-rimmed crater lake set in a remote area close to the Mexican border; Lachuá Lagoon.

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