Central Highlands

Guatemala’s central highlands, which include the provinces of El Quiché, Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz, are home to misty forests, traditional cultures, and Guatemala’s most important market, the twice-weekly affair at Chichicastenango.

The region is home to some important Guatemalan history. The Verapaz region – “true peace” in English – was where the legendary Defender of the Indies, Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, proved to the Spanish crown in the 16th century that warlike natives could be brought peacefully to Christianity by patient missionaries. In the 1970s and 1980s, Guatemala’s brutal insurgency was fought all over the country, but the province of El Quiché was particularly affected.

Nature lovers will want to visit El Biotopo del Quetzal, a protected ecosystem that is home to the quetzal, Guatemala’s stunning national bird. It is also known for waterfalls and good hiking trails. The city of Cobán is an attractive provincial capital, important to the local coffee industry.

The most important visitor site in the El Quiché province is without a doubt the Chichicastenango market. Visitors come from all over the world to wander in the maze of smoky streets, shopping for masks, textiles and other locally made treasures. The market is easily done in a day from Antigua or from many of the towns in the Lake Atitlan region. More adventuresome visitors to El Quiché may want to visit the picturesque town of Nebaj.