Laguna Lachuá, a jungle-ringed lagoon located deep in the department of Alta Verapaz, is without a doubt one of Guatemala’s hidden gems. If you’ve got the time to venture away from Cobán and Semuc Champey, you won’t regret a visit to this stunning, pristine spot.
To get here, you’ll head north from Cobán to Chisec. From here, the highway continues north to the Xuctzul junction, where a recently paved road heads west towards Playa Grande. Playa Grande is actually in the northeast corner of Quiché, but you’ll need to pass through here to get to Lachuá. Twelve kilometers from Playa Grande is the entrance to the lagoon. Laguna Lachuá, a perfectly circular lagoon two kilometers wide by 220 meters deep, was formed by the Nim Tak’a meteor impact, which pummeled the earth’s surface near Cobán some centuries ago. Its turquoise blue waters were until recently difficult to reach, as the region’s jungles were a hotbed for guerrilla and counterinsurgency campaigns. Today, Lachuá is a serenely peaceful and growingly popular spot to swim, hike, camp, and enjoy nature.
Though the surrounding forests have been harvested by well organized (and well-armed) logging
companies, Lachuá’s dense jungles and their native monkeys, jaguars, and 300 species of birds are fiercely protected park rangers who understand the value of preserving this unparalleled gem. The visitor’s center offers camping (Q25), cooking equipment, and a basic shelter with mosquito-netted bunk beds for Q50. The only downside to this idyllic attraction is the slight sulfuric stench that emanates from the lake. Lachuá’s name is actually an adaptation of a Q’eqchi’ phrase meaning ‘stinking water’, but don’t be put off – the water is definitely safe for a swim.
The easiest way to reach Laguna Lachuá is to organize a tour from Cobán. However, it is becoming ever easier to reach the lagoon with public transportation. Public buses to Playa Grande run from Cobán (Q40, 4hrs, 154km), Chisec (Q20, 2hrs, 85km), and Raxrujá (Q20, 2hrs, 95km) via the Xuctzul junction. Get off at the Laguna entrance, from where it’s a pleasant four-kilometer (one hour) hike to the lake.
Photo Credit: Andrea Tórtola