Huehuetenango is a destination for travelers who love nature and aren’t afraid to get off the beaten track.
It is a place where the indigenous culture of Guatemala is widely practiced – a place where colors are brighter, and life, for many, is spent in the fields. And, hidden in one of its beautiful valleys is Laguna Brava, also known as Laguna Yolnajab – a pristine lake where the shifting light awakens intense and vibrant blues, and shadows cast indigos dark and mysterious; a lake set only against nature.
Huehuetenango is a part of Guatemala that many visitors miss. It may take some time to get to from La Antigua, but its pristine beauty is well worth the journey. At this time of year, the rugged countryside’s rock-strewn landscapes are green, the wide-open skies are clear, and the once-muddy hiking paths are drying and cracking under the bright sun, making treks much easier and cleaner.
Laguna Brava, like all good things, takes some effort to get to. The trek is 2.5 hours down to the lake and another 3 hours (at least) to hike back up. Hikers should leave early and pack plenty of water and food.
Your starting point will be Yalambojoch, a mostly agricultural community comprised of less than 100 families. This small, rural village has benefited from the support of Colchaj Nac Luum Association, run by Per Bylund Andersen, which has a beautiful school that overlooks the village, with brightly colored walls and murals and smiling children. Volunteers and visitors are welcome, and it makes for a nice stop at the beginning or end of your day.
You’ll most likely begin your hike to Laguna Brava from the public school yard in the center of Yalambojoch. From here your local guide will lead you through the village to a red-dirt trail, which winds its way past pastures and cornfields. You’ll pass friendly farmers with their mules and machetes walking to and from the fields, nodding their heads as they pass, wishing you a good day. This part of the hike is fairly easy, unless it has been raining. During the rainy season, parts of the path can be a foot deep in mud, and in this case, many opt to go on horseback. The other reason many go on horseback is that after the trail opens up to a breathtaking view of the valley, where you can hear the echoes of Río Yalacastán rushing below, it then descends towards the lake. It’s steep. And if you’re not conditioned for this type of hike, your legs will get wobbly going down – long before you have to hike back up. Whether you decide to go with the help of a four-legged friend or are surefooted and strong enough to make the trek yourself, you’ll find that the journey to the lake is as stunning as the lake itself.
As the trail switches back and forth down the valley wall, you’ll walk past coffee fields where red ferns grow. Take your time and enjoy the views as the trail leads you towards Río Yalacastán, which feeds Laguna Brava. The steepest part of the hike will end once you’ve reached the bridge crossing the river below a series of low waterfalls. From there you’ll follow the river’s bend to a rocky wash of one of its tributaries where you’ll cross and continue your hike past marshy, lily-filled lowlands, beanpole patches, and apple trees before reaching the lake.
Once at the lake, tie your horse up where it can drink, then kick back and relax. Watch the colors of the water change as the clouds pass overhead. Unpack your well-earned lunch for a shore-side picnic; there is a nice, although small, rocky beach along the trail where canoes are launched that’s perfect for a picnic. And by all means, jump in! You’ll want your bathing suit with you for a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters of the lake before your return hike.
Laguna Brava is mostly untouched. You won’t see vacation homes or villages built up along its shores, but at the end of the main trail you will find a stand of basic cabins. They are available for rent for those who feel one day at this beautiful lake is not enough and would like to extend their stay overnight.
For more information about Colchaj Nac Luum Association project,
go to www.cnl.nu.
For more information about Laguna Brava, where to stay, transportation, guides, and Huehuetenango, contact Adrenalina tours at 7932-5858 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit adrenalinatours.com.