If Sacatepequez boasts La Antigua Guatemala, Alta Verapaz offers Semuc Champey and within Peten’s jungles lie the impressive ruins of Tikal, El Mirador and other ancient cities, what exactly is there to see and do in the department of Jalapa?
Answer: extreme adventure combined with biodiversity!
Just over two hours outside of Guatemala City, hidden in the subtropical mountains of Jalapa, sits Cascadas de Tatasirire, a solar-fuelled retreat in an ecological park bursting with activity. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the acres of beautifully preserved forest are filled with outdoor entertainment for all ages: swings, canopies, waterfalls and rappelling.
Declared a “protected area” in 2003 by Guatemala’s environmental body CONAP (Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas), the eco-park is a sanctuary of flora and fauna which uses its natural environment to fuse recreation with low-impact tourism. The innovative project champions rural development and gives a unique insight into the surrounding indigenous cultures of the Xinka people who co-exist alongside the Pocoman and Ladino communities.
The main attraction is the course of 12 swings spread throughout the forest, offering various levels of aerial exhilaration. Threading yourself through ropes and launching off each of the platforms, you feel like Tarzan swinging through the forest–just remember to hold on with both hands as some swings are 6-12 meters above the ground!
Next step is to brave the canopies: Strap on your harness and weave through the various types of trees on a zipline, which gives you a unique view of the nature, complete with six waterfalls and rivers that enhance the beauty of this park. There is even a mini-canopy specially designed for children. And if you still want more, try rappelling down Tatasirire’s waterfalls–be prepared to get wet!
More than just an adventure park, Cascadas de Tatasirire is a place to rest, recharge your batteries and try your hand at something new. Although you’ll need your own car or private shuttle to get there, since there’s no direct access by bus, the journey to Jalapa is serene: meandering through pueblos as you climb up through the mountains to the Natural Reserve in Cerro Miramundo.
With a five-story log cabin for lodging and plenty of ground for keen campers, it’s a haven for city dwellers or backpackers looking to escape the beaten track. Just don’t expect the Ritz–this is basic accommodation, utilizing waterfalls for showering, that puts you right at the heart of nature. While the tienda stocks basics like soup and biscuits, it’s best to bring your own food and ask for the camping stove to cook it on.
At 2,300 meters above sea level, temperatures plummet at night so bring a sleeping bag and a thick pair of socks. The communal space offers hammocks and an eating area where you can sit out late into the night and listen to the sounds of the forest. However, since the lodge runs on solar energy, it is advisable to pack some candles as it gets dark between 6 and 7 p.m.
Prices are very reasonable and vary on the type of package you choose. You can pay anywhere from Q60, which includes entrance fee and access to the swings, to Q300, which includes entrance fee, all the activities and a couple of nights’ accommodation (note payments in cash only).
Visit www.cascadasdetatasirire.com for more details.