Parcialidad Vasquez Otz’iles

Communal forest of the 48 Cantones

This article was last modified on June 14th, 2023 at 3:42 pm

The Communal Forest of Totonicapán represents the largest and most well-preserved coniferous forest in all of Central America. The forest is managed by the local community and has been conserved to the present-day without much outside influence nor interference.

The forest houses over 1,200 springs which are the headwaters for five of Guatemala’s major rivers (Samalá, Chixoy, Nahualate, Motagua, and Quiscab which drains into Lake Atitlan), and which are the only source of water through the six months of dry season.


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Parque Chajil Siwan Totonicapán, Guatemala

The Forest is also home to countless sites sacred to the Maya K’iche’ people, and Mayan ceremonies are performed quite frequently. From a scientific standpoint, the Communal Forest of Totonicapán contains a stunning biodiversity of both plants and animals including over 100 species of birds around 30 of which are endemic to the highland coniferous forests of Guatemala and Mexico.

Mountain Biking in Totonicapán Guatemala
Photo: Brendan James ©2020

Parcialidad Vasquez Otz’iles includes over 450 hectare acres of protected forest at 10-11,000ft in the mountains above Tetonicapán. The area is managed by the twelve local tribal villages and valued for water generation and air purification. In a country facing extreme deforestation and fire this forest is a sanctuary – guarded by locals who voluntarily patrol the land.

Travesía Campanabaj

Held each year in Totonicapán Travesía Campanabaj is one of the largest mountain bike group rides in the country. In 2018 the event drew over 1000 cyclists from across Guatemala. The course climbs up from the town of San Cristóbal Totonicapán to the traversing the forests of Parcialidad Vasquez Otz’iles .

Communal forest of the 48 Cantones
Photo: Brendan James ©2017


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