Semuc Champey

Posted from Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala.


The drive through the mountains leaves little want.

Getting there

I spent most of my birthday in a van. We left Flores for Lanquin, the village near Semuc Chempey, at 8 a.m. The thing we’re learning about driving through Guatemala is it takes nearly forever to go anywhere. Through almost all cities, villages, and bizarre places there are these random massive speed bumps which force vehicles to nearly stop just to pass over them. The roads are terrible and littered with deep pot holes. In some places entire sections of pavement are just missing. The van ride was meant to take eight hours. We arrived at 5 p.m., nine hours later. 

Lanquin shuttle stop

The drop-off point in Lanquin – this is also where you will catch any shuttle out of town.

The 10 kms into Lanquin – the village outside of the national park – takes an hour for the van to navigate due to sheer road inadequacy. The mountainous area we have been entering for the past three hours is stunning. When we arrived, our hostel, El Muro, Q50/night, had sent a young boy to bring us to the property via tuktuk so we didn’t get lost walking the 1/2 km up the main road. It was a nice touch. I told them it was my birthday and they gave me a complimentary shot, actually, I had many shots that night. We booked the tour to the park for the next day and some how I managed to make it to bed and wake up in time.

Semuc Champey

Probably one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala – Semuc Champey National Monument, a natural wonder of blue waters flowing through limestone rocks.

The park

For Q190 the tour is phenomenal. Here’s why the tour is worth it. It costs Q25 each way to get to the park. You can try your luck at hitch hiking, but chances are you’ll have to pay. The entrance fee to the park is an additional Q50. If you want to go see the caves, it’s Q60, and you need to go with a guide. So that’s Q160 right there. So with the tour everything is organised.

The ride to the park takes about 30 minutes, 45 mins if you’re in an older truck. You stand in the back of a pick up and surf your way down the bumpy road to Semuc Champey. You get a good view of the surrounding countryside and area.

I don’t have a waterproof camera, so I don’t have any photos for most of this excursion. (My next camera will be waterproof.) We put all our belongings in lockers and didn’t pick them up for a few hours.

The caves

We started with the caves – and it’s not for the faint of heart. You begin by being handed a candle. No state of the art technology here. A little while into the cave the guide put dark markings on all of our faces, assuring us that the greasy stuff he was scraping off the rock was not bat dung. There’s definitely some sketchy bits in there and you need to be careful. There’s ladders, a jump into darkness, hidden rocks, and swimming – AND you do all of this while holding a candle. The water is a bit chilly and most of us were shivering by the time we left. You need shoes for this so either get your runners wet or pick up some water shoes. 

Semuc caves

A screen-grab of us climbing through the cave with our candles.

Semuc Champey

We survived the caves, war paint and all.

After the caves we did a rope swing – which was super fun, but one of the guys in our group hit some rocks with his head when he entered the water (just scratches,) so beware. He dove when he released himself, but still – sketchy. Then we went to a small pool at the bottom of the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen, and took a swim.

After our swim we went tubing down a river for about 20 minutes and drank a beer. At one point during the tubing a bunch of kids jumped in the water and met up with us offering to sell us more beer. It was a bit nuts. We all declined. Some of the guys went and jumped off an 8-10 meter bridge. I used to platform dive, but this did not appeal to me. Funny how things change. One of them said he hit the bottom.

Kids, who bombarded us when we first arrived to buy chocolate off them, approached us again, remembering the names of those who told them their names. A young girl named Rose is shouting my name to buy chocolate from her, but I apologise and don’t buy any. Nothing against her. She’s gonna be a great sales lady, but my stomach had only just gotten back to normal.

Semuc bridge

The bridge you can jump from is about 8-10m high. This is also the way towards the park.

We picked up our belongings and went for lunch. For Q50 you get a massive plate of food. I didn’t eat because I had a huge breakfast, and I was a bit worried, but the food sure looked tasty. We entered the park next and hiked to the top of the viewpoint. This climb is intense. I huffed and puffed and my legs felt like they were going to die. The guide told us it was 25 minutes, but it was probably the longest 25 minutes of my life. The view, however, (picture at the top,) was totally worth it. 

semuc champey

The pools at the park are crystal clear and refreshing. A slice of paradise. This is also the pool I got to have my private swim in.

The pools

We climbed back down another way and arrived at the pools. There’s a place where the Cahabòn River disappears under the rocks and comes out at the waterfall we had previously been swimming in. There are lockers (bring your own lock) and areas to change. There is also a boardwalk back to the park entrance. However the rocks are very rough and sharp between the boardwalk and the pools, so water shoes would help.

The pools are also fed by this river. The water is crystal clear, but the rocks are covered in algae and pretty slippery. I found a pool a bit further down and had a private swim in paradise. We swam for an hour before it was time to go. Then we piled into the back of the pick up truck and held on until we were back in town.

El Moro

Saying good-bye to our hostel. Whether you stay in the village or out near the park, the jungle is all around you.

The gist

Semuc Champey is truly beautiful. After all the cities and markets and chaos, it was nice to have a day exploring and enjoying nature and, for the most part, ignoring our cameras. 

Our shuttle to Panajachel (Q200) on Lake Atitlan leaves at 8 a.m. It’ll be a long drive – about 10 hours we’re told, but some travellers warned us it would be even longer. Our final destination is San Pedro La Laguna – and the last boat leaves at 7:30 p.m. (15 mins for Q25) so we’re hoping we make it.

One Response to Semuc Champey

  1. Great post! And great meeting you at El Muro.

    Tommy August 12, 2017 at 7:39 pm Reply

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