I was traveling Guatemala back in February(2017), and among the
What is Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is a national monument in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle, with the
Cahabon river flowing through it. The closest town is San Agustín Lanquín and to get to Semuc Champey from there is about a 10km ride on dirt roads through the jungle.
What’s special about the Cahabon river is that a part of the river, about 300 meters, is covered in limestone. The river has shaped a series of natural pools in the limestone bridge there, and the pools are all filled with bright blue water.
The river has also shaped various caves in the area, some of which, you can visit. The Semuc Champey National Monument has various trails, hikes, and viewpoints that then leads down to the limestone pools where you’re more than welcome to take a refreshing swim.
How to get to Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is in the very north east of Guatemala. The closest, and maybe more known, tourist attraction is the Coban Ruins about 64 km away, a 2 hours drive. There are local buses going from Coban several times a day.
Other people tend to come from Flores or Antigua to Semuc Champey. This is also possible with local buses, but most people opt for shuttles as the local bus requires several bus changes and detours. I came from the beautiful town of Flores located on an island in the lake of Petén Itzá where i spent a couple of days to visit the Tikal Ruins.
Suttle to Semuc Champey from Flores
I headed off from Flores early in the morning, and after about 6 hours we arrived in Lanquin. On the way, we passed a river on the smallest ferry I’ve ever seen, if it even counts as one (see left in the picture below). It’s basically a fleet with a motor attached to it.
There was also heaps of amazing views along the way. At one point the shuttle driver even offered to stop for a while, so that we could take it all in. We’d basically been sitting with our head out the window for half an hour gazing at the views. So I guess he figured it was best to just give us our dosage before one of us decided to jump haha.
Shuttle prices from Flores to Semuc Champey
The shuttle prices variates. Like most touristic tours and services like this around Latin America, it pays off to walk the streets and ask around a little. In my shuttle, people paid everything from 125 to 150GTQ(16-20$), me getting the best deal at 80GTQ(10$).
After a little wait in Lanquin, several pickups showed up, one from each hostel. Ahead of us was a 45 min ride through the jungle standing on the back of a truck. I loved it, and it was cool to stand on the back and hold on for dear life as the sun set behind the mountains in the horizon.
Note my words though, better hold on, cause it can definitely be a little bumpy.
Where to stay in Semuc Champey
There is a variety of hostels around Semuc Champey. I stayed at El Portal that I got recommended for its prices and location. Though I met
El Portal – This is the hostel located closet to the park entrance of Semuc Champey. It is an Eco hostel with the Cahabon river flowing past it. The area has different houses spread across the property, from private rooms to dorms. They also have
Greengoes Hostel – This hostel is located just a little bit further away from the park entrance, then El Portal. The two hostels are the absolute best choice if the location(being in walking distance to Semuc Champey) is important for you. I had some friends stay here and they loved it. Greengoes hostel is a little bit more on the pricier side, with prices starting from about 90 GTQ(10$) for a 10-bed dorm. They have great common areas and also available wifi during the day and afternoon!
Zephyr Lodge Hostel – Zephyr hostel is located in Lanquin, has a pool, a huge jacuzzi and allegedly some crazy parties. They are located pretty far from Semuc Champey, but if you take their tour, it includes free transportation to Semuc Champey.
Utopia Hostel – I had a bunch of friends stay here. Hostel Utopia eco-
Ofcourse there are other hostels around Semuc Champey and Lanquin, but these are the once I’ve knowledge off.
Semuc Champey National Monument
The entrance to the Semuc Champey park was 50 GTQ(7$). The fee is payed in the park entrance and from there you are free to check out the area by yourself.
When exploring the park I would say it is unnecessary to have a guide. There
Guided tour in Semuc Champey
There are guides at the entrance of Semuc Champey though, if you want to use one. Several of the hostels also offer guides and different excursions. Most guided tours consist of them leading you along the trail in the park, to all the different viewpoints, then down to the limestone pools. When done they taking you to the caving and tubing location outside the park. On the way you’ll be passing a bridge you can jump from.
Explore Semuc Champey alone
It’s mainly the Mirador for the view of the river, and the riverside, for a swim, you want to go there. Outside the park, you’ll find the bridge you can jump from right in front of the hostel El Portal. You have to cross the bridge, coming from any of the other hostels to get to the entrance of Semuc Champey. Just ask the kids hanging around, where it’s safe to jump and not.
The same kids are also selling beers and sodas from their coolers. As i sat by the river bank and read a book, i saw one of them trow their cooler from the bridg, jump in after it. He den proceeded to swim over th a guy tubing down the river and gave him a beer. So, if you want to tube and enjoy some cold beers, these kids got your back.
I didn’t end up doing the tubing as I just did the ATM Cave tour in Belize a couple of days earlier. Definitely worth the money, but expensive.
From what I understood though, the price for the caving and tubing was about 60 GTQ, and to go, just tip a guide and tag along with the group for that part. That way you’ll have plenty of time inside the park of Semuc Champey to take in the views at the
Good to know before you go to Semuc Champey
No matter which hostel you choose to stay in, outside of Lanquin, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the jungle. Bring enough cash! So, there are no ATM’s, and no internet. Just to make that clear hehe
Being in the jungle also means that you have limited options regarding where to eat and drink. All the hostels sell food and snacks, but more expensive
Being close to the entrance of the park was really practical that way. There are women cooking in front of the entrance until about 6 pm. For 25 GTQ you’ll get a big meal consisting of chicken, rice, beans, avocado, and tortilla bread. This is way cheaper than the meals served in the hostels. Safe to say all my meals for the two days I stayed was consumed there.
Again, you’ll most likely find yourself in the middle of the jungle. And there is no internet access in a lot of the hostels there. I would make sure you get a good price from your shuttle service before heading into the park. When you are there, there is no other way to get out, then accepting the price they are charging, got get to your next destination. After my experiences, the shuttle service organized from the hostels in Semuc Champey where more expensive. I’m not saying that the prices were outrageous, but definitely more expensive then what you can organize from outside the park.
If you want to go by public transportation, you still have to get transportation to Lanquin. If you use the shuttle service of the hostel, this is free, but if you only want to go to Lanquin, they will charge you around GTQ25(3$). Organize a shuttle beforehand? Make sure that they also have an agreement with the hostel about transportation to Lanquin.
What to bring
So, bring cash and snacks/food as already mentioned.
Powerbank – this is not a necesitoy, but a lot of the hostels in the area are eco shotels and therefore turn off their electricity around 6 pm and on again around 8am. So it might be nice to have a powerbanks as a backup.
A good book – no internet, limited electricity, lots of hammocks. So make use of the hammocks and silence. And of course, socialize hehe
Mosquito spray – Jungle, river, high temperatures equals humidity, equals mosquitos. Not sure if it actually w
Sunscreen – Preferably one that is inviromental firendly. By that I mean, one like this sunscreen that are biodigratable, and waterproof:)
Other things to do in the area of Lanquin
Grutas de Lanquín – bigger limestone caves then the ones outside the park of Semuc Champey. They are located about 1 kilometer outside of Lanquín in Alta Verapaz and have been a national park since 1955. These aren’t just any caves. It’s popular to visit the caves around sunset, to witness millions of bats leave the cave for the night!
Stay in Lanquin – Get to know the slow pace of the town of Lanquin. Not much is happening in the town, but that might be just what you are looking for. If not there is always a party at the Zephyr Lodge Hotel. According to the people I met that stayed there, It’s crazy hehe.
The river tubing and the caving in the Kanba Caves outside the park, as mentioned in the article. This is something you could definitely do on the same day as visiting Semuc Champey.
All in all, I just stayed one day, two nights, and that’s enough time to see what you want to see there. I know some people stayed longer to chill around in the hostels, understandable with no wifi, nice people, and beautiful surroundings. Semuc Champey is the perfect little jungle getaway.
I headed straight from Semuc Champey, to Antigua, where I hiked my first volcano, Acatenango.