Semuc Champey is a breathtaking natural wonder hidden amidst the mountains of Guatemala. It might take a bit of time to get here, but in our opinion, the journey is absolutely worth it, and you shouldn’t miss this beautiful place during your trip. Through the jungle flows the Río Cahabón, a river with azure-blue water, numerous waterfalls, and limestone terraces that form natural pools. It’s almost hard to believe that this fairytale-like place has formed naturally. Cooling off in the river on a hot day while enjoying the rich surrounding nature is a delightful experience. Here are all our tips for Semuc Champey, Guatemala’s jungle!
The Base for Semuc Champey: The village of Lanquin serves as the base for visiting the Semuc Champey natural area. There isn’t much to do in this village, but you’ll find some beautiful hotels nestled in nature. At the bottom of this page, we’ll recommend the best places to stay in Lanquin.
How to Get to Lanquin? (The Base for Semuc Champey)
Most people travel from Lake Atitlan, Flores, or Antigua to Lanquin. Below, you’ll find information on how to get there from these destinations. The road to Lanquin passes through the mountains with many bends and speed bumps. If you’re prone to motion sickness, consider taking a motion sickness pill before departure.
From Lake Atitlan to Lanquin
From the town of Panajachel at Lake Atitlan, shuttle buses depart daily for Lanquin. The journey takes about 10 hours in total and can be booked at your hostel or hotel.
From Flores to Lanquin
Every morning at 8:00, a shuttle bus departs from Flores to Lanquin. This bus ride takes about 9 hours, and you can reserve tickets in advance.
From Antigua to Lanquin
The bus ride from Antigua to Lanquin takes approximately 9 hours and departs once a day. Reserve a seat on the bus in advance.
How to Visit Semuc Champey from Lanquin?
Many accommodations offer tours to Semuc Champey, but you can also explore the park independently. When you go on your own, you have the freedom to decide how much time you want to spend at each place. Every day, pickup trucks depart from the main street in Lanquin, taking you to the park for a few dollars. If you encounter a passing pickup truck along the way, you can hop in right away. These pickup trucks also serve as taxis used by locals, so be prepared for them to be quite crowded. The route from Lanquin to the entrance of Semuc Champey takes 30 to 45 minutes and is a bumpy ride on an unpaved road, which is an adventure in itself!
Tip: If you’re staying at an accommodation outside Lanquin, you can always flag down a passing pickup truck, and if it has enough space, you can hop in for a small fee.
What to Do in Semuc Champey?
In Semuc Champey, there are plenty of things to do. Here are 5 tips you shouldn’t miss.
Admire the View from Mirador Semuc Champey
From the entrance of Semuc Champey, you can choose to go directly to the pools (pozas in Spanish) or first hike to Mirador Semuc Champey. The hike to this viewpoint is a great way to start your visit to this beautiful natural area. The stunning river with its turquoise water terraces is a sight to behold from above. In the morning, it’s not as hot and less crowded, so you might have the view all to yourself.
From the entrance, it takes about 15 minutes of walking before you reach the point where the stairs begin. From here, it’s about another half-hour climb to reach the viewpoint. Once at the top, you can buy a coconut or fresh fruit and enjoy the beautiful view over Semuc Champey.
Swim in the River of Semuc Champey
It’s time to immerse yourself in that inviting clear blue water! From the viewpoint, you can take the stairs down to the other side, toward Río Cahabón. You can enter the river at various points, and it’s fun to check out all the different water terraces. Some terraces have small waterfalls where you can hang under for a natural massage, while others allow you to slide down via a small waterfall into another pool.
Tip: Bring a small padlock because at the pools, there are lockers you can use to store your belongings while you go swimming.
Embark on an Adventure in Cuevas de K’anba
Cuevas de K’anba is a cave system just outside Semuc Champey, and it’s a great place to visit if you enjoy a bit of adventure. Armed with a candle, you’ll go into this dark river cave with a guide. Swimming, climbing, and scrambling, you’ll make your way through the cave. It’s almost a mile long, and inside the cave, you’ll climb waterfalls and swim through narrow channels. It can be quite challenging at times, so having an average level of fitness is necessary. In total, you’ll spend about an hour inside the cave. Guides are available at both the park’s entrance and the cave’s entrance to accompany you. Entering the cave is never without risk, so be cautious about where you jump as you might not always see how deep the water is. Don’t enter the cave if you have open wounds as you could risk infection. The nearest hospital is a 12-hour drive away, so don’t take any chances.
Tip: Wear good shoes or sandals when entering the cave. Flip-flops won’t work as you’ll lose them. You can also rent water shoes at the cave entrance.
Visit the Waterfall at K’anba
After your visit to Cuevas de K’anba, don’t forget to continue walking to the stunning waterfall at the end of the trail. The entrance to this waterfall is included in the cave tour, but you can also visit the waterfall separately if you don’t want to go into the caves. After the small waterfalls of the terraces, this waterfall is a bit higher and wider, making it a beautiful sight. If you can’t get enough of this crystal-clear water, you can take another dip here.
Tubing on the River in Semuc Champey
Since tubing became a popular activity in Vang Vieng, Laos, it’s now offered in many other places around the world. When you book the tour at a hostel, there are usually a few cold beers available for purchase, allowing you to float down the river while enjoying a drink. During the dry season, it’s a mostly leisurely float, with occasional need to ensure your bottom doesn’t touch the rocks due to low water levels. In the rainy season, the river is much fuller, and the experience can be a bit more adventurous. Pay attention to the guide’s instructions before heading onto the river, especially during this season.
Tip: Tubing prices can vary significantly. Tours from hostels are often a bit more expensive but also more fun since you go with a group. If you go independently to the riverbank where they rent tubes, you’ll pay less.
Best Restaurants in Lanquin and Semuc Champey
Unfortunately, the restaurant choices are not very extensive. Often, you can also eat at your accommodation, but below are three nice restaurant tips for you.
Zen Bistro – In this restaurant, you can have a cozy dinner in the garden. They offer delicious curries, pastas, meat, and fish dishes, but you can also order a tapas platter or a glass of wine.
KALULA Café y Restaurante – You can go here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is extensive and includes vegetarian options. From the terrace, you have a beautiful view of the surrounding nature.
Mi Rancho – This restaurant is located near the entrance to Semuc Champey. It’s perfect for ordering something from the barbecue when you’ve just visited the park and have worked up an appetite.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Lanquin and Semuc Champey
In the vicinity of Lanquin and Semuc Champey, you can find some exceptional accommodations nestled in nature. El Retiro Lanquin is one of the most charming places to stay in Lanquin. Here, you stay right by the river, allowing you to spend some delightful hours by the water. There’s a bar, a restaurant, a ping pong table, and even a volleyball court. The atmosphere is very cozy and relaxed. Tucked away in the mountains, you’ll find the unique Utopia Eco Hotel. Here, you can enjoy ultimate peace and harmony with nature. You can savor delicious food while taking in the views and all the sounds of wildlife around you. Utopia Eco Hotel is not located in the village of Lanquin but is close to the entrance of Semuc Champey, making it possible to walk there along the river. If you have a slightly more generous budget and want to treat yourself to a special overnight stay, at Mountain Nest, you can book a room with a view! Here, you can enjoy a fantastic view that never gets old from your own veranda. Keep in mind that Mountain Nest is located 7 km from the village of Lanquin and 11 km from the entrance of Semuc Champey.
|El Retiro Lanquin
||Utopia Eco Hotel