Hidden paradise in the Guatemalan jungle4 min read
Can you imagine limestone cascade of natural turquoise pools somewhere in the middle of the jungle? When we first time heard about Semuc Champey we thought we will have to skip this isolated paradise regardless our volunteering at Lake Atitlán. It turned out that we had enough time for both destinations! Not everybody who visits Guatemala are willing to take the long drive up to the north but here is the reasons why you should try to make the best of this adventure!
We started our trip to Semuc Champey from Antigua as it’s the best transit point between all popular destinations. While still volunteering at Lake Atitlán we have read good reviews about booking shuttles via Three Monkeys Hostel. It supposed to be efficient and cheaper than anywhere else – transportation to Lanquin cost us 150Q (14£) for approx 8 hours drive. Unfortunately our journey was pretty hectic and longer than we expected. It’s a common thing in Guatemala that overpacked buses are constantly delayed. We were dropped outside of Antigua and had to wait two extra hours for more people to join us. After long ride to Coban where we stopped for late lunch we had to change to another bus. In the end 8 hours turned into 11 hours frustration and we reached Lanquin around 9 pm. Was it worth it? We would say yes. Maybe Aventuras Turisticas is not such a bad company to travel with however our experience with them was really disappointing.
Upon arrival to Lanquin we literally felt like we were dropped in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully someone from El Retiro Lodge was waiting for us. With plenty of accommodation in the area we still urge to book your stay in advance. After our late check in we went straight to the bar area in our hostel and took a full advantage of their happy hours. Beware their mojitos are surprisingly strong!
Only in the morning we found out our hostel was surrounded by lush jungle vegetation and beautiful gardens. You can walk down to their restaurant and enjoy a coffee right next to the river or spent the afternoon swinging in a hammocks. El Retiro doesn’t provide free breakfast but their menu prices are pretty affordable. We are not sure how are the other hostels but this was more than a perfect place even though rooms can get a bit smelly. Maybe one thing to complain about was that can loud music from the bar plays until late night hours. You can book return Antigua shuttle at their reception desk and all the staff members are just lovely!
To get to the actual Semuc Champey pools we had to jump in the back of 4X4 pickup truck and survive 40 minutes of bumpy ride 25Q (2.5£). At some point we even enjoyed this trip because of the stunning jungle views. With all the tours organised from Lanquin we still think the best is to do it independently. Consider taking a tour only if you are up for activities like caving, tubing, etc. then a guide is really necessary. Going by yourself will allow you to explore the area and chill in the pools as much as you want. If you get hungry there are food and drink vendors right before the entrance to the park.
Once you pass the entry of the park follow the signs and after steep 45 minutes hike you will reach spectacular view of El Mirador. The view at the top is gorgeous, both of Semuc and the lush green mountains surrounding it. The hike requires a bit of an effort but afterwards you will reward yourself with the most refreshing turquoise waters!
It was a perfect place to relax after all the adventures we’ve done that day. We were jumping from one pool to another, swimming and enjoyed every moment.
Admission Fee: 50Q (~5£)
Just because the trip takes so long we would recommend to stay in Lanquin at least two days. We really enjoyed El Retiro Lodge especially after whole day in Semuc Champey we had a delicious vegetarian thai buffet. There is a local market nearby and variety of shops to stock yourself before visiting pools and make the best of it. Staying in Lanquin is most likely the cheapest option in the area.
- Best time to visit from December till April and avoid rainy season,
- Book the morning shuttle, if you are traveling from Antigua, to avoid travel in the late evening,
- Prepare mosquito repellent, sunblock, comfortable sandals,