Semuc Champey – hard to get to, but worth the effort

6 hours of a van ride from Flores down south and then a 2 very bumpy hours east and we finaly got to Lanquin which is still not our final destination. It’s a small town in the guatemalan mountains of Alta Verapaz. For travelers it has an important meaning of being a base or last bit of civilisation when wanting to visit famous turquoise pools and their surroundings named Semuc Champey. It’s been only 2-3 years since this unique spot showed up on the gringo’s traveler map.

We know as much as that it’s supposed to be a perfect combination of treats to feed your eyes and soul as well as to relax and indulge yourself in a nature-made “aquapark”.

There are two ways to approach this trip. You could pick one of the accomodation spots in the last town Lanquin to be able to have some more gastro options as well as other perks of basic but civilized town. Then to visit pools you need to take a pick up truck for 25Q which after 45min will drop you at the park entrance (day ticket 50Q).

The second approach is to head up to the park area straight away, leaving the town of Lanquin behind and chosing to stay in one of the places offering sleeping options close to the entrance. If you book your stay ahead, you should get the 25Q ride up included in the price. The way back might depend of the length of your stay. This way you can save some bucks and stay in the picturesque area. The only issue is that you have not many options to find food outside of your hotel’s restaurant which is usualy a bit pricey and you’re not allowed to bring any food from the outside. Well, nobody said it will be easy 😉
We decided to go for the second option and stay closer to the nature.

So here we are, jumping of the van with other travelers and being screamed at by around 10 local guys trying to sell some accomodation or tours to us. After breaking through them we found our guy who is the driver of our pick up car. Our ride looks the most solid, reliable and comfortable, which, we will soon learn, is very important on this route. There is already 5 other people waiting in the back to get a lift. They’ve been waiting for more than an hour now so we hope it will not be much longer. After 20-30 more minutes we’re being transfered to a little less comfy truck which is finally taking us to the hotel.
Next day it’s the day of exploring the jungle’s wonders by walking, climbing to the viewing point and most of all swimming, jumping, sliding and diving in the perfectly cool and clear water. As a bonus every swimmer gets a fish pedicure whenever he’ll decide to stop moving for a moment. No time to waste here 😉

All the above we have just done it on our own, but there is a day tour you could take which gives you even more excitement. You could start of by jumping from the bridge to the river, along with the local kids, then follow the guide showing you how the river splits for the underground and surface one, then swim/walk in a cave with a candle in your hand, have a bit of fun in the water, see the same viewing point and finish of by floting down the river in the dent/donut (150-200Q). This is what many of the travelers are going for. Our vision was to soak in the water and enjoy it without having a guide rushing us all day and telling how much time we have left to the next point of the program. We are happy with the way we chose.

Usualy two nights for this place is how long people are staying here. Visiting the park is one full day, and then you can continue your trip somewhere else. So here we go again, being weirdos and getting one more night to do nothing. This place seemed to be perfect to do just that, because of it’s remotenes and lack of any virtual contact with the world, along with beautiful setting and plenty of options to keep yourself “busy” (hammocks, books, board games, beach volleyball field, ping pong table and so on). And so the day went as “planned”.

On the exit day, we’re leaving the hotel along with many of other guests by the morning (6:30) hotel shuttle. Everyone is half asleep, bumpy road is putting those lazy bodies to sudden, unnatural moves, music from the speaker is leaving us with no hope for even a tiny nap by playing some deep techno beats on the max volume. We’re half way down, when we notice that on the floor there is a spill of some sort. It came out to be a tank with diesel fuel not closed properly. Thanks to that our backpack as the first one in line is getting soaked in diesel. This means that we can’t continue our trip and have to head back to the hotel to unpack, wash, dry and repack all stuff. Luckily the hotel owner took the blame for mistake of his staff and made sure our things will be properly washed plus he covered one more night of our stay at his place.

On the next day, we left in the morning without any surprises, headed towards Xela (Quetzaltenango) to learn some spanish. Everything about it next time.


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