Semuc Champey

You can’t look at a picture of Semuc Champey and not want to go. It was one of the highlights on our Guatemalan list and lived up to expectations.

So many times when travelling we see man made attractions that we think will blow our minds but they just don’t live up to expectations. Nature on the other hand has a funny way of living up to and exceeding expectations. Semuc Champey is a classic example of this. The more time you have to relax, the better it becomes.

Most hostels offer tours including hiking, caving and tubing. We opted to enjoy the area independently by visiting the pools during the day (Q50) and taking the short but steep walk in the hills above.

There are transport options to take you from Semuc Champey to your hostel however why not enjoy the surrounding hillsides by walking back to your hostel. You’ll meet some cute local kids and enjoy the surrounds on your journey. Complete your day by watching the sunset over spectacular scenery and cooling off in the nearby river.

Many of our favourite travel destinations (including Semuc Champey) had no wifi or cell phone reception which means you finish your day by sharing a beer and talking with some great people.

Come to Semuc Champey with no strict onward travel plans because you might become some of the many who never leave.

TOTAL COST: Q914 per person – (3 nights accommodation, shuttle bus transport, entry to pools, 3 days of meals, alcoholic drinks).

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Accommodation:

• We stayed at Utopia Eco Hostel HYPERLINK– (Q65: dormitory, Q30/35: camping/ hammocks, Q425: cabin).

I’m not entirely sure what makes it eco but it was a comfortable stay none the less with friendly staff and beautiful surroundings. There is no cooking facilities here but there is a restaurant (Q25: breakfast, Q25-30: lunch, Q50: dinner, free drinking water) put on a tab for your final bill. Of course it is more expensive to eat here than the rest of Guatemala but these guys are running a business in the back of beyond. Most people only stay for 2-3 nights which makes the costs for budget backpackers manageable. At night enjoy the company of all the backpackers around the communal dinner tables, no cell phone reception or wifi here!

There is also the option to stay in Lanquin which assumably should be cheaper and has internet access. The downside is you will need to look into transport options from Lanquin to the waterfalls as it is quite a distance (hitchhiking should be fairly easy if you are up for it). The Guatemalan countryside here is beautiful. If you can stretch it into your budget I would recommend choosing an option above like we did.

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Getting there:

• Shuttle bus (8 hours, Q75-95) from Los Amigos Hostal – Calle Central, Flores. The shuttle bus can be up to 30 minutes late depending on the number of pick-ups prior to yours. The journey has a lunch stop in Coban where there is a reasonable sized shopping mall with standard eateries, cafes and the usual fast food restaurants. There is also an ATM here which you need to use as there are no Credit Card or ATMs in Semuc Champey.

Once you arrive in Lanquin (town closest to Semuc Champey) you will be inundated with busboys offering you a ride to the hostel they work for. They are in your face. Either enter into negotiation now or follow your pre booked hostel driver and board their transport. Be warned there is no sit down transport service from here until your hostel (usually about 10-15 minutes). Instead you are standing in the back of an open backed ute. The road is bumpy and windy so they can’t go that fast and this offers beautiful views of the green Guatemalan countryside. We enjoyed it – remember to hold on!

NB: Taking a public bus and negotiating rides on the back of utes is an option if you have decent spanish.

Getting away:

Once in Semuc Champey there aren’t many options to get back out and as there is limited internet access making research difficult. All the hostels offer shuttles to major destinations including Flores (Q215), Antigua (Q175), Rio Dulce (Q185) and Panajachel (Q275). They make money on the fact they know your options are limited so get over it. The perk to taking a shuttle is that you get to share the ride to your destination with new friends you’ve made over the communal dinners. You may even keep travelling with them!

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Tip:

Get out your required amount of money before arriving in Semuc Champey. Either withdraw from Flores or, if your transport stops in Coban, withdraw from within the shopping mall.

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