Semuc Champey is a highlight for most visitors in Guatemala. With beautifully natural, cascading pools, miles away from any major city, Semuc Champey is a paradise you need to know, which lies hidden deep in the Guatemalan jungle. The bright turquoise waters stand out from its deep green surroundings, making it one of the most beautiful sights.
A naturally formed 300-meter-long limestone bridge acts as the pillar for the descending tiered pools and waterfalls that make up Semuc Champey. The water, produced by the overflow from Río Cahabón, fills each pool as it falls into an underground crater. It resurfaces downstream at the end of the enormous limestone crossing.
Though enjoying its exquisiteness and the refreshing peace it brings, Samuc Champey has adventures for all kinds of travelers.
Though the tranquil scene is perfect for the more delicate, easy going visitor; beware! You don’t get this kind of paradise without working hard for it. Getting to this wonderland is far from an easy feat, but your effort will be greatly rewarded.
It’s a winding, windy, bumpy ride from Antigua to Lanquin (the closest town to Semuc Champey), and it takes about 9 hours to get there. Therefore, prepare to spend a night or two in this area. Shuttles leave during the day and cost about 100 quetzales, or $14. For those who suffer from motion sickness (even those who don’t), it is advised you take motion sickness tablets to be on the safe side. The plus here is that some of the views during your ride are unforgettable! Once you arrive in the city of Lanquin, definitely unwind, and keep your night simple—you’re going to need that energy for your excursion!
Whether you decide on a tour, or to troop it independently, you’ll still need to jump into the back of a pick-up truck to make it to your destination, or you could opt for the 2.5 hour walk—your call.
The hike to the viewpoint is absolutely necessary to get the birds’ eye view of the spectacular wonder you’re about to embrace. The walk is approximately a kilometer of uphill climbing that starts off as a well formed staircase, and eventually ends up being crumbly rocks you have to keep your balance on. Heat and humidity should be expected as you’re in the middle of a Central American jungle. After about 45 minutes, you should be at the top absorbing all of the magic that is Semuc Champey.
Swimming in the Pools
After building all that heat, you definitely want to run back down as fast as possible and jump into one of the invigorating pools you’ve so far only been able to see. The pools have developed into various tiers creating small waterfalls, and it’s normal to see people sliding down before taking a plunge into a large pool below. For those just wanting to chill out, enjoy a free pedicure from the tiny fish that are sure to give you a nibble.
A must do on your trip to Semuc Champey is exploring the underground caves. Completely tucked away from sunlight, the tour guides will provide candles (yes, fire)to help guide you through the caves that you must swim through—think, candle in the air, swimming with one hand; this is Guatemala. Only those who make it through far enough will get the surprise of bat poo smeared across their faces to prove their worthiness. Trust us, there’s nothing better.
For the truly adventurous, there’s an option to climb further up into the cave and dive into a pool below—again, I should remind you this is all in the dark–followed by a swing that leads you into the daylight, finally, and allows you to leap into the beautiful pools you’ve already come to know
Take an easy 20 minute tubing excursion down the down the river. Local kids are stationed on the sidelines ready to offer you cold beers, but they’re definitely going to make you pay up when they catch you on your way back. Even they know a beer on a river tube is the perfect way to end your exciting day at Semuc Champey.
What to Bring
For your trip to this Bucket List Destination, you definitely want to bring the following:
· Water shoes
· Cover up (it might get chilly on your ride back)