The turquoise pools of Semuc Champey are a highlight on any travellers itinerary through Guatemala. It’s a Central American natural wonder, not to be missed!
As we had already spent time in Lake Atitlan and Antigua earlier on in our travels, we wasted no time travelling to Lanquin from Roátan, Honduras. We couldn’t wait to see the magnificent natural limestone pools of Semuc Champey. Our journey getting there, spanned over two days via Rio Dulce.
Our shuttle bus dropped us off at Bruno’s Hotel in Rio Dulce, where we had time for a well-earned beer before our boat transfer across the water to Hotel Casa Perico arrived. Now Casa Perico was just as we had hoped, quiet, secluded and right in amongst the mangroves.
As we had arrived in Rio Dulce late, we booked a 2pm shuttle to Lanquin for the following day. This allowed us time to explore the mangroves in the morning. After a peaceful night listening to the sounds of nature, we decided to take one of the free boats out paddle around the area and out to the swimming platform.
Our departure to Lanquin that afternoon started on pretty bad roads, mostly unsealed, windy and bumpy. We were happy it hadn’t rained much in the days prior, as it would have been far slower going. On the plus side, the lush mountainous valley scenery was pretty distracting.
Despite arriving at El Reitro Hotel in the dark, our choice of accommodation impressed us straight away. Set right on the river surrounded by beautiful gardens, the hotel had something for everyone. They had a range of tours to Semuc Champey, which included cave and/or tubing, hikes and zip-lining. We decided to just book the earliest one way shuttle to Semuc for the following morning, consciously only booking a one-way ride, so we had the freedom to stay as long as we wanted.
Our shuttle to Sumec departed at 8am the following morning. The driver dropped everyone off at the caves en-route to the carpark, where we got off alone. It was a strange moment as we were pretty much the only people there. After paying our 50GTQp/p entrance fee, the first thing on our agenda was to climb up to the mirador for some amazing views of over the 300m of tiered limestone turquoise pools. The climb took about 20 minutes on the route up. By getting to the mirador early, we were able to enjoy undisturbed views from viewing platform, which we had to ourselves. We would loved to have stayed longer as it really was beautiful, but we were keen to get down to the alluring water whilst it was quiet.
It was worth the hustle, as for about an hour or so, there were only a handful of other people around. But it did begin to get busier as the day progressed. As the cave tours ended, groups made their way to the pools. And as with our experiences at Oaxaca and Palenque, the locals started to arrive around lunchtime.
Even with groups arriving en-mass, it never seemed too crowded, another perk of low season travel! We can only imagine how busy it would get during the high season, weekends and national holidays.
The great thing about Semuc is that there are multiple pools to swim in. So if a pool gets too crowded, you can easily move to a quieter one.
There were loads of secluded and shady spots to relax when we wanted to escape the sun or just chill for a bit.
By early afternoon and with the weather beginning to turn, we made our way back to the carpark. It was easy to arrange two spots on a local pickup (cattle truck) back to Lanquin. In fact, the pick up trucks we literally waiting for us. The ride back to town was a hot one, with the full sun beating down on us in the back of the truck. When we returned to El Retiro, we happily chilled by the river until the rain arrived. It would be a lovely spot to soak up some rays before indulging in the nightly buffet at the lodges restaurant.
From Lanquin, we arranged a 8 am shuttle the next day to take us to Flores, where we would explore Tikal National Park.
We loved our time in and around Lanquin. If you’re travelling to Guatemala, you MUST put Semuc Chamepy on your itinerary!
Getting to Lanquin from La Ceiba (Honduras) and/or Rio Dulce (Guatemala)
- Shuttle from La Ceiba (Honduras) to Rio Dulce (Guatemala) with Rooney Shuttle http://www.roneeyshuttle.com/. By far the most expensive transfer of our journey, astronomically priced at USD$60p/p. Departing 9:30 am and arriving at 5/6.00 pm.
- Shuttle to Lanquin from Rio Dulce 2 pm departure – 5hr duration in non-ac minivan (150GTQ p/p (USD20). Horrible road (unsealed for most of the route, windy and bumpy.) In wetter conditions this journey could take considerably longer.
Getting to/from Semuc Champey from Lanquin
- Local pickup to Semuc Champey (booked through El Retiro Hotel) – 1hr 25GTQ p/p (USD$3)
- Local Pickup from Semuc Champey to Lanquin town centre – 1hr 25GTQ p/p (USD$3)
- If you’re really on a budget or just want some exercise you can walk to/from Semuc Champey from Lanquin. It’ll take about 2.5hours, but the road is steep and it can get super hot.
It’s worth doing your research as to where to stay in Lanquin. El Retiro’s a large property, but is spaced out well. It’s set on the river, with beautiful gardens and is only a short walk to town. They served a buffet dinner every night which was decent and for us, it was far better value than some of the other hostels. It was in a much better location than many too.
- Get there early, especially in peak season, weekends and national holidays. The gates open around 8am.
- Take plenty of sunscreen and water. The climate is tropical and it gets hot and muggy.
- Take something to protect yourself from the sun for the return journey. The shuttles are literally like cattle trucks, where you stand in the back with no roof.
- Hotels offer lunch boxes 25GTQ p/p (USD$3) which is a very convenient option. Or you can buy food from the stalls in the carpark.
- It’s worth climbing up to the Mirador for great views over Semuc Champey – 20-30 minute climb up, not too challenging.
- Wear sturdy footwear as there’s a series of structured and unstructured stairs. If it has been raining, it will be slippery.
- Take a dry bag in to protect your gear from water splash and rain.
- There are lockers at the park, but you need to bring your own padlock and they are at the ticket office, not the pools themselves.
- Don’t leave your valuables unattended as your things may get stolen.