Semuc Champey is one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations, tucked away in the depths of the Northern Guatemalan jungle. Featuring a natural bridge of limestone around 300 meters long with cascading turquoise-colored swimming pools. Sounds too good to be true right?!
In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about a Semuc Champey tour including how to get there, where to stay and how to visit on a budget.
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HOW TO GET TO SEMUC CHAMPEY?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get here other than sitting on a bus for an entire day. The two most common routes are from Antigua City in the south of Guatemala or from Flores in the north.
The journey from door to door takes between 10 and 12 hours. It’s not ideal but it’s the only way to get there.
Shuttle buses from Antigua / Flores to Semuc Champey Guatemala depart once per day typically around 8:00 am and arriving at 6:00 pm in Lanquin which is the closest town.
Upon arriving, you’ll have to transfer from the shuttle bus and into the back of a 4×4 truck for transport to your accommodation. There will be locals shouting the names of each hotel/hostel as soon as you get off the bus so listen out for the name of your accommodation to make sure you get into the right vehicle.
Depending on where you are staying, the drive from Lanquin to your accommodation can take up to 1-hour along a very windy and bumpy road. It’s not that enjoyable to be honest, especially after a 10-hour bus ride to get here, but you’re in the jungle of Guatemala after all and it’s all part of the adventure!
The cost of the shuttle bus from Antigua to Lanquin is around 150 Quetzals and from Flores to Lanquin it’s around 120 Quetzals. The 4×4 transport from Lanquin to your accommodation is free of charge.
Mirador Semuc Champey
HOW MANY DAYS DO I NEED AT SEMUC CHAMPEY?
This is a question that gets asked quite often and there are a few things to consider when planning your trip.
To start with, you will need to spend a minimum of 2 nights when visiting. The reason for this is because you’ll arrive in Lanquin at nighttime and the only time you can leave again for your next destination is on the morning bus. This will give you one full day in between to explore the cascades.
I, however, recommend spending at least 3 nights to break up the long bus rides in and out. An extra day to relax and enjoy the jungle in this remote region of Guatemala is 100% worth it.
WHERE TO STAY
There are dozens of hotels and hostels to choose from and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is best. Luckily, there is a variety of accommodations to suit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and families.
The majority of the nicer hotels are situated in the town of Lanquin and from here it’s approximately a 45-minute drive to reach the cascades. Whereas most hostels and eco-lodges are located much closer to the park and are within walking distance to the entrance.
See my recommendations of places to stay below and book online ahead of time.
Mid Range: El Retiro Lanquin
El Retiro is the best pick for accommodation in Lanquin itself. It’s perfect for those who don’t want to spend a further 45-minutes in the back of a 4×4 to reach their accommodation, especially after the long bus ride getting here. With an in-house restaurant, a bar, shared lounge, sun terrace, billiards table, and table tennis. They have double rooms, twin rooms, suites, dormitories, and cottages available to suit all sorts of travelers. An á la carte breakfast is available daily at El Retiro Lanquin and they can also help with organizing a tour.
Mid Range: Utopia Eco Hotel
Utopia is located 45 minutes drive inland from Lanquin and a great place to stay if you’re a lover of nature as it’s surrounded by lush forest and a running river. Utopia is a 10-minute drive or a 1-hour walk to reach the entrance. Some of the best features at Utopia are the in-house vegetarian restaurant, an outdoor gym, basketball and volleyball court, free daily yoga classes, a sun terrace with hammocks, a shared lounge, and limited wifi. Choose from a dorm room, double room, triple room, or quadruple room. Utopia also offers Semuc Champey tours, chocolate tours, and extreme river-tubing.
Budget: Pachamaya Eco Lodge
For those who want to be as close as they can to the cascades, your best option is Pachamaya Eco Lodge. It’s approximately a 10 to 15-minute easy walk from Pachamaya to the entrance. Featuring an in-house restaurant, a riverside setting, beautiful gardens, and a tour desk. You have the choice of a dorm room or a double room and breakfast are served daily.
SEMUC CHAMPEY TOUR (DIY)
While most people tend to book a tour with a travel agency or through their hostel, it’s also possible to visit DIY and for much cheaper.
Here is a breakdown of the costs of a DIY tour:
- 4×4 transport from your accommodation to Semuc Champey / 15 Quetzal each way
- Entrance fee / 50 Quetzal
- BBQ lunch (optional) / 25 Quetzal
- River tubing (optional) / 65 Quetzal
SEMUC CHAMPEY WITH A TOUR
For those of you that would rather join an all-inclusive tour, this is also possible. You can either book through your accommodation upon arriving or book your tour online.
The tour is a full-day adventure that includes all entrance fees and transport, a visit to Kanba Cave, river tubing down Kahabon River, and swimming in the turquoise pools. All this for $30 USD.
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Being a tourist
WHAT TO EXPECT
Semuc Champey Guatemala is open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. When you arrive at the ticket office, you’ll first have to pay to 50 Quetzals entrance fee before heading down the trailhead.
It’s no more than a 10 – 15 minute walk from the entrance to reach the natural turquoise-colored pools with just a slight incline up the valley. The trail is clearly marked so you can’t get lost.
Along the way to the pools, you can find a wooden staircase on the left-hand side of the trail that leads up to the Mirador (viewpoint).
It’s a very steep climb that takes around 30-minutes to reach the viewing deck and to where you’ll be rewarded with a birds-eye perspective. Reaching El Mirador is a bit of a physical challenge but the view from the top is absolutely phenomenal and not to be missed!
Once you’ve enjoyed the view at El Mirador, continue along the circuit trail for another 20 – 30 minutes to get back down to the bottom of the cliffs. The trail emerges at the top end of the natural limestone bridge and here you can find a dry spot on the rocks to set down your belongings before jumping in for a swim.
The ticket office
Map of the park
The way up to the viewpoint
Semuc Champey El Mirador
Insane view of the valley
And back down again
Testing the waters
A refreshing dip in the natural pools
SWIMMING IN THE POOLS
The cascading pools are quite large with multiple tiers so you can take your pick of where you would like to go for a dip. The earlier you visit the better if you want to avoid the crowds and have the pools entirely to yourself.
Further downstream you can find another level of natural turquoise-colored pools and small waterfalls. This particular area is surrounded by lush trees, making it more of a shady spot to go for a swim.
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More natural swimming pools
Small waterfalls at Semuc Champey Guatemala
SEMUC CHAMPEY MAP
LONELY PLANET GUATEMALA
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Guatemala Guide!
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MORE CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL GUIDES
If you are planning a trip to Central and South America, be sure to check out my other travel guides below that you might find useful while crafting together your itinerary:
- Mexico: 4 Week Mexico Itinerary
- Guatemala: 2 Week Guatemala Itinerary
- Cuba: 10 Day Cuba Itinerary
- Peru: Backpacking Peru – 3 Week Itinerary
- Bolivia: Things To Do In Bolivia
- Brazil: 2 Day Rio De Janeiro Itinerary
- Argentina: Things To Do In Argentina
- Chile: Things To Do In Chile
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Semuc Champey is truly one of Earth’s most remarkable vistas and something you don’t get to see every day. Even though it’s a bit of a mission getting here, it’s definitely worth the journey and I guarantee you will love it just as much as I have!
If you have any questions at all about visiting DIY or booking a tour, please drop me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!