Semuc Champey Guatemala is definitely one of the best things to do in the area. Located just under 11 km from the village of Lanquin, the natural pools stretch for about 300 meters and are, what most people don’t know, a naturally formed limestone bridge over a raging river that runs underground. This sounds totally crazy, but on site you can also see exactly how the river makes its way under the natural pools of Semuc Champey with a loud roar. At the top, people are bathing in the crystal-clear, turquoise-blue water and the Rio Cahabon rushes away below them. A crazy performance by nature.
Semuc Champey is somewhat hidden, among wonderfully green hills and lush rainforest, and is about halfway between Antigua and Tikal, the other two major highlights of Guatemala. So if you are traveling on the standard route through Guatemala anyway (Antigua, Lago Atitlan, Flores, Tikal), then Semuc Champey should not be missing from any itinerary.
An additional cool highlight right by the pools of Semuc Champey are the Kan’Ba Caves. There you can only go in with a guide, but the highlight is that the cave is illuminated by candles alone. We had never experienced anything like that before. Is it worth the long journey to Semuc Champey Guatemala? How to get there? Can you do the tour without a guide? And what can you do there? These and other questions we will answer in our travel report.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
How to get to Semuc Champey Guatemala?
To get to the natural pools of Semuc Champey, you first have to get to the small village of Lanquin, about 11 km away from the pools.
How to get from Antigua to Lanquin
The easiest way is to take a tourist shuttle directly from Antigua to Lanquin. Alternatively you can take the chicken bus with several changes, but we would not recommend that. You can book the tourist shuttle at any tour operator in Antigua. We asked around and got a very good price of 125 Quetzales per person, including pickup from the hostel.
You are picked up around 8 am and we arrived at 6 pm in Lanquin. So it took us just under 10 hours, including a 40-minute break in Coban. That was quite an exhausting trip, but our minibus even had a small TV built in and as the only non-Spanish speaking passengers we were even allowed to choose the movies (with English soundtrack). What a service!
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How to get from Guatemala City to Lanquin
Here, the Monja Blanca bus is supposed to be a good way to get to Coban in 5 hours for about 70 quetzales. From there you will have to take a shuttle or a local bus (at the Mercado de Terminal), which will then continue to Lanquin in 2-3 hours for Q 30.
How to get from Lanquin to Semuc Champey
Most likely, your hotel is in Lanquin and so you have another half hour of driving ahead of you to get to Semuc Champey. You can either join a tour or take a local cab (4x4 pickup truck) for Q 25. This is totally easy and even a bit adventurous as you will probably have to drive on the loading ramp of the pickup truck. So always hold on tight!
Things to do in Semuc Champey
Splashing, sliding and swimming
This is of course the highlight of Semuc Champey. There are 6 natural pools that are really made of crystal clear water. Really insane if you consider that the Rio Cahabon otherwise flows rather muddy-brown through the jungle. The dreamlike scenery of Semuc Champey also reminded us strongly of our Croatia road trip a few years ago, where the Plitvice National Park looks very similar and the water is also so wonderfully blue.
There are several places here in Semuc Champey where you can slide from pool to pool. Some places are just deep enough to be covered with water and again others are so deep that you can even jump in from the edge. A lot of fun! You can spend several hours here. Even a brief rain shower didn’t faze us. In fact, we found it rather fascinating how a small bubble of air rose from the water after each raindrop.
The pools are so large and the edge is not so easy to walk around that you can also find places a little further away where you are a little more undisturbed. There are no changing rooms on site, but there are lockable lockers where you can store your stuff. Take a padlock with you if you have one.
The Mirador in Semuc Champey
The viewpoint at Semuc Champey should be done first thing in the morning, because it is really exhausting to walk up the mountain several hundred meters. Especially in the high midday heat. On the way you can supply yourself with drinks and coconuts, but still you realize at the top what you have done.
At the top there is usually already a large group of tourists, because on the platform, from which you have the best view, only 7 people are allowed at the same time. A security guard also makes sure that people adhere to this. By the way, you can go down another way than up, so if you took the ascent directly at the entrance of the park, you will come out at the last pool if you choose the other way to go down.
K’an Ba Cave
We actually felt the cave was even cooler than the natural pools outside. We hadn’t done anything like that yet. Okay, the cave is certainly not the biggest or deepest cave in all of Central America. But the special highlight is that it is neither artificially illuminated, nor do you go in with flashlights. Only candles illuminate the darkness in the cave. This creates an amazing atmosphere.
The cave is located outside the national park and costs separately Q 60 entrance fee including guide and candle. Swimming shoes or sandals can be rented on site for Q 25. We wore our hiking sandals all the time and that worked wonderfully. After you hike a few meters uphill and then into the cave, the adventure begins. You’ll have to alternately swim, walk through chest-high water, or shimmy along ropes attached to the wall.
All lit only by your own candle. At the end, you even have the opportunity to jump down a slope about 3 meters deep and slide through a small cave. We didn’t dare to do that, but one of our group had the courage and apparently didn’t regret it either.
After about 1 hour we came out of the cave and were just flashed. That was really an amazing adventure! We had a lot of fun during our little cave adventure and felt like Indiana Jones.
Our tip: Unfortunately, an action cam doesn’t see anything in the pitch-black cave. Therefore, if you want to take pictures, you should take your cell phone with you in a waterproof bag. You’ll have a hard time avoiding being completely submerged, so a regular camera isn’t a good idea either.
When we came out of the cave we were pretty cold at first. In the cave it is certainly 15 degrees less than outside, plus the water through which you have to swim is not really warm. By the way, right next to the cave we could jump from a 10 meter high swing, which was attached to a tree, into the river. After I initially had some fear and did not quite trust the rope attached to a branch far above me, I then dared. And it was so much fun.
Additional Tip: Most of the guided tours of Lanquin visit the cave first, before they go to the pools. So you should rather visit the cave in the afternoon.
At the end, we were able to float down the river on a car tire for an additional Q10 per person. Normally this takes about 15 minutes and you walk back to the cave to return the tires. Since our hotel, the Pachamaya*, is within walking distance of the Semuc Champey and directly at the river, we just went ashore at our hotel and the guide, who by the way was with us the whole time, carried the tires back to the cave himself.
For us, the short time tubing on the Rio Cahabon was enough, since the water was very cold and we were still freezing from the visit to the cave. You can also book a longer tubing tour in any hotel. Then you pay for 45 minutes about 45 Quetzales. With a car you will be brought back to the place of origin.
What is the best time to travel to Semuc Champey?
In general, the best time to visit Guatemala is the main travel season for all of Central America: January to April/May. Then you have the best weather and the fewest rainy days. At this time, however, there are also many more tourists in the country and the prices are correspondingly higher. We were in June in Guatemala on the road and had except for a small, heavy shower in Semuc Champey, hardly any rain on our round trip through Guatemala.
But even if it had rained more, by the smaller number of tourists and the lower hotel prices, this disadvantage is very well made up. We have not regretted it in the off-season or in the rainy season to have traveled through Guatemala.
Where is the best place to stay in Semuc Champey?
Most hotels are located in the small village of Lanquin, which is about a 30 minute bumpy drive from Semuc Champey. In Lanquin you also have plenty of restaurants, souvenir stores and other stores for daily needs. There are also several hotels within walking distance of Semuc Champey.
Hotel Recommendation in Semuc Champey
If you want to stay in a beautiful hotel surrounded by nature and in walking distance to Semuc Champey we can highly recommend the Greengos Hotel*.
- Walking distance to Semuc Champey
- Great Location surrounded by nature
- Amazing Pool
- Lots of hammocks to relax in the garden
- Amazing food
If you book a hotel outside Lanquin, you must be aware that you will not be able to cater for yourself there. There are no supermarkets there and no restaurants either. So you have to rely on the food in your hotel.
Conclusion on Semuc Champey Guatemala
We found splashing around in the pools at Semuc Champey very relaxing and visiting the nearby Kan’Ba cave super cool and had a super adventurous time especially in the cave. We think Semuc Champey should be part of every itinerary through Guatemala.
Here again summarized the most important information:
- Right in front of the entrance to Semuc Champey you will be offered a variety of snacks, drinks and also real food.
- Visit the Mirador first, best before it gets too hot
- Go to the cave only in the afternoon, then the tours are already gone