Whether you hear of Semuc Champey before hitting the ground in Guatemala, enticed by photos online, or after hearing raving reviews from fellow travelers, it's hard to deny that this is a highlight of any trip to Central America. Prepare to be enchanted by pristine turquoise pools and navegable caves, part of a natural 300m limestone bridge, under which the Cahabón River passes. This remote paradise in the mountains of central Guatemala is well worth the 8-hour ride from Flores or Antigua (or 1.5 from Cobán). Now a staple of the backpacker trail, this spot is relatively new in its popularity. Check out my photos from a day in the national monument and from beautiful Zephyr Lodge in Lanquín.
There is no requirement for a guide to enter or get to Semuc Champey – you can book a tour or hitch your way there and self-tour. For convenience, I chose the former and booked a tour through Zephyr then piled into a truck with places to stand and bars to hold onto in the back. After a 45-minute drive, we arrived and each grabbed a candle each entered a dark cave. Do wear closed-toed shoes because there will be a mixture of walking and swimming throughout the cave and has sharp rocks in places. At the deepest part of the cave, there is a rock about 12m high to jump off of into a pool – super fun!
Afterwards, we took on a rope swing that catapults you into the river. Being as coordinated as I am, I messed up on the exit technique and face-planted into the water. Friends of mine were much more coordinated.
We stopped for lunch at the large yellow bridge that lets you cross over the river. You can jump off this too! Afterwards we hiked up to a mirador, viewpoint, over the pools to take photos and take in the splendor of this natural formation. In the heat of the afternoon, it was nice to relax and splash in the pools below.
I had intended on coming to Semuc Champey for only two days because I had wanted to make it to Antigua to spend Christmas there amidst the festivities, however, I made the right choice in staying for a total of five and enjoying with new friends. In fact, it went down for one of my top holidays ever! I bought fireworks in downtown Lanquin and set off my first ones ever on Christmas eve. Two joyous days were spent relaxing at an infinity pool at Zephyr Lodge, tubing down the Cahabón River just west of Lanquin, and celebrating with people from all over the world. I really couldn't have asked for more of a serene spot in nature enjoy the holidays. To top it off, I got to pitch my tent right next to the river for the duration and wake to the sounds of birds and the rushing water below. I live for that stuff.