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My Adventure to Guatemala’s Turquoise Natural Pools

Semuc Champey: Long Road to a Jungle Oasis

Two phrases echo by way of the streets of Guatemala. Everywhere I went, I heard them. As I laid in my Antigua AirBNB, the birds outdoors my window would chirp these two little phrases. As I zip-lined above a espresso plantation, the leaves would whisper the phrases in my ear. At the hole-the-wall mezcal bars, rooftop eating places, and colourful textile markets, the phrases would comply with to sing their siren music. “Semuc Champey.” Those have been the 2 little phrases tickling everybody’s tongues. Photos and descriptions advised me that it was Guatemala’s paradise. So, in fact, I had to go.

Semuc Champey Van

Like each lovely creature, Semuc Champey doesn’t want to be discovered. Getting there’s an exhausting wrestle. So a lot so, once I discovered of the lengthy street forward, I virtually bailed. But someway, like all the time, I discovered the braveness to take the street much less traveled. Onward I went to the mysterious oasis within the jungle.

Step 1 of the Journey: Shuttle Van

The solely approach to attain Semuc Champey is by automotive and most e-book a vacationer shuttle van. The 11-hour street journey is uncomfortable, to say the least. Tourists from everywhere in the world toss their backpacks on prime of a small passenger van, praying they’d see them once more on the vacation spot.  I, like all the opposite cattle, shoved myself inside certainly one of these vans and claimed the final seat, which required straddling a wheel nicely. My legs went numb 30 minutes into the journey. Several occasions all through the experience I questioned if I had made an enormous mistake.

Van Travel Tips:

  • Pack a daypack together with your small costly belongings, passport, cash, snacks, and water. Cradle this bag in your lap for the journey.
  • Wear light-weight and cozy clothes.
  • For the love of god, do NOT get too drunk the night time earlier than. The solely factor that might have made the experience worse would have been a hangover.
  • Expect the van to be anyplace from proper on time to one hour late
  • Ration your water. Potty breaks are few and much between
  • Bring a ebook. I extremely advocate Tree Girl by: Ben Mikaelsen, a Guatemala fiction based mostly on the devastating Mayan genocide.

After a really lengthy day within the van, we lastly reached Lanquín (a small city outdoors Semuc Champey). But the journey wasn’t over but! My hostel was nonetheless 30 minutes away, deep within the jungle.

Semuc Champey

Step 2 of the Journey: Off-Road

Next, I used to be loaded right into a truck mattress for a bouncy experience alongside a mud street. I clutched the metallic bars and stood, swaying, because the truck charged up hills and narrowly missed stray canine. The experience was exhilarating, at first. Or maybe I used to be simply slap completely happy from a sweaty van experience. Eventually, exhaustion set in.  I spent the final 10 minutes of the journey salivating for a much-needed beer.

Step three: Bridge Crossing of Death?

Just earlier than arriving, we got here to a dilapidated bridge that crossed the roaring Río Cahabón. I might see my hostel glowing with a promise of the sanctuary on the opposite aspect of the river. Normally I might be hesitant to cross such a bridge, however after the lengthy journey, I used to be prepared to swim throughout the river if I had to. After our driver repositioned a number of boards – yikes – we slowly drove over the bridge, and I deliriously checked into my lodging.

Semuc Champey


You have a couple of decisions when it comes to lodging close to Semuc Champey. You can both keep close to the city of Lanquín, with extra facilities, and take a shuttle to and from the park, or you’ll be able to keep close to the park for a extra rustic expertise. I selected the second choice and stayed within the rustic, but charming, El Portal Hostel.

The better part about El Portal Hostel is the situation. It’s proper subsequent door to Semuc Champey! The draw back is that you’re on the mercy of the hostel’s restaurant and bar (which is common at greatest). You can select to keep in a dorm or a personal cabin – I splurged for a personal cabin with personal rest room. Electricity is simply obtainable at sure occasions of the day, and there’s no cellphone reception or wifi.

All of the hostels in Semuc Champey supply group excursions, however it can save you $20-40 by exploring the park by yourself. Simply pay the park entrance charge and luxuriate in the primary points of interest at your personal tempo. You can see all the space in someday (two nights), or you’ll be able to e-book a gaggle cave tour on day one and do a self-guided pool go to on day two. Your selection!


9 am: Swim and Relax within the Pools

On my self-guided tour, I began with the primary occasion! After all, I deserved it after such an extended journey. Here is the place is pays to keep close to the park: I received there proper at opening and had the swimming pools to myself.

Semuc Champey is comprised of a number of crystal clear swimming pools cascading over one another, and you may truly swim in them! Float within the water, take in the solar, slide down miniature waterfalls, and easily chill out. This. Is. Paradise. Get to the park early to have the swimming pools all to your self!

11 am: Hike to Mirador

Mirador is an exquisite lookout, excessive above the swimming pools of Semuc Champey. It’s a brief hike, nevertheless it’s all uphill. It takes about 20-40 minutes to hike a method, relying in your tempo. Purchase a coconut or mango from one of many locals for refreshment.

12:30 pm: Eat an Authentic Barbecue Lunch

There are a number of road distributors arrange simply outdoors of the park entrance. Most of them are serving the identical factor – barbecue hen, selfmade tortillas, salsa, and beans. It’s scrumptious, genuine, and tremendous low cost!! In reality, it was among the best meals I had in Guatemala.

1:30 pm: Back to the Pools! 

There is nothing fairly like swimming in chilly water on the hottest time of the day.

four pm: Return to your Hostel

Shower and prepare for dinner and drinks. You also can organize a van journey again together with your hostel.

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Semuc Champey

New mantra: the roughest roads are sometimes probably the most rewarding!

If you appreciated this journey you might also like:

*Shout out to Nabil Kausal-Hayes, my journey companion and the photographer of a few of these photographs*

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