Alright, so this blog post is going to be one of my more sassy and definitely negative blog posts from this trip. To preface, I LOVED Central America. I had a marvelous time, and I thought the region was one of the most beautiful and diverse that I have ever been to. HOWEVER, the most controversial, and maybe even the lowest, point of this trip was to Lanquin and Semuc Champey.
To Explain, Lanquin is a town in Guatemala. Semuc Champey is a national park. Lanquin is the closest town to Semuc Champey and Semuc Champey is a sort of hidden gem that you’ll find all over the different travel blog sites of a place you “have to go to” if you’re in Guatemala. So because of this, I went to Semuc Champey and this blog post is going to be all about if I actually should have done so. But ultimately, if you find yourself in Guatemala it is your own call and will depend upon what you enjoy doing. I just want to provide my own perspective and experience.
To begin, Lanquin and Semuc Champey are extremely out of the way to get to. I came from Lake Atitlan and it was advertised as 9 hour shuttle but turned out to be more of an 11 1/2 hour shuttle. ON 85% UN-PAVED AND BUMPY ROADS. If you’re coming from Antigua it is even further. To be very transparent, this shuttle ride is extremely uncomfortable. I’ve been through some terrible bus rides during my time in Southeast Asia and I can say that this wasn’t the worst, however, it was in the top 10.
Next are the accommodations that you will find in this town. They are limited and you will be hard pressed to find a place that has hot water, ac, or wi-fi… Overall, not a lot of great options, but at least I was only there for 2 nights total so I could deal with it.
Then there is the food and money situation. If you find yourself here MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE GUATEMALAN MONEY. I didn’t have a lot, had mostly U.S. cash which is widely accepted in every other part of Guatemala, so I had to go to the single ATM in town at 11pm at night. Overall, just a very remote town that was pretty uncomfortable to stay in, in my opinion.
But all of this is supposed to be a small price to pay for the beauty that Semuc Champey offers you. I unfortunately have to disagree because of how inconvenient and uncomfortable it is to both get to and leave Semuc Champey.
So yes, as you can see in my photos the place is beautiful. And I can confidently say that my photos don’t fully capture the beauty of Semuc Champey because it was raining off and on and I wasn’t able to fully use my Nikon to photograph this place. But still, I have been to places that are definitely more beautiful and not nearly as difficult to get to.
In all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed by Semuc Champey itself. The coolest thing I actually did in this location was the cave tour that we did right before entering the park. This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had! You basically enter a cave with a guide where your only source of light is a candle that you carry throughout this watery cave where you have to climb walls, swim through various parts of the cave, go up waterfalls, slide down slides, etc. It is action packed, wild, low key dangerous but COMPLETELY EXHILARATING!
Once we finished this tour there were even more exciting times, which weren’t technically even in the park! Which I think is why I’m a tiny bit salty about this destination to this day. There was a great swing over the river that we had the chance to use that was a ton of fun! Then there was a large waterfall that we were able to jump off of, a classic Joseph past time. After this we tubed down a portion of the river to our destination for lunch. Lunch was really good because I was starving after all the cave exploration. Then we finally made our way into the actual park of Semuc Champey.
The first step was to hike to the viewpoint where the featured image of this post is from. It is a 30ish minute hike and you should be prepared to sweat! It is very uphill and it will almost certainly be hot when you do it.
But then you get to come back down and enjoy the beauty (and coolness) of the pools! Because our day was pretty packed we only had an hour to be at the pools. Was a little upset about this, but honestly by this point I wanted to go back to my hotel and get ready to leave this place. The trip back to town from Semuc Champey is around 30 minutes in a very uncomfortable and crowded pickup truck.
The next morning I was up at 7 am to be picked up by my shuttle. However, this is when frustration really started to set in. We didn’t end up leaving Lanquin until 9 am. That’s right, two hours after we were supposed to! And this was because the drivers literally refused to leave until our shuttle bus was at total capacity. This meant that the bus was completely full. I’m talking even the fold out seats were in use. For what was supposed to be a 10 hour bus ride… Now this might have just been awful timing, but the total of this trip ended up taking 14 1/2 hours because of protests that caused us to wait in Coban for about 2 hours and left us sitting on several different roads just waiting in traffic at several different points of the drive.
As you can tell, this was the least glamorous and certainly the least enjoyable part of my trip. I really was uncomfortable during the bus ride to leave Lanquin and go to Flores and all the delays made the trip miserable. So I personally would recommend to not go to Lanquin and Semuc Champey. I don’t think it is worth is. And I know that I am in the minority of travel bloggers on this because you can google Semuc Champey and literally the entire first page of results will be filled with nothing but praise for this remote park. But this is just my opinion! You will certainly make your own decision if you find yourself in Guatemala. And I can say that it was an experience I will never forget.
I can also say that after this JOURNEY the remainder of my trip went back to being incredible! So it is good to know that my next blog post will be way more positive!