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 Semuc Champey including how to get there, where to stay and how to visit Semuc Champey on a budget without a tour.
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HOW TO GET TO SEMUC CHAMPEY
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to reach Semuc Champey other than sitting on a bus for an entire day. The two most common routes to Semuc Champey 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 depart once per day typically around 8:00 am and arriving at 6:00 pm in Lanquin which is the closest town to Semuc Champey.
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 in Semuc Champey is free of charge.
Bus to Semuc Champey
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 Semuc Champey Guatemala.
To start with, you will need to spend a minimum of 2 nights when visiting Semuc Champey. 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 Semuc Champey.
I, however, recommend spending at least 3 nights to break up the long bus rides in and out of Semuc Champey. An extra day to relax and enjoy the jungle in this remote region of Guatemala is 100% worth it.
Turquoise pools – Semuc Champey Tour
WHERE TO STAY IN SEMUC CHAMPEY
Semuc Champey has 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 in Semuc Champey 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 Semuc Champey. Whereas most hostels and eco-lodges are located much closer to the park and are within walking distance to the entrance of Semuc Champey.
See my recommendations of places to stay in Semuc Champey 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 organising a Semuc Champey 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 to Semuc Champey. 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 of 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 Semuc Champey, your best option is Pachamaya Eco Lodge. It’s approximately a 10 to 15 minute easy walk from Pachamaya to the Semuc Champey entrance. Featuring an in-house restaurant, riverside setting, beautiful gardens and a tour desk. You have the choice of a dorm room or a double room and breakfast is served daily.
SEMUC CHAMPEY TOUR (DIY)
While most people tend to book a Semuc Champey 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 Semuc Champey Tour:
- 4×4 transport from your accommodation to Semuc Champey / 15 Quetzal each way
- Semuc Champey 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 Semuc Champey tour, this is also possible. You can either book through your accommodation upon arriving or book your Semuc Champey tour online ahead of time.
The Semuc Champey 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 of Semuc Champey. All this for $30 USD.
Book Now → Semuc Champey Tour
Being a tourist at Semuc Champey
WHAT TO EXPECT AT SEMUC CHAMPEY
Semuc Champey is open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. When you arrive at the ticket office on your DIY Semuc Champey tour, 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) of Semuc Champey.
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 of Semuc Champey. 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.
Semuc Champey ticket office
Semuc Champey map
The way up to Semuc Champey viewpoint
Semuc Champey El Mirador
Semuc Champey Tour
And back down again
Testing the waters at Semuc Champey
A refreshing dip in the natural pools
Jungle vibes on the Semuc Champey tour
SWIMMING AT SEMUC CHAMPEY
The cascading pools at Semuc Champey 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 Semuc Champey 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 – Semuc Champey Tour
Small waterfalls at Semuc Champey Guatemala
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SEMUC CHAMPEY
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 Semuc Champey tour, please drop me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
Book Now → Semuc Champey Tour
PIN LOCATION OF SEMUC CHAMPEY
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AIRBNB SEMUC CHAMPEY
Another option for accommodation in Semuc Champey is to stay in an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals!
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LONELY PLANET – GUATEMALA
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Guatemala Travel Guide!
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MORE CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL GUIDES
- 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
WHAT TO PACK FOR SEMUC CHAMPEY
Everyday Backpack: One of the best backpacks on the market! The Nomatic 20L Backpack is perfect for on the go adventures. Featuring multiple storage spaces for valuables, drink bottles, chargers, notebooks and more. This sleek backpack was designed for you.
Universal Power Adapter: Don’t leave home without one! I highly recommend getting this Universal Power Adapter so that you are able to charge all of your electronics when you’re on the road. Compatible in Asia, UK, Europe, Africa, USA, SA and Australia.
Hidden Money Belt: I never go on a trip without one! The best thing is they are always out of sight, hidden beneath your clothing. With RFID blocking, they are perfectly designed to keep your credit cards, cash and other valuables safe when you’re out adventuring!
Waterproof Phone Case: A waterproof phone case is a must-have item! This universal case will keep your phone safe from water damage, sand and scratches during your adventures. Suitable for all smartphone models.
Portable Charger: One of the best portable chargers on the market! The Anker Power Bank keeps your phone and accessories charged on those longer adventures. Featuring 2 USB charging ports, rechargeable battery, works with iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Oppo and Android.
Microfibre Travel Towel: To pack a towel or not to pack a towel? A standard bathroom towel can take up a lot of space in your travel bag. Get your hands on a quick-dry Microfibre Travel Towel which is perfect for the beach, backpacking, camping and general traveling.
Rain Jacket: A light-weight rain jacket is an absolute must when traveling! North Face waterproof rain jackets come in both men and women sizes, featuring a breathable mesh lining and adjustable hood that can be tucked away inside the collar.
Kindle: The best alternative for books! Kindle e-readers are perfect for long haul flights, reading on the beach or a quiet evening away from the bars. Kindle’s are waterproof with rechargeable batteries and adjustable light settings to suit indoor/outdoor conditions.
Packing Cubes: My favorite item in my backpack! Perfect for organizing your shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear and more. This 5 Set Packing Cubes makes packing easier and more efficient, adding extra space in your bag for your next trip.
Activated Charcoal Tablets: Want to avoid food poisoning? Most of us have been a victim of travelers diarrhea from eating street food. Organic Activated Charcoal Tablets are fast-acting and will rid your system of the bad bacteria that causes stomach upset.
MY CAMERA GEAR
Everyday Camera: The most affordable mirrorless camera on the market! I personally use the Sony A7ii Mirrorless Camera on all of my adventures. It’s compact, lightweight and super easy to use for all levels of photography. A 28-70mm Sony lens is also included.
Drone Camera: Take your photography to new heights! The DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone is at the top of the game when it comes to high-quality images and video, easy to control functions and traveler-friendly capabilities. I guarantee you won’t regret purchasing one.
GoPro Hero 8: One of the most popular cameras on the planet! I love using the GoPro Hero 8 for all of my underwater shots and fast-paced adventures. The GoPro Hero 8 captures the best moments with its wide range of functions that are very simple to use!
Camera Bag: My favorite camera bag I have ever owned! The Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Camera Bag features a waterproof rain cover, drink bottle holder, padded compartments for cameras, drones, lenses, accessories and it also has a laptop pocket.
Selfie Stick: Everyone loves a good selfie, right!? The Sandmarc Metal Edition Selfie Stick is sleek, stylish and can extend to 1.2m. I find it much easier to take photos and videos with the GoPro when it is mounted to the Sandmarc Selfie Stick!
Camera Tripod: The Joby GorillaPod is suitable for all cameras. This tripod is easy to use and perfect for setting up a time-lapse video or even using it as a selfie stick. The legs are flexible so you can wrap it around a tree or a pole to get creative with your shot.
GoPro Dome: Have you ever wanted to capture those under/over water shots with the GoPro? This epic underwater GoPro dome housing is the best camera accessory to have to create the perfect 50/50 shot. I use mine every time I am in the ocean!
Memory Card: The best thing about SanDisk Extreme Pro is that it delivers maximum speed for images and videos. Having 64GB of storage means that you can store hundreds of files on this SD card for 2-3 days and not have to worry about running out of space.
External Hard Drive: As a photographer, my images and video files take up a lot of space on my MacBook so I use the WD Elements External Hard Drive to store everything. With 4TB worth of storage space, this is more than enough for 1 years worth of content.
ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHING
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Before you go, don’t forget to check out My Online Shop!
I’ve got a wide range of digital products for sale and I’m sure you’ll find something that will come in handy during your travels!