OK, confession time – I thoroughly intend to make you want to drop whatever you are doing, grab your passport, jump on an airplane and head for this hidden jungle paradise. I have been blessed to visit over 40 different countries in my life, and this ranks up there as one of my top destinations.
Located in the municipality of Lanquin, about a 7 hour drive from Guatemala City, or 3 hour drive from Coban.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Sadly Semuc Champey is not easy to get to. Staying in Antigua at the time we arranged a three-day trip through a local tour company, Expeditions Guatemala (which by the way I highly recommend them).
We were four women traveling alone together on this part of the trip so we wanted to have a few things pre-arranged. Having an armed private escort made us feel safe, and our guide added to the adventure.
We broke up the long drive there with a stop at the Biotopo del Quetzal to see the national bird of Guatemala. We hiked through the lush rain forest with our eyes to the trees in hopes of catching sight of this multi-colored bird. Although the only Quetzal we saw was in the small on-site museum, the natural beauty did not go unnoticed.
WHERE TO STAY:
We chose El Retiro for our lodging. It was a bit more expensive that other closer hostels, but the feedback we got prior to going led us in this direction and boy was I glad we stayed here.
First of all, the setting is unbelievably beautiful; thatched huts, tropical flowers, sitting right on the river with green hills across the way.
The food was excellent, with a large buffet in the evening. They also offered vegetarian selections.
WHAT TO DO:
Local attractions include floating down the river on an inner tube and taking a tour through the local caves. We did both. The inner tubing was fun and relaxing, but I did not enjoy the cave visit. I felt safety measures were almost non-existent, with wet slippery floors, no railing to hang onto, and no lighting. We purchased head lanterns and water shoes before the trip, so we felt prepared. That said, it was a big disappointment compared to other caves I have been in.
Of course the BIGGEST attraction in the area and what our whole trip was centered around was our visit to SEMUC CHAMPEY
Semuc Champey is a natural phenomenon. In essence, it is where the Cahabon River submerges itself under a natural bridge and then resurfaces some 400 meters later. Over the top of this natural bridge, small turquoise pools, waterfalls and ponds have formed.
When we first arrived at the park, we were told that the magnificent beauty could best be appreciated by getting a bird’s-eye view. And how to do that? Well climb up the mountain of course.
So off we went, not realizing just how steep the climb was, or how winded I would get, but climb we did. The trail was well-marked, wooden stairs make the steepest parts doable and finally, we huffed and puffed our way to the top.
Drum roll please…
After soaking in this view, we slowly descended down another path which took us to the starting point of this phenom, where the river disappeared under ground.
By this time we had worked up an appetite. Our guide had arranged for a picnic lunch for us from El Retiro, and laid out quite a spread.
Finally time to get into the water and enjoy. You can move from one pool to another, sit under a low water fall, slip down a natural stone slide, or sit still and allow the tiny fish to give you a pedicure. Yep, it does tickle, but so decadent at the same time.
So there you have it – one of my all-time favorite place on earth for natural beauty. I would love to hear from you. What do you consider the most beautiful natural place you have visited or want to visit?