Semuc Champey, Guatemala ~ Hidden Jungle Paradise and El Retiro

El Retiro

El Retiro

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.

WHERE:

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.

Expeditions Guatemala

Expeditions Guatemala

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.

At Biotopo del Quetzal

At Biotopo del Quetzal

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.

Our front porch

The view from my hammock

The view from my hammock

Walk to the river and dining room

Walk to the river and dining room

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.

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

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…

View of Semuc Champey from "up" the hill

View of Semuc Champey from “up” the hill

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.

Where the Cahabon River disappears under the natural bridge

Where the Cahabon River disappears under the natural bridge

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.

Picnic lunch

Picnic lunch

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.

Turquoise water

Turquoise water

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?

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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11 Responses to Semuc Champey, Guatemala ~ Hidden Jungle Paradise and El Retiro

  1. Kirstie says:

    You did it – firmly on my list of must visit places! Sounds amazing.

    Like

  2. Hannah says:

    This looks magical. I have only ever been to Antigua in Guatemala, and would love to go back and explore more of the country. I’ve bookmarked your post for when I do!

    Like

  3. t.on.air says:

    Great post. Makes me want to visit this country right away. By the way, we seem to have the same fav. quote from Mark Twain. Enjoy your adventure then.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Taking a pig to a wedding in Guatemala | A Note From Abroad

  5. Mary Beth says:

    I have followed your wonderful blog since our April 2014, Danube River cruise. In answer to your question, the most beautiful natural place, (asked in your Semuc Champey Guatemala post) to us, is the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. We have been to all 7 continents but the peace and beauty of this area and the surrounding towns of Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren surpasses everything we have experienced. We return each October to this magnificent place.

    Like

    • Mary Beth, thank you for this awesome recommendation! I just went online and looked at pictures from the valley and immediately added it to my bucket wish list. I don’t know if we will get back to Europe in 2015 since we spent so much time there this year, but hopeful for 2016.

      Like

  6. gynellie401 says:

    I would have to agree with you, Semuc Champey is so beautiful and your fantastic pictures make me want to return right away! 🙂

    Like

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