View from the Lookout at Semuc Champey Guatemala

The hidden oasis of Semuc Champey is a must visit destination in Guatemala! Visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala is a journey off the beaten path, even when backpacking through Central America. Once there, you will be rewarded with a jungle paradise. The Semuc Champey tour is a day full of adventure! Swim in the stunning turquoise Semuc Champey Pools, cave by candlelight in Semuc Champey Caves, visit the waterfalls and hike to the lookout! This article will give you everything you need to know to plan your trip to Semuc Champey. We also share some accommodation options when staying in nearby Lanquín.

Short on time? Here are our Semuc Champey Guatemala top recommendations:

Activities: book your Guatemala Tours with Get Your Guide.

Accommodation: for great value accommodation, we recommend staying at El Retiro in Lanquín. We use to find the best hotels.

Flights: find cheapest flights with cashback on WayAway.

Airport Lounge Access: start your holiday the right way with Priority Pass.

Travel Medical Insurance: SafetyWing Nomad Insurance is the ideal choice for long-term travellers and digital nomads.

About Semuc Champey Guatemala

Semuc Champey Pools, Turquoise water, natural pools, Semuc Champey Guatemala
Love the turquoise water!

The beautiful jungle paradise Semuc Champey needs to be seen to be believed! Embedded into limestone rock, a series of pools shimmer in a magnificent turquoise hue. A 45 minute jungle hike will lead you to the perfect viewing spot – a lookout where you can see spectacular aerial views of this national monument and also get the perfect photo. Spend a few hours swimming in the cool clear waters and hop from pool to pool as the water cascades down along the formation. The pristine beauty of this places is unrivalled and makes the rough day long journey to get here seem like a distant memory. If you are backpacking through Central America this hidden oasis is a must visit destination in Guatemala.

Tours of Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey Waterfall, Man climbing over fallen tree, pool at bottom of waterfall
Would you dare to jump down that waterfall?

Booking tours of Semuc Champey through hostels

The hostels in Semuc Champey or nearby Lanquín can organise the day tours to Semuc Champey. We recommend booking through El Retiro in Lanquín. When we did the Semuc Champey tour in 2020 we paid 195 quetzales per person, which included transport to and from Lanquín to Semuc Champey as well as a full day guided tour of the area. Different hostels charge slightly different prices but put you on the same tour, so to get the best price, ask around.

Visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala without a tour group

It is possible to do the trip yourself rather than with a tour group. If you’re planning to catch a taxi or hitchhike back keep in mind that this area doesn’t get a lot of traffic, so you run the risk of walking 2.5 hours back to Lanquín if you can’t get a ride. However the plus of going to Semuc Champey yourself is that you can go at your own pace and not have to jostle for a spot to get a good photo.

Semuc Champey Guatemala Cave Entrance
Semuc Champey Cave Entrance

Our experience of Semuc Champey Guatemala

Semuc Champey Caves

Our tour started with caving by candlelight. Walking around only with candles for light was a really quirky experience and it gave great ambience at the same time. This was really fun, but be prepared to get very wet! We were in a big group of about 20 people and there was another group right behind us, so that made things quite tight in the cave at times.

Semuc Champey Guatemala, Semuc Champey Cave by Candlelight
Caving by Candlelight

The rope swing at Semuc Champey

Once out of the caves, we then got time to play in the river and explore the waterfall area. This was a lot of fun!

Rope Swing at Semuc Champey Guatemala GIF
Rope Swing at Semuc Champey

Lunch at Semuc Champey

Next we had some free time for lunch. We brought a packed lunch, but you can also buy lunch there. Locals sell grilled food, drinks and chocolate near the bridge. This is one of the main cacao growing areas of Guatemala, so make sure you try some chocolate when you’re there.

Semuc Champey Hike to Lookout
The steep hike to the Semuc Champey Lookout

Semuc Champey Mirador

After lunch, we did a short hike to the lookout point (the Semuc Champey Mirador). The hike takes around 30min each way. From the lookout you get the most iconic shots of the turquoise waters of Semuc Champey. We’d recommend you trying to get to the summit before the rest of your group as there was a bit of jostling to get good shots with the rest of the crowd.

Couple on balcony at Semuc Champey Lookout
Semuc Champey Lookout

Swimming at the Semuc Champey pools

After the hike we were very happy to finally get to the pools for a refreshing dip! The water was so clear and the limestone created vivid blues and greens in the water. There were spots in the lower sections of the pools that had natural slides into the water. We had a great time hopping from pool to pool and soaking in the beauty of the area. We spent around an hour at the pools in total.

Jumping into Water at Semuc Champey Guatemala
Jumping into Water at Semuc Champey

If you’re doing your own self guided tour then you should go straight to the pools as soon as you get there. Most people and tour groups will do the other activities and the hike first so this will ensure that you have the place all to yourself.

Where is Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey is in the department of Alta Verapaz in Guatemala. The closest town to Semuc Champey is San Agustín Lanquín, which is about 1 hour drive away.

Getting to Semuc Champey Guatemala

Visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala is challenging to get to, being a day’s hard travel to get here in both directions from your entry point into Guatemala. Lanquín is the gateway town on your way to Semuc Champey. Lanquín is up in the highlands of Guatemala and is gruelling 8-10 hour minibus ride either from Flores or Antigua.

Minibus from Flores to Lanquin Guatemala
Minibus from Flores to Lanquin Guatemala

Cost of minibuses to Lanquín

We were coming from Flores, after spending an awesome day at Tikal. After a few nights in the area we continued our onward journey to Antigua. Bus tickets cost 225 quetzales per person from Flores to Lanquín and 225 quetzales per person from Lanquín to Antigua (prices as at 2024).

What are minibuses like in Guatemala?

Beware, legroom is minimal on these minibuses, and they pack them really full! If you’re lucky your minibus will have some form of air conditioning, but that isn’t guaranteed. We managed to get air conditioned minibus both ways, however fellow travellers who went on different minibuses on the same day weren’t so fortunate!

Where do minibuses stop on the way to Lanquín?

All minibuses stop at the gas station in Cobán on the way to Lanquín for a short rest stop. There are some shops and fast food outlets in Cobán. We’d recommend going to the supermarket in the Centro Comercial Plaza Magdalena shopping centre across the road from the gas station to get some snacks, fill up your water bottle with complementary filtered water and use their bathroom. There’s a fast food takeaway restaurant called Dónde Guicho on the main road around the corner from the gas station which is particularly good. You won’t regret getting their friend chicken and fries!

Centro Comercial Plaza Magdalena Coban Guatemala
Centro Comercial Plaza Magdalena Coban Guatemala

How are the roads around Lanquín Guatemala?

Towards the end of the journey you’ll get to some mountains and there are some really windy roads that you go through. When we went in February 2020 a significant amount of roadwork was being done, which also added to our journey time, we assume the roads will be much better and journey times shorter after the roadwork is completed.

Once at Lanquín, the onward journey to Semuc Champey gets even rougher with a 1 hour bumpy ride, standing up on the back of a pickup truck!

Tour Group riding on back of van to Semuc Champey Guatemala
Travelling Central American Style!

How long to spend at Semuc Champey / Lanquín

After a full day of hard travel, you’re not going to want to get back on a minibus straight away. The area is beautiful and is a great place to relax. Most travellers spend at least 2-3 days in the area. We spent 3 nights and if you’re in the mood for relaxing you could easily spend a week here.

Where to stay when visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala

Most people stay at nearby Lanquín as there are more hostels there than around Semuc Champey.

We stayed at 2 places at Lanquín.

  • La Poza River Lodge – this is a backpacker hostel set on the banks of the river. We loved its tranquil setting. The owner Mike is a lovely guy, who is exceptional at customer service. There are dormitories only here, but a lot of thought had gone into making the experience really comfortable. As at 2024 this lodge appears to be closed permanently.
  • El Retiro – this is a short walk from La Poza River Lodge. This is situated in an amazing spot along the river and has private rooms in addition to dormitories. It’s a great place to spend a few days relaxing and taking in the gorgeous scenery. We enjoyed lazing in the hammocks, swimming in the river and chilling out in the common areas (they even have arcade video games!) Their dinner meals were great value smorgasbords with different cuisines every night.
El Retiro Lanquin Guatemala
El Retiro Lanquin Guatemala

Final thoughts on Semuc Champey

We loved our stay at Semuc Champey and Lanquín. We had originally planed to be there for 2 nights, but ended up staying for 3. Unsurprisingly, this was a common theme with everyone we spoke to.

The place is so peaceful and beautiful. If you want time to take it slow from your busy travelling itinerary then this is the place to do it.

If you want to learn more about visiting Semuc Champey, then check out our Semuc Champey video.

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