Caving and exploring the beauty of Semuc Champey!

After a wonderful day in Flores, I packed up and got ready for a long journey for the next few days. Semuc Champey, which is in the middle of nowhere in Guatemala, was my next stop, and it was going to be a journey to get there.

Semuc Champey is located in the middle of Guatemala, off the highway near a town called Lanquin. The highway is quite windy and once you are 45 minutes from Lanquin the road turns into a very bumpy, windy unpaved road. I had done some reading about this route and place because I was truly debating whether it would be worth the two full travel days to get there and back. The general consensus I found online was that it was worth it and you just needed to pray that you sit beside some interesting travellers on the bus to keep you company.

Luckily I found some company right away, two guys from North Vancouver, where I work. My first Canadians I’ve met on the trip (besides a man with an X-ring I met while waiting for the bus)! We all sat at the back of the bus and chatting with them really made the time pass. Our bus stopped twice, once at a gas station after driving for two hours and once for an hour in Coban near a mall.

At our stop in Coban, my bus friends and I went for fried chicken from Guatemala’s fast food joint. It was really good quality and twice the volume of chicken you’d receive from the same order in Canada.

It was really the last portion of the trip that dragged on, because on the way to Lanquin we had to stop the bus for 30 minutes for construction reasons. What I didn’t realize was that my hostel, Greengo’s, was ANOTHER 40 minutes by truck on a bumpy road. This ended up being a blessing because the hostel was so much better located to see Semuc Champey and the caves the next day but at 6:30pm after 10.5 hours of travelling, the last thing you want to find out is that it’s going to be another 40 minutes.

I befriended my fellow Greengo’s guests on the truck to the hostel so we kept each other company while we waited for the long journey to finally end. It was such a relief to arrive and discover that the hostel surpassed all expectations. It was beautiful and unique in the rooms were huts in a jungle oasis, complete with a pool, hot tub, bar and full service restaurant. The staff were so kind and it was a very relaxed environment. This hostel made it worth the trip, in my opinion!

It was karaoke night in the hostel so I got organized than tracked down my “friends” from the pickup truck and hung out with them. This was definitely a “force people to be friends with you out of desperation” type of socializing which all solo travellers experience at some point, but I think I won them over by the time I left today! Sometimes you just have to push through and look out for yourself. It’s a life skill!

I had a very peaceful sleep that night as it was very quiet, except for the large number of jungle noises surrounding my room. Greengo’s and other hostels in Semuc Champey have some rules and policies to be eco friendly and help people socialize, including shutting off the power from 12-4pm and 12-6am as well as turning off the wifi from 12-4pm and from 7pm-6am. I have never experienced these rules in a hostel before, though I definitely think the wifi rule helped people socialize much more.

The next day I woke up early for my cave tour! There is a network of caves near the Semuc Champey national monument that I heard were amazing so I needed to see them. These were very different from the caves i saw in Belize, and much cheaper at about $15 CAD.

While my cave experience in Belize was very informative and technical, I would describe Semuc Champey’s caves as more of an adventure trek. The guide gave us no information about anything inside the cave, our caving technology was limited to carrying candlesticks through the cave, and there was a lot of the guide telling you to jump through or off something and you praying that you would be okay. He also painted all our faces with cave clay on our entrance into the cave. Overall it was very fun and exciting, with cliff jumping inside the cave as well as sliding through what I can only describe as a slot canyon into a pool below.

After caving we went upstream to a waterfall where we cliff jumped and swam in the beautiful blue river. This was followed by some people in the group (not me) jumping off a very dangerous rope swing into a small area of water in the river that wasn’t rocky. One of my forced friends did it and he landed funny, his whole chest hurting until the late evening (he was okay but I don’t think he’s going to tell his mother about that)!! We finished the tour with some tubing down the crystal blue river!

After the cave tour, I headed back to the hostel for lunch which was very convenient as it was only a 10 minute walk away. Some of the hostels are in Lanquin which means that visiting the caves and pools is a 45 minute drive away on the aforementioned bumpy road!

After lunch I headed to the pools of Semuc Champey national monument. While walking the trails to the pools, I accidentally started doing the hike up to the viewpoint (I went up through the way you are supposed to go down). It want a tough hike at all, the sign said 30 minutes but it probably took me 20, in flip flops! The top greets you with a lovely view of the pools below.

On the way down from my hike I met these two guys (Argentinan and Brazilian – so nice) and we got chatting. I ended up hanging out with them in the pools for close to an hour while swapping travel tips. Semuc Champey truly is a magical place!

Last night was “board game” night at Greengo’s so my forced friends and I played some games to pass the time. The result was the funniest game of Head’s Up I’ve ever played. For a visual, just picture two giant German guys charading how to change a tire.

Today was another travel day as I make my way to the coast of El Peradon. The trip from Semuc Champey to Antigua wasn’t as bad as my trip to Semuc, but it was long. The worst part was sitting in traffic in Guatemala City for almost 2 hours! I’m in Antigua tonight then catching a shorter shuttle to the coast tomorrow morning. It’s my first quieter night of the trip as it is cool enough for me to lie in bed, I have spent 24 of the last 72 hours on a bus, and I am exhausted!

All in all, I think the trip to Semuc Champey was worth it for me. Keep in mind I have 2 weeks total in Guatemala, and I don’t mind sitting on a bus all day if it means I get to do something cool. I would say if you have 10 days or less, skip it because it’s too much time travelling. Otherwise, go for it! You won’t regret the adventure 😊.


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