The Natural Wonders of Semuc Champey

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While talking with a few people at our hostel in Flores, we learned about an idyllic river-side place to stay in the small mountain village of Lanquin.  Originally, we had planned to head south for the city of Coban, but quickly changed our minds and decided to shoot for the El Retiro Lodge we had been recommended.  We called the night before, but were deeply disappointed to hear that they were booked and didn’t have room for us.  Still, we decided to head for Lanquin without reservations to visit the caves, waterfalls, and rivers of nearby Semuc Champey.

After a six hour ride through increasingly mountainous terrain, our van pulled off onto a steep, dirt road and we descended for another hour through a number of switchbacks into a beautiful green valley.  The van stopped near the center of town, where we were met by a number of hotel and hostel hawkers, eager to get our business.  Since we had heard that El Retiro was booked, we scouted out the kid roping in passengers for our backup option.  Unfortunately, he told us they were booked too.  Starting to get a little worried about being in a small mountain village without accommodations, we decided to start walking and see if we could find something on our own.  About five minutes later, a pickup truck carrying a few of our tripmates from Flores came around the bend and the driver asked if we’d like a ride to El Retiro.  With nothing to lose, we decided to hop in the back and check if room was now available for us.

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Miraculously, there was room for us.  For $15/night, we got a wonderful little cabana with balcony and hammock, overlooking the gorgeous mountains surrounding us and just a few steps from the refreshingly cold river.  After only a couple minutes unwinding in this tranquil setting, we decided this would be a great place to rest our heels for a few days.

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The next day, we booked an all-day tour to the big attraction in this area, Semuc Champey.  This natural land bridge was formed by a river pushing its way under a large, rocky area, leaving many interesting caves and small pools and waterfalls behind.

Our day started with an intense tour of the caves, which required swimming through them holding a candle with one hand, climbing up slippery ladders around ledges and internal waterfalls, and squeezing through tiny passages; this was definitely not one for claustrophobics.  We’re sure everyone else on the tour was envious of our headlamps and underwater video camera – we were so happy we brought them along!  After two hours of exploring just a small bit of these caves (our guide told us they stretch for 11km past the point we turned around), we were tired, slightly injured, and frankly, feeling lucky to be alive.  There were some hair-raising moments in those caves, and it’s scary to think of what could have happened in such a remote place.

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Ready for something a little more relaxing, we launched ourselves into the river on a giant rope swing and rested our weary bodies for a bit, tubing down the river.

After lunch, we climbed to the scenic overlook, catching sight of the brilliant pools and waterfalls we would be enjoying next.

Finally, we spent the last half of the day seeing both sides of the land bridge – where the water comes rushing in and out – and jumping between the natural crystal blue pools and waterfalls above.

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In the end, we were so grateful we listened to our fellow travelers advice, remained flexible, and took a chance by straying from our original plans.

You can see more pictures from Semuc Champey and Lanquin in our photo gallery.

13 thoughts on “The Natural Wonders of Semuc Champey

  1. Bob Curtis

    Wow! I’m saying wow a lot to these posts.

    When was this wonderful trip? It’s all so gorgeous!

    Unbelievable scenery and greenery.

    I’m so happy for you guys.

    Reply
    1. Erik Post author

      Glad you liked the post! We visited Semuc Champey a little over 3 weeks ago – trying to catch up with our blog posts, so hopefully more coming very soon!

      Reply
  2. Tom

    Hey Erik ! Having fun checking in on your adventures every now and then, and getting some great ideas for a Central America trip. Personal recommendations are always better than any guide book ! I especially like your explorable backpacks … is there anything that you now realize you didn’t need to bring along, or anything you picked up that is a necessity (or wish you had) ?

    Reply
    1. Erik Post author

      Hi Tom – great to have you following along!

      I think the only packing regrets we have so far are with a few clothing items that aren’t quite as comfortable, practical, or durable as we had hoped. Everything else we’re pretty happy with, especially the PacSafe travel safe, which allows us to lock up items and leave them in a hotel/hostel room.

      More than happy to provide recommendations for CA if you are interested, feel free to shoot a line to erik@aroundthisworld.com with any additional Qs!

      Reply
    1. Erik Post author

      Hi Celeste! Yes, we will be visiting Colombia (probably September) and very much looking forward to it. We have heard fantastic things about Medellin! It would be great to get your advice – you can reach us at erik@aroundthisworld.com Muchas Gracias!

      Reply
  3. Merideth

    I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading your posts and I’m really enjoying hearing about and seeing your trip! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Erik Post author

      Hi Merideth – great to know you are reading and enjoying our posts! Feel free to shoot us a line anytime =)

      Reply
  4. Julie

    I’ve just started reading your blog today and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! I came in from CC and I’m thrilled to be able to read about someone who’s living the way I want to live – healthily, and far, far from home!

    My fiancé and I are getting married next November. Immediately following our wedding we’re going RTW for a year or so. We’re English so our plans differ a bit from yours, I suspect – we’re visiting your home country first, flying in to Boston and then giving ourselves three months to travel around seeing the beautiful sights before flying out of LA. We know that the USA is expensive but we’re hoping to keep costs down by buying a car rather than renting and by camping as much as possible!

    Following the US we’re flying over to New Zealand where we’ll explore for a month, and then on to Australia where we’ll hopefully be able to work a little to offset the expense there, too! We’ll only be in Australia for three months so I’m fairly sure it won’t be worth getting a Working Holiday Visa – we’ll have to figure out another way.

    Then the “real” travelling starts. We’re heading to South East Asia, which I’m really excited about! We’ll be taking in the sights of Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos for a quarter of a year which I’m absolutely positive won’t be long enough for me! It’s going to be so very different from home, and such a challenge. I can’t wait!

    After leaving SEA we’re heading to Southern Africa. We’ve two months of our year left to spend there, and I want to go Overlanding. It seems like such an amazing way to see the sights, and I’ve a friend that I’ve recently discovered did this after her university degree – I can glean loads of info from her, so that’s great!

    I’d like to say that I think your blog is brilliant. Your set up is great and you both write so well. I really hope that you keep blogging your whole way around – it’s going to be so much fun to read!

    The best of luck to you both, Heather and Erik!

    Reply
    1. Erik Post author

      Hi Julie – great to hear from you and glad you are enjoying the blog!

      Sounds like you and your fiancé are going to have quite the honeymoon – that’s awesome!

      I’m originally from Boston (my family still lives there) so feel free to get in touch for any tips getting established on the first leg of your trip. Sounds like our paths might intersect a bit, so it’d also be great to share any experiences while we’re on the road. You can reach me at erik@aroundthisworld.com

      Congrats and best of luck to you planning your wedding and RTW trip!

      Reply

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