Why You Should Visit Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Travel to Lanquin Guatemala
When they travel to Guatemala, backpackers go to Lanquin to explore the wonderful Semuc Champey caves around 9 km out of town and to visit its natural rock pools. Any Semuc Champey hostel can organise guided tours of the caves and of the area. For as adventurous as a Semuc Champey tour can be (picture walking in a cave, immersed in the water till your waste, holding a torch, and eventually getting out in the open air to view Semuc Champey and being able to go tubing, jumping off cliffs etc), these can be pricey. Since I was on a budget, I actually just got a ride and walked there and pay the basic entrance fee once there, to then hike around the slippery slopes and eventually get changed to jump in its paradisiac natural pools.
I had to remember to carry cash as once in the isolated Semuc Champey hostels I wasn’t able to withdraw any! My advice is to also stop in Lanquin and do some basic grocery shopping before getting to the hostel. Hostels tend to be isolated here, they don’t allow kitchen use and serve meals that the guests will be pretty much forced to eat as there are no other eateries around. Hostels do sell snacks, but everything is more expensive compared to the regular shop in the village. To save at least something, it may be better buying drinks and snacks before getting to the hostel.
How to get to Lanquin:
The best starting point to travel to Lanquin is La Antigua Guatemala and chances are that even if from Lake Atitlan it is necessary to go through Antigua to then reach Lanquin. Atitrans runs regular shuttle services from Antigua to Lanquin, $ 25, but it must be booked in advance.
From Lake Atitlan, there is a shuttle from Panajachel Guatemala (going through Antigua) with Atitlan Tours for around $45.
It will definitely be cheaper to travel via chicken bus, but the trip will last much longer due to the number of changes and inevitable stops. A good option for those who are not in a rush and can stop somewhere random on the way.
Once in Lanquin, Semuc Champey hostels outside of the village usually organise a pick up service. Beware that while this service is free on the way there, but not on the way back (it is possible to hitchhike on the way back to Lanquin, but in Guatemala it is a custom to pay those who pick up).
Where to stay and eat:
The settings are all gorgeous. El Retiro is a good hostel right in front of the river, about 500 meters from the village, with some organisation issues (it may well happen that the reservation is lost once there, leaving guests with no place to stay).
Utopia hotel is a budget hostel closer to the Semuc Champey caves, and right in the middle of nowhere (that is, isolated), somewhere above the river. It offers accommodation for all budgets, included an incredibly comfortable open air dorm (surprisingly, there are no mosquitos although this is right in the middle of the jungle and it only costs around $6 per night), hammocks and river side camping for those on a super-tight budget (under $4 per night), and small private nooks – beware, the entire construction is made of wood so noise travels easily. Bathrooms are shared (and illuminated by candlelight) and showers cold. The kitchen prepares breakfast, light lunches (and packed lunches for those going on the organised tours) and family style dinners, and there is a bar. This is a good option to stay in Semuc Champey, but party person should beware it won’t be easy to reach any other location from Utopia. Utopia staff can organise transportation to other locations in Guatemala too.