After Flores, the backpacker trail leads one of three ways, to Rio Dulce, Semuc Champey or Antigua. For me, I was off to Semuc Champey.
This national monument is a set of waterfalls, pools and sequential rock pools set deep in the jungle. So deep that it is a three hour drive down a winding, muddy road from the nearest big town, Coban.
I ordered my shuttle from Los Amigos the night before for Q125, and after a little bit of confusion about which bus I was on and then another 6 hours on the road, we got to Coban around 3pm.
Here more boarded our bus who had come from Antigua in the south and had taken the same amount of time to get there.
So, after 9 hours of driving with about an hour of short breaks along the way, we arrived at a dark and wet Lanquin, the closest town to Semuc Champey.
For me however, the trip wasn’t over. I had booked into a special eco hotel called Utopia which was set a further 45 minute drive down an unlit and incredibly bumpy road.
With my backpack as a seat in the back of this 4x4s tarpaulin-covered boot, I held on for dear life as we sped down an even worse road than the one before.
But I’m glad to say it was all worth it as I am now swinging in a chair made from bits of tree trunk, overlooking the lushious green jungle, butterflies are flying past and you can hear the river storming in its way further down the hill.
Everything in this place is with the environment in mind, everything is made of wood and there is even a set of plants growing from the centre of the table fully sustaining life.
I had a great veggie chimichanga for family dinner last night on that table, speaking to those who had been here a couple of days. Last night, I couldn’t see the trees but I could hear them with all the life that they sustain as I relaxed under fairy lights.
The place doesn’t have much (or any) WiFi so everyone is pleasant and welcoming. They offer tours of semuc, as well as chocolate making tours, tubing and also help organise shuttles.
I really enjoyed my time at Utopia. Although, you’re isolated so you get to enjoy all their lovely and okay-priced food prepared by the locals.
A lot of my time there was spent chilling and reading, talking to other guests and enjoying the friendly atmosphere.
On my second day, I decided to take a solo hike to Semuc Champey instead of taking the organised tour. Although, those I spoke to loved the tours definitely going into the caves!
So off I went down the mud trodden track beside the river…
…then climbing up and down, round the twisty dirt roads that was the only track this deep into the forest…
…meeting friends along the way…
…and after 40 minutes I arrived!
But my climbing wasn’t over.
Part of the monument is climbing up the Mirador for views of the pools.
So up I went, hardly taking a break, up the mud covered stones, steps and gravel that lead up to the top.
Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time I made it to the top. I’m not a hiker so this was quite a difficult climb.
The view in the mid-morning Sun was worth it though.
After a little rest at the top, I started my descent and passed loads of people who were coming up. I guess I was one of the first to the top that day cos I didn’t pas s a soul on my climb.
The pools were great and cool after being covered with sweat. They’re clear and are home to these little fish which will nimble at your feet!
Entry was only Q50 and I’d recommend going if you love natural pools like this.
Be sure not to miss the sink hole at the top of the pools, where the majority of the river water diverts under the pools.
Location: Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Hostel: Utopia Eco Hotel (Q65)
Transport to/from: Shuttle to Lanquin (Q125) then 4×4 (paid by Utopia). Shuttle to Panajachel organised through Utopia (Q245), includes 4×4 back to Lanquin.
Transport around: Walking