Semuc Champey all to yourself

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
0
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
9
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
2
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
82 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Guatemala
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 50
Time of year visited
May
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
22nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 10% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

In central Guatemala, the Cahabon River bumps its way along a series of limestone mini bridges and caves to produce a little bit of jungle paradise.  Whilst it is quite a distance from Guatemala’s other star attractions such as Lake Atitlan (see the travel entry 3 days relaxing and diving by the beautiful Lake Atitlan for more details) and Antigua (see Soaking up Antigua) in the west and Tikal (see Mayan ruins of Tikal) in the east, the bright greens of the jungle mixed in with the whites of the mountain clouds and the turquoise blues of the water make Semuc Champey one of the most beautiful spots in the country and a perfect spot to visit as part of a 10 day trip around Guatemala (see here at Itinerary for 10 wonderful days in Guatemala for the itinerary)

Two big tips – get there for when the park opens to avoid the crowds (we had the place to ourselves); and don’t try to drive up the road from Lanquin when raining (seriously, it becomes a gushing river)

highlights

#1 Being surrounded by the lush green jungle, misty clouds coming in over the mountains and the changing blues and greens of the clear water

#2 Jumping in for a swimming in the crystal clear fresh water and exploring some of the mini caves dotted all along

#3 Reaching the place! Driving through the Guatemala mountains is beautiful and with jaw-dropping vistas at every turn

#4 Enjoying the river as it drifts into other spots nearby, in this case the the Retiro Lodge in Lanquin

Travel Tips

  • Get there early – the place opens to visitors from 8am , which is when we arrived and had the place, amazingly, all to ourselves.  Other people started arriving around 830am and tours at around 9am.  The place was cool even with groups there, but there is something about having a place like this to yourself
  • Go solo (ie not on a tour) – other than the general benefits of doing things on your own and not being herded around in a group, you’ll be able to get there before the rest of the groups arrive
  • If driving, the road from the RN5 to Lanquin is largely fine – couple of spots that get a bit bumpy, but generally ok.  But, the road from Lanquin to Semuc Champey is very steep, many areas with broken road, and occasionally sharp drops over the side.  With a decent 4×4 when dry, give it a go.  But do not try to drive up this road if the rain is heavy (which it tends to be around here, and which we idiotically tried to do)
  • We stayed in the Retiro Lodge in Lanquin – very basic rooms and food, but the grounds are nice and the area for swimming in the river is beautiful
  • The lush surrounding mountain countryside is gorgeous – so make so you keep an eye out the window as you are travelling through
  • If staying a bit longer in Guatemala, see my Itinerary for 10 wonderful days in Guatemala and generally for useful tips for your time there

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone