Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
Rohnert Park, California
July 26, 2005
Semuc Champey is truly a natural wonder and not to be missed! I'd read all about it before ever arriving there, but I have to say that I was still overly amazed at what I actually saw.
What is the park of Semuc Champey? It is a unique stretch of the Cahabon river that plunges with immense force into an underground cavern. The sight of that alone is absolutely exhilarating. The water gains so much momentum before being sucked underground that the ground is carved into a semi-circular shelf of rock. One can imagine how many years the water has done this to create such formations in stone.
Above the spans of river that is raging beneath ground, a curious series of calm and clear pools trickle into one another. The water in these pools is a bright bluish-green, clear as ever (even after a rain storm the night before!), and overloaded with masses of brown fish. Locals stand on the lip of these pools with machetes and strike the water with the blade. The strike shocks the fish just long enough for the fisherman to scoop up the unsuspecting fish. Indeed, those fish were so unlike any others I'd ever encountered. When I dangled my feet in the water, they'd swim up and encircle my feet, nibbling gently at me and not afraid at all. They ate anything thrown into the water including tomato, lettuce and oatmeal cookie and they'd cause a huge bubbling swirl of water as they fought for the bits.
The park was very quiet besides the fishermen and the other group of tourists who took turns at a rope swing. The pools were of varying depths, with smooth limestone bottoms and were just the perfect temperature for swimming. Downriver from where the pools trickle away, the Cahabon rejoins its regular route above ground in a very subtle way. The forests around the river are diverse and largely intact. Trails are built above ground near the water's edge to preserve the many streams and pools at the river's edge. And other trails run away from the river, highlighting the unique plant life and leading to a mountaintop vista of the Semuc Champey pools. Trees with huge roots line the shore. Honestly, I haven't seen many places in my life I would consider as close to true paradise as this. It must be included in anyone's itinerary to this part of Guatemala.
From journal En Guate '05- Coban!
Port Angeles, Washington
August 4, 2004
The forests had been cut for wood for cooking and heating in the small mountain villages, and also for planting corn and coffee. The landscape was slashed all the way up to Semuc Champey, which made me doubt my LP guidebook report that "some people consider this the most beautiful spot in all Guatemala."
So I was pleasantly surprised that the beauty of this limestone, waterfall, and swimming hole oasis was indeed intact. The park is situated in a narrow part of the Río (river) Cahabón canyon. The river thunders under a 300 meter limestone "bridge" while tranquil green pools, with perfect miniature waterfalls cascading into them, occupy the top of the stepped bridge. This is close to paradise, for sure, complete with flitting blue butterflies.
After picnicking, swimming, and exploring for a few hours, we met our shuttle driver in the parking lot for transport to our next destination: the Grutas (caves) of Lanquín.
The cave was interesting, with plenty of formations and up-close looks at hanging bats. Our shuttle ride did not include guide services, but the guide for some of the others on the bus let us tag along in the cave. He didn’t have anything earth-shattering to share, but he did have a few tidbits about local Mayan history pertaining to the cave.
Semuc Champey: 20 quetzales(Q)/US$2.50 per person (pp)
Grutas de Lanquín: 20Q/US$2.50 pp
Unless you are on a guided trip, bring your own lunch, snacks, and drinks (no services available).
How to get there:
These are the main ways to visit the Lanquín area:
1-Public transport. Bus cost 30Q/US$3.75 pp each way. Bus goes to Lanquín town, where it is walking distance to the caves. You will have to find transport somehow to Semuc Champey (another 10km). The last bus to Cobán leaves at 1pm, so stay overnight in Lanquín for the best experience.
2-Shuttle service (unguided). We used this shuttle service, which we booked at Casa D’Acuña hostel in Cobán for 50Q/US$6.25 pp. Leave Cobán at 7am, return approximately 7pm. Shuttle visits both Semuc Champey and caves.
3-Guided days tours are available at Casa D’Acuña hostel or Aventuras Turísticas is Cobán for 260Q/US$32.50 pp. Includes transport, guide, breakfast, lunch, and entrance fees.
4-Renting a car or hitchhiking are other options.
Where to stay in Lanquín:
No matter which mode of transport that you choose, you may want to spend a night or two in the remote and peaceful town of Lanquín. Three options I heard of (but not much about) are Divina Providencia, El Centro, and El Retiro, each priced at 20Q/US$2.50 pp per night. Reservations not likely necessary.
From journal Great Guatemala Loop Part 2 – Cobán