Semuc Champey is a stunning natural monument, located in the department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, near the Q'eqchi' Maya town of Lanquín. It takes a bit to get to, with a fair stretch of the road unpaved and quite rocky. But it’s absolutely worth it. Semuc Champey is one of Guatemala’s unmissable destinations.
If you have made it out to Semuc Champey, it’s worth it to make sure you have some extra days to spend. Not only because of the time it takes to get here, but also because there are so many amazing things to do in Semuc Champey.
1. Visit the Semuc Champey national park
Obviously you will want to go visit Semuc Champey itself. The series of stunning turquoisey pools cascading down over limestone terraces is truly a sight to see. And the water is fresh and lovely, especially nice on a warm Guatemalan day when the sun is high and the jungle steaming.
From Utopia Eco Hotel you can choose to book a tour to Semuc Champey, or simply utilize the daily transport shuttle to the park. This full-day park tour includes transportation to and from the park, all entrance fees, and a knowledgeable, bilingual tour guide. It also includes a visit to the nearby caves of K’anba.
2. Go deep into the K’anba Caves
The K’anba Cave is also known as the “wet” cave. This is aptly named because you will crawl, climb, and even swim your way through, all while holding a lit candle. Of course your guide will come with you all the way!
Swimming through this cave will make you feel like a first-time explorer and the candles create a lovely ambiance. Inside the cave, you will be able to climb rope ladders, jump into pools, and slide down a small waterfall through a tunnel.
3. Walk up to the Semuc Champey mirador for amazing pictures
The pools of Semuc Champey are lovely to dive into and take a refreshing swim. However, you only get the full appreciation of the beauty of them, by walking the 1.5 km steep uphill track to the viewpoint at the top, overlooking the Semuc Champey park.
From the viewing platform at the top you can take some breathtaking aerial shots of the pools and the surrounding mountain range. Definitely worth the effort!
4. See where the river Cahabon disappears under the ground
Semuc Champey is in fact a large natural limestone bridge. Under this bridge, the river Cahabon passes underground to reappear at the other side. Semuc Champey in Q’eqchi, the local indigenous language, literally means “where the river hides.”
When you are at Semuc Champey, be sure to go to both ends of the bridge under the pools and see where the river disappears, and reappears again. It is one of nature's magical miracles. Ask your guide to point out the spots or go off to discover the secret for yourself.
5. Learn all about cacao and chocolate
Guatemala has been growing cacao since 3000 years and the ancestral roots of this product still reach deep. This is one of the best places to learn more about cacao, taste the cacao fruit and discover how chocolate is made from it.
We all love chocolate, but very few know how it is actually grown and made. Take a chocolate tour to learn all about the history of cacao and chocolate, how cacao is grown and processed and how to make your very own batch of dark chocolate at home!
6. Go birdwatching
There is an astonishing variety and diversity of birds in Guatemala and it is definitely a bird watcher's paradise. Find an accommodation away from town, like Utopia Eco Hotel, to find yourself in the middle of the jungle. It is here where the birdlife is at its most active.
Morning and around sunset are the best times to spot most species. Simply find a bit higher ground to watch from, where you can peek above the treeline, have your bird list or card ready and observe. Let yourself be amazed by the wide array of colours and shapes of all that flies by.
7. Take a yoga class
Utopia Eco Hotel offers free daily yoga classes, one class in the morning for an active start, and one class in the afternoon to wind down and take a breather.
Yoga creates space and awareness in your body and is a great way to find more presence of mind. Especially when surrounded by the lush jungle of Semuc Champey! Hear the birds tsirp and the Cahabon river flow in the background while you take your asanas and feel yourself really relax in the final savasana.
8. Go extreme tubing on the Cahabon river
Tubing is one of the funnest modes of transportation and completely CO2 neutral! Come back to Utopia Eco Hotel from Semuc Champey by tube, gliding along the river until you reach the hotel.
Along the way you will see fascinating greenery on the river banks, see local indigenous families bathing and playing in the river and slowly watch the sunset as you float by. Several rapids keep the excitement up, make sure to hold on to your tube there!
9. Take a scenic hike
Guatemala has some amazing nature to offer and the land around Semuc Champey is full of lush jungle and nice trails. Bring your hiking boots and strike out to work up a sweat and earn yourself a view.
On the way you are likely to find locals working on the corn or cacao fields, kids playing along the river and the most beautiful flora and fauna, all in the eclectic mix that makes up Guatemalan life.
10. Find yourself in nature
Sometimes we need to get away to find ourselves. At Utopia Eco Hotel we try to create a safe haven for anyone to come and unwind. Relaxing in one of our hammocks, going offline for a couple of days and simply waking up when the sun rises and the birds start to sing.
At Utopia you will be able to reconnect with yourself and with nature again. Get away from everything to come back to yourself.