Travel Diary : Lanquin & Semuc Champey

It’s Monday and I am feeling refreshed and focused after a midweek getaway this past week.  The Stela 9 crew took a trip to Lanquin & Semuc Champey. A remote, natural park in the jungle land of Guatemala. We stayed in the Mayan town of Lanquin, a jump off point for Semuc Chapmey. Lanquin is a small town scattered with tiendas and hostels surrounded by lush greens, flora & fauna with a turquoise river running thru it.  Semuc Champey  is a magical natural wonder full of tropical plants and trees, wildlife, caves and the maginificent stepped turquoise pools that it is known for. 

It’s a hike to get to Lanquin & Semuc Champey but every bump felt along the road was well worth it. We piled into a yellow shuttle bus and road tripped for at least 8 hours. The environment changed constantly on our way to Lanquin. Rolling mountains of green, banana tree fields and small town tiendas were a constant view on our road trip.  The only way into Lanquin is to go on a downward spiral on a rocky road in the jungle. As we bounced down the road, I thought about my prior travel experiences and that the most magnificent and beautiful places are always the most difficult to get to.




We stayed in a rustic lodge along Rio Lanquin that was full of bamboo and palm thatched bungalows. As soon as arriving in Lanquin we headed to ‘Grutas de Lanquin.’ A huge limestone bat cave that is situated right above the river.  I normally would not go out of my way to be in the presence of bats, yet this was something I could not pass up. The most terrifying part was that your only source of light was a candle stick to guide your way. The cave entailed a lot of climbing and sneaking your body thru small spaces. After surviving the cave tour without falling (it was very slippery from the river and bat droppings) we were able to witness hundreds of bats flying out of the mouth of the cave once the darkness set in. It was a very surreal experience to calmly enjoy the presence of these slimy creatures.




Semuc Champey was the main attraction of our trip. To get to Semuc from Lanquin we had to stand in the back of a pickup truck as it climbed at near-impossible angles up dirt roads to the National Park.  We started off our day in Semuc Champey with a challenging hike that had a well deserved reward at the end. Once reaching the top, we could see the aerial view of Semuc Champey while standing on a wooden overhang on the side of the mountain.  From the edge, you could see a river that cuts through a dense forest, but instead of running water there is a long limestone overpass made up of a series of pools. If your breath wasn’t already taken away from the steep hike, this view would surely do it!


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Post hike we descended down to the cascading pools of turquoise and emerald, we frolicked in them for a couple of hours. We were able to slide down natural water slides and jump into the pools. While floating in the crystal clear pools, I thought how grateful I was to be able to experience this natural beauty in such a remote environment. I had never been in any type of body of fresh water that was that insanely clear before.  After feeling relaxed and enlightened with the natural beauty around us, it was time to trek it thru the jungle again and head inside a natural water cave.




For our second adventure thru a cave we were once again holding candle sticks as our source of light. Instead of being fully clothed like we were in the bat cave, we were only in our bathing suits and wearing sneakers (my number one fashion faux pas.) Despite not being uncomfortable in my attire, I was glad I had my sneakers on once stepping inside the cave. This cave was way more difficult to explore than the bat caves. The pools inside the caves got deeper and deeper as we descended into the cave. Picture treading water in a dark cave, holding a candle while trying not to kick a rock below you. This cave would appear dangerous to many, we had to climb slippery rocks and “stairs” and even propel ourselves up a waterfall using a rope. For the daredevils (me) in our group, we had the chance to climb up a set of steep, slippery rocks and plummet ourselves into a dark, small swimming hole inside the cave. Given the conditions, I was skeptical at first, one wrong move and you could end up on a rock…. but heck I’m in Guatemala in a cave, in a bathing suit and sneakers, naturally I went for it! The adrenaline immediately set in and fueled my energy to turn around and trek back out of the cave. Upon exiting the cave I thought of the saying “there is always light at the end of the tunnel” because it felt so damn good to see natural light and be back in the sunshine.




We finished our trip off with a tubing adventure down Rio Lanquin – cerevezas included. We entered into the river, ironically right where we went into the bat cave two days prior. The river gushed from the cave in clean, cool, delicious torrents and I couldn’t wait to float down it. Before getting in my tube, I assumed this would be more of a lazy river type of ride… But there were many patches of rapids along our course where we had to literally hold our bodies above our tubes so we would not scratch our booties on the rocks. I did unfortunately dry land right onto a rock but it honestly made it more exciting. We ended our 2km river tubing with a jump off a tree into the river. I found out on this trip that Guatemalans love to propel themselves from high places into shallow bodies of water. Every guide we had asked us if we wanted to jump from typically sketchy looking places. I usually gave in, just for my “I’m in Guatemala” mantra.

After 3 relaxing days full of natural beauty, fun and laughter we piled back into our yellow shuttle and endured the bumpy car ride home, with thoughts of turquoise and green on a constant state of mind.








































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