There are two reasons why you are going to ever go to Lanquin, Guatemala.. The first reason is to visit Semuc Champey and the second reason is to swim in this pool!
The Zephyr Lodge is a well oiled machine. When you arrive you are greeted with a free beer. If you stay here 3 nights, the 4th is free! The 5th day you have happy hour drink prices all day.
Dorm rooms, private rooms, tours, two bars and a full menu of food. Zephyr is a one stop shop for all of your needs in Lanquin. Or is it?
They have a tab system that is a brilliant way to take the money from your pocket and put it into theirs. It took me a couple days to realize why they give you free nights and cheaper booze for more stay. Because your second night there is spent sober planing for a tour the following morning and you start to notice the spiders as big as your hand and the cockroaches all over the rooms. (Keeping in mind that you are in the jungle and bugs definitely do happen. Big ones!) But I have been in rainforests in Thailand, Laos, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, jungles in Panama, Peru, and the Amazon jungle and never saw a single roach!) You begin to see that this place is just someone’s piggy bank. It was never geared towards your comfort. It’s just an unbelievably awesome pool in the jungle surrounded by lots of tricks to get you to buy overpriced drinks and spend money. Free beer when you get there? To get you to buy 6 more beers. 4th night is free? To get you to buy $35 of food and more booze. 5th day happy hour? Turns into a 6th day hung over. If the place was nice and comfortable they wouldn’t have to trick you to stay longer.
(If you could sleep outside in a tent this place would be paradise!)
Now if I could do it all again, I would stay at the newly built hostel on the next hill over called The Oasis. It will soon be 6 new bungalows with river access and you can walk to Zephyr for a day of pool drinking and lunch. (I only wrote about the negatives because if someone would have warned me my Lanquin trip would have been much better!) Now to the good stuff…
After an night of boozin and a day of laying by the pool you can book your Semuc Champey tour. Your morning will start with a 45 minute drive through the jungle in a 50s lifted Dodge monster truck. When you enter the park you will be greeted at 10am by a few local kids introducing them selves and trying to sell you beer.
After locking up your goods in a lock box you enter a cave on the side of a mountain! You will light a candle and walk with your shoes on through an underground river for a couple hundred feet until you are neck deep! Walking and swimming through the river wile keeping candle light above water but it was one of the craziest things I have ever done! Repelling up waterfalls with a candle in your mouth. It was all so wild! After exploring for a bit we reached a cliff with a small pool at the bottom. People climbing the walls of the cave to jump in!
After exiting the cavern we did some rope swinging into the river and then grabbed some tubes and floated down the river wile the local kids follow you on tubes with a cooler of beer for sale. They keep a running tab for everyone wile remembering the names in their head! Then those with the sand to give it a try jumped off a 30 foot bridge into the river.
It was time for more brews and lunch. A Mayan woman set up a buffet style barbecue on the side of the road for us and the little boys did their best to talk us into drinking 2 beers at a time. The girls sell home made chocolate. Pretty good actually! After that we hiked up the side of one of the mountings to get the view I came here for! Semuc Champey..
It’s a system of limestone pools along the river that have every shade of emerald water you could imagine!
Fish swimming around your feet and the water is literally the perfect temperature.
Such a peaceful place..
After an 8 hour day of adventure you can still make it back to the hostel in time for a game of strip Jenga!
A little recent history about the village of Semuc Champey. (Told to my by my guide) The owner of the land of Semuc Champey for many years lined his pockets with cash without doing anything to help of his local village. So they basically overthrough him, kicked him out of the village and took over Samuc Champey. He and his family fled to Guatemala City. The money earned by the park is now used to do repairs the the park, pave roads, put more villagers to work and build schools for the children. I don’t know if it’s all true but I like that story..
Where to stay-
The Oasis- $12 dorm beds, river access, clean
Getting there and away-
-Panahachel to from Lanquin has a direct shuttle service for 200 quetzal that takes between 9-11 hours. Lots of dirt and gravel roads.
-Flores, there is a shuttle service with two prices- 130 or 150 if you prefer AC. It takes 8 hours. I would pay the extra buck or two. When you get to the lowlands it is extremely hot!