LANQUIN & SEMUC CHAMPNEY
Global Mark : 14.88 Top Five : No5
Ratings by criteria :
Ratings by backpackers :
Comments : This is the place to come to to say 'waow' and relax. But you won't be alone : it is popular with locals during WE and backpackers all year round...
What to do ? Tour the village in 5mn, focusing on the 400 years old church / Tube the river / Relax on a hammock / Visit a lighted cave (Q20) or fight your way in (free except if caught) / Relax a bit more / Bath in the river / Snorkel in search of fishes / Try to spot bats leaving the cave at dusk / Enjoy the view from your room / Talk with other backpackers by a fire /
What you may not like ? Not being on your own / The heat during the day (fortunately the river is nearby) / The dual entrance fees at the cave : foreigners, tourists or backpackers pay twice as much as the locals / The shy bats / The water pump noise at the cave / The slightly more expensive water (the cheapest at El Retiro : normal price of Q0.5 if not cold, Q1 otherwise) / The few mosquitoes /
How long ? At least two days.
Where to stay ?
Backpacker's Tips : Anonymous (July
Where to eat ? Most people are heading to Comedor Shalom. Indeed, this is the only one open after 7pm. The meal cost Q12 and can be either OK or tasteless. Better if available would be to share the dinner of El Retiro's owner (Q10) or organize a barbecue by the fire...
Others ? Nope ! No banks to change money (changing US$ cash is however OK with some locals) and no internet to send news. There is however a post office.
A cave visit ? If you wish to see the cave in good lightning conditions, it will cost you Q20 (locals pay only Q10). It is usually open until 4pm but there may be extensions if tourists keep showing. This is also a place where you can spot some of the very useful dustbins of Guatemala and those are free to use ! When the lights are switched off and the door locked, it remains possible to visit (just climb the wall) but you will need some courage, powerful lightning and a friend or two to go with (some parts will be dangerous in the dark). The cave then takes another dimension ! At dusk, you are also supposed to see millions of bats exiting their sleeping camps. We however waited until 7pm for two nights (well after the 6pm recommended time) and saw nothing ! The people on a tour who had waited three hours were certainly a bit pissed off by those impolite (or too shy) animals ! I learned the reason later on : to spot the bats, you need to wait inside of the cave !
Relaxation on the river ? Beside swimming, it is possible to tube or kayak. The tubes are free for El Retiro's guests and are a great way to relax, depending on the level of water. I was told the trip down from the cave would take 20mn. It took 1.5 hours, as the level of water was low. It was very relaxing on most parts but also a bit painful on the few 'rapids', when rocks were very much visible...
The eighth wonder of the world ? This is how locals refer to Semuc Champney, a series of pools and waterfalls, 10km from Lanquin. This is certainly
exaggerated but it remains a great sight and a wonderful place to swim and relax. Getting there can be a problem outside of Lanquin's market day (Monday and Thursday) or WE but, with a little of patience or luck, you should not have to hire a Q125 pick-up... You could of course walk but be aware that the road is not flat and very hot (a few tienda along the nice way however). Walking from Semuc back to Lanquin is easier and can be done in less than 2 hours. Once there, you have to pay the Q20 entrance fee (same for the locals) and are greeted by a huge sign of all the things not to do. Everything is written in Spanish except the last recommendation : "don't leave anything of value unguarded". This is a sound advise and, considering that the idea is to swim, you should leave your important stuff at your GH anyway. You then walk a bit and, if normally
constituted, should soon start smiling and say 'waow !'. It is recommended to show up early : at around
11am, tours are there ! Camping is very much possible (with hammock or tent) and free, even for a few days (you pay the entrance fee only once). This is of course the best way to appreciate the setting. You can buy snacks and liquids (Q1 for 0.5L of water) at the small tienda but there is no proper restaurant yet. Bringing a mosquitoes lotion or net is a good idea for a more enjoyable evening. If you crave for action or isolation, you could pass the pools and penetrate the forest to reach the rapids section (and see where the Rio Cahabon plunges furiously into the cavern).
Continuing a bit more off the track, you will reach a more quiet section where it is possible to swim on your own (with caution as there are still a strong current). The tranquil pools by the waterfalls may be a safer bet... Another thrill (not tested, local guide recommended) would be to go behind the last waterfall to see the water emerging from below the rock. There are plenty of tiny fishes (throw any food and spot the fight !) so bringing a mask make sense. A few locals are paid to keep the place clean and this is quite a sight as well, although they usually deal more with dead leaves than dead can of coke (that they will throw somewhere else).
The trip to Raxruja : SSSS / Right + Left / Q3 +18 / 45mn + 3 hours
See also the trip from Coban