‘The most beautiful place I’ve been to in the world’ was just one of the recommendations we personally got about Semuc Champey. A set of blue pools set in the midst of the jungle, we didn’t encounter anyone who had been and didn’t enjoy it. So we decided it would be worth the gruelling drive to get there. It would be a 6 hour drive from Rio Dulce into Semuc Champey.
Sticking to our more relaxed pace we took a break halfway through the journey to Semuc Champey in order to relax at a Balneario (bathing pool) which was a naturally flowing river out of a cave. It sounded absolutely beautiful, but the rainy season had other plans for us and the water was a muddy brown meaning we didn’t decide to stop in for a dip this time. Even the goats gave it a pass! The next day we left early and had a long and interesting journey to visit the pools of Champey.
The first two hours of the drive were all paved roads and bar the usual pot holes no problem at all to drive on. When we turned off the main road it was about an hour to Lanquin, the nearest town to the attraction and then a 40 minute drive to the pools. We’d read about the bad road conditions but were pretty confident we could make it to Lanquin that night, and luckily we had no issues getting there. The road was steep – really steep at times – but we had no issues in first gear taking it nice and easy. Luckily for us the rain had given us a break. By the time we pulled into Lanquin we headed straight for a hostel we’d spend the night at.
The road into the hostel made us nervous – it was a combination of thick sloppy mud and extremely slippy limestone. After a bit of ice skating on the mud we made it in okay and pulled up on the fairly level car park! They wanted a bit more than we were happy to pay, however luckily for us they went down on their price as we weren’t in the mood to be driving back out of there! We paid up for 2 nights and enjoyed the pool and the bar on offer. Whilst hoping to meet more travellers at the bar it was a bit of a low season in town (probably due to the rain!) so we just retired to bed early.
The road from town to Semuc was 40 minutes of incredibly steep and slippy driving, and we’d been told not to even try it without a 4×4. Opting for the path of least resistance we jumped into the back of a 4×4 collectivo for an incredibly bumpy but entertaining ride. It turned out to be much more comfortable standing on the slippy metal floor than trying to sit! Lessons learnt every day….
So finally, after hours of driving and catching lifts from random shuttles we’d made it! Starting our day with a hike to the mirador (viewpoint) we climbed up some definitely unsafe terrain for about 45 minutes. At the top we were greeted with a guard as the platform could only support 7 people – although even that appeared to be a push on the rotten wood. Even so we hopped on for a view and knew the whole escapade had been worth it. Yes it may have been raining, but this time the pools weren’t affected by the rains and were an absolutely gorgeous shimmering blue, and one of the most beautiful sights we’d seen on our trip. Probably made a little more beautiful by all of the effort it took us to get there.
After viewing the pools we clambered back down the super slick rocks to get a dip in them. They were full of the little fish which you normally pay to have nibble at your feet so it was like another free spa treatment! Despite the rain continuing we lounged around for what turned out to be hours – having thought we’d only spend about 20 minutes there. When it was all over we had to face the reality of the 40 minute terrifying truck ride down hill but at least we were safe in the knowledge it had all been worth it. We can confidently agree that it’s a must see for travellers who are visiting the country, but equally understand why it’s missed by so many who don’t fancy 6-8 hours of driving through death defying roads for one attraction!