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Semuc Champey National Park, Guatemala

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Views of small waterfalls & turquoise and emerald tinted water at Semuc Champey National Park, Guatemala

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Nestled deep in the Guatemalan jungle is the natural wonder of Semuc Champey. Known to many as the most beautiful place in Guatemala and to others the most beautiful place in all of Central America. The turquoise and emerald terraced pools of Semuc Champey are not to be missed.

Clear water lagoon at Semuc Champey National Park, Guatemala

Semuc Champey National Park is located close to the small village of Lanquin in central Guatemala about 8 hours north of Antigua and 7 hours south of Flores. From Lanquin, it is a bumpy half hour ride in the back of a pick-up truck on a rocky dirt road followed by another 15-minute walk through the forest before you finally reach the pools

Bird's eye view, Semuc Champey National Park, Guatemala

The pools are perfect for swimming and it is easy to spend the entire day basking in the sun and marveling at color and cleanliness of the water. It is a perfect little paradise.   Below the pools are an 8-meter waterfall and a spot where you can jump into the much colder river below. Make sure you know where this spot is and the correct way to climb back up before jumping. The climb is a little hazardous without a rope, but is doable. If you are good swimmer you can swim around towards the mouth of a large cave, climb some rocks, enter the cave, and stand behind the waterfall.

Above: Bird's eye view of the pools from the lookout point

A pool at Semuc Champey National Park, Guatemala

A good friend of mine who visited Semuc Champey two years prior to my visit told me to stand behind the waterfall in the cave at sunset and watch hundreds of birds fly through the waterfall directly above your head and into the cave. I climbed though the waterfall into the cave at sunset like he said and sure enough, eventually, flocks of black jungle birds blasted through the waterfall and into the cave. It was truly an unforgettable experience.  If you have the legs for it, walk the 45 minutes up the hill to the look out point where you can see a perfect view of the pools surrounded by jungle from a birds-eye view. Definitely worth the hike.

Places to stay

Bungalow at El Portal Hostal, Semuc Champey NP, Guatemala

Many travelers stay at the Zephyr Lodge in Lanquin 45 minutes from Semuc Champey. From what I've heard, Zephyr Lodge is a great option.

I chose, however, to stay in a bungalow at "El Portal,” a small inexpensive hotel directly outside of the park and just a 10-minute walk to the pools of Semuc Champey. The accommodations consist of small thatched bungalows, which were great. The food, however, is nothing special and the options are limited.

The reason to stay here is for the proximity to Semuc Champey. We woke up early and arrived at the pools a good two hours before anyone else showed up there. We had the entire place to ourselves, which was great.

Above: Our bungalow at "El Portal" hostel.

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