Tucked away in the densely forested mountains of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, lies an idyllic limestone paradise that despite the grueling hours of off-road forging it takes to get there is one of the most beautiful of the world’s hidden natural gems.
Virtually inaccessible to all but the heartiest four-wheel drive vehicles, the Semuc Champey natural monument boasts six stunning tiered turquoise pools, an extensive cave network complete with underground waterfalls, and breathtaking views. The shockingly blue pools rest on top of a natural limestone bridge covering a portion of the Cahabón River.
The site is located far from any large settlement down rough, rock-strewn roads. However the difficulty of getting to this unique natural landscape is rewarded many times over by the sights and experiences awaiting guests upon arrival. Visitors who opt to take the guided tour, which is recommended, will warm up with a rope swing leap into the river — optional, of course — before grabbing a candle and wading through a series of watery caves. The above-ground portion of the tour meanders through the forest before dropping guests at their final activity: a relaxing swim in the limestone pools.
Know Before You Go
While it is possible to rent a car and drive on your own, the easiest and safest way to get to Semuc Champey is by booking a minibus through a travel agency in one of Guatemala's larger cities. Minibuses will drop you off at Lanquin, the town closest to Semuc Champey and from there you can either walk for about 2.5 hours or take a 4x4 pickup truck "taxi" to the entrance of the falls. Most hotels in and around Lanquin also offer day tours to Semuc Champey.Paths are wet, rocky, and visibility can be limited: sturdy footwear is recommended.