Semuc Champey and Flores
From Antigua we headed to Semuc Champey and Flores, two of the main tourist attractions in Guatemala and our last two stops in the country.
Semuc Champey is one of Guetemalas most sought after tourist destinations and for good reason, however it’s remote location makes it a long, windy, and bumpy journey. After riding in a small shuttle from Antigua (125 GTQ) to the closest town of Lanquin for approximately 10 hours, it is was another 45-60 minutes in the back of a pickup truck until we reached our hostel: Greengos.
We chose this hostel primarily because of the close proximity to the entrance of Semuc and because of it’s reputation for being clean. We were pretty beat up after the journey and despite it being Thanksgiving, decided to only have one beer and head to bed. We awoke the next morning quite early, and besides a few Guatemalan families, we were the first people to enter Semuc. The entrance fee for foreigners is 50 GTQ. All the hostels in the area offer tours that include the main 3 activities in the area, Semuc pools, the Kanba caves and tubing, but you can do all of these cheaper on your own and it’s not complicated. We first hiked to the lookout point, El Mirador, and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the pools and waterfalls. We spent a good half day swimming within the different pools, however unlike some of the other patrons of Semuc, we chose not to “slide” from pool to pool on the rocks and opted to walk to most of them instead. Safety first ended up working out in our favor as we witnessed one of the girls from our hostel dislocate a toe when she slipped attempting to cross the pools through a “slide.”
From Semuc it was another full day in a cramped shuttle to Flores. While Semuc is stunning and a must-see in Guetemala, we would recommend 3 nights there as the journey in and out is rough. Flores is a tiny island in Lake Petén Itzá and the main reason people come to Flores is it’s proximity to Tikal. We spent 3 nights in Flores which was wonderful for unwinding after the long journey from Semuc and our upcoming 2 day bus ride to Managua, Nicaragua. We spent one full day in Flores just bumming around the town and relaxing. The second day we took an afternoon/evening trip to Tikal. There are many tour operators in Flores that offer shuttle service or tours of Tikal–most are extremely over priced. After viewing many of the prices, and taking into consideration that the hotel we stayed in was filled with Guatemalans, we went with their price of 80 GTQ (lowest price we saw was 60 GTQ) to bring us to and back from Tikal, in addition you have to pay the entrance price to Tikal of 150 GTQ.
Tikal gives off major Indiana Jones vibes as you explore the Mayan ruins within the jungle setting. There are numerous monkeys, coatimundi, and of course mosquitoes. We were surprised to see that we basically had the entire park to ourselves, we expected there to be many more visitors, but perhaps they leave before sunset. The highlight of the afternoon was climbing on top of Temple II and watching the sunset over the jungle.