Everything you need to know about visiting Semuc Champey without a tour!
Semuc Champey is a magical place in the jungles of Guatemala. With multiple layers of limestone pools, surrounded by rainforest and filled with crystal-clear waters, it’s 100% worth a visit.
Semuc Champey is one of those locations where you see a photo of it and then add it to your bucket list immediately.
This happened to me when I spent one month volunteering at a paddleboarding company called GuateSUP in Lake Atitlan.
I had been living in Panajachel for about 4 weeks and had seen photos of Semuc Champey in all the tourism offices on the main street.
It looked so stunning that I decided I had to visit before I left Guatemala.
As a budget traveler, of course I researched the cheapest way to visit Semuc Champey.
I wrote an entire budget travel guide about visiting this beautiful spot. But this article will focus on how to visit Semuc Champey without a tour!
Can You Visit Semuc Champey Without A Tour?
Yes! It’s super easy to visit Semuc Champey without a tour and without a guide.
Semuc Champey is a beautiful natural attraction that is really easy to visit if you plan accordingly. In this article, I’ll outline exactly how I visited Semuc Champey without a tour.
I also planned this entire trip to Semuc Champey on a budget! In total I spent about 535 Quetzales, or $70 USD.
Inflation may have caused these prices to go up since I visited a few years ago, but the travel plans I made will remain the same today.
How To Get To Semuc Champey Without A Tour
Semuc Champey is relatively straightforward to reach from other destinations around Guatemala.
However, it is in the middle of the jungle. So it’s pretty remote and the travel time is usually at least 8 hours by bus.
Bus is the easiest way to get to Semuc Champey. You’ll need to travel to Lanquín, which is the closest town to the waterfalls.
From Lanquín, you can organize pickup to your accommodation near the pools, which I’ll explain later.
How To Get From Antigua To Semuc Champey
There are three main ways to travel from Antigua to Semuc Champey: public bus, shuttle bus, and private transfer.
Public bus is the cheapest and least comfortable way to travel. The journey to Lanquín takes around 9 hours and makes a few stops on the way.
But it’s super cheap! The cost of a public bus from Antigua to Lanquín can be around 100Q one way, or $13 USD.
You can book these in person at any travel agency or bus company in the town of Antigua.
Shuttle buses are smoother and faster, and they cost around $40 USD.
Private transfers are can cost a few hundred USD. If you want to travel in comfort, this is the nicest way to travel. You can also get shuttles directly to your accommodation near Semuc Champey instead of just stopping off in Lanquín.
How To Get From Lake Atitlan To Semuc Champey
I personally travelled from Lake Atitlan to Semuc Champey, and the journey was just as straightforward as going from Antigua.
I walked around the center of town and enquired in different tourism offices about the cheapest bus to Lanquín.
For just 320Q, or about $40 USD, I was able to book bus tickets from Panajachel to Lanquín and a return journey from Lanquín to Antigua.
But the journey was around 9 hours one-way and the road was super bumpy. However, it was worth it for the cheap price!
Read next: The Ultimate Lake Atitlan Travel Guide
How To Get From Lanquín To Semuc Champey
Once you’ve arrived in Lanquín, you are still about 45-50 minutes drive away from most of the lodges near Semuc Champey.
Because the actual pools are randomly located in the midst of the jungle, you’ll want to head to your accommodation first and then they can help you get to Semuc Champey from there.
There is no more public transport once you arrive in Lanquín, so you’ll have to book your accommodation in advance and then ask them about transfers from Lanquín.
Most accommodations near the pools will offer to pick you up from Lanquín and then bring you to their lodge, either for free or for a cheap price.
Read next: 50 Budget Travel Tips
Accommodation Near Semuc Champey
There are some amazing places to stay on a budget near Semuc Champey!
I stayed at Pachamaya Eco Lodge, which at the time only cost about 25Q per night for a dorm bed ($3 USD).
This place was great because it’s only a 15-minute walk to Semuc Champey. They also offered free pick up and drop off to Lanquin.
Ch’i Bocol Community Hostel is another top-rated option. It costs about $10 USD per night and is a 30-minute walk to Semuc Champey.
Greengo’s is also a super popular place to stay near Semuc Champey. It costs around $18 USD per night and is a 10 minute walk to the pools.
If you want to visit Semuc Champey without a tour, it’s important to stay somewhere that is within walking distance from the pools. Otherwise you’ll have to book a tour or a transfer to the actual attraction.
Visiting Semuc Champey Without A Tour
Once you’ve made it to your accommodation, you can just walk down to Semuc Champey and have a beautiful day frolicking in nature!
The walk is along a wide, relatively flat dirt road surrounded by lush, forested hills.
You’ll pass lots of hawkers trying to sell tours, guides, snacks, and souvenirs as you walk in, but you really don’t need a guide to enjoy the area.
You will have to pay the entrance fee to Semuc Champey, which is 50Q ($7 USD).
Once you’re in, you can hike to the Mirador, swim in the pools, have a picnic at the picnic tables, and float around in the natural waterfalls for free!
Most tours begin around 9am, so my friend and I visited around 8am and had the entire place to ourselves for at least an hour. It was truly magical!
Read more on my Semuc Champey Budget Travel Guide!
Why Book A Tour?
You may want to book a tour to Semuc Champey if you’re not a super experienced traveler and you’re not confident going alone.
A tour guide can sometimes make a trip more informative and enjoyable because they will share their local knowledge with you!
There are also some caves near Semuc Champey where you can only enter with a guide.
If you do want to book a tour to Semuc Champey, your best option is booking at your accommodation. Every hostel or lodge will have their own daily tours that you can book on site.
Tours are generally pretty cheap, so you can still visit Semuc Champey on a budget with a tour.
But it’s so easy to just walk there on your own and enjoy the pools at your leisure, so I personally preferred the freedom and flexibility of visiting without a tour.
Is Semuc Champey Worth Visiting?
Semuc Champey was 100% worth the visit!
Even though I spent about 2 full days traveling to and from the pools, for only 1 full day there, it was worth it.
This little oasis in the jungle is gorgeous. I enjoyed navigating the public transport, communicating with locals, practicing my Spanish, and exploring this remote part of Guatemala.
The pools themselves were stunning, and I loved being there first thing in the morning with no other tourists. Having the pools of Semuc Champey all to ourselves was a beautiful memory I’ll never forget!
Before visiting Guatemala:
☼ I recommend travel insurance! Especially for visiting remote parts of the jungle. Squaremouth Insurance is my go-to website for comparing different policies. But check out my Budget Traveler’s Guide To Travel Insurance for more info!
☼ Consider a work exchange! As I mentioned earlier, I was living in Guatemala for 4 weeks while volunteering in Panajachel at a paddleboarding company. I got to stay there for free in exchange for some fun work with a cool international crew. Check out my Guide To Work Exchange to learn how to find your own work exchange, or visit my favorite website, Worldpackers!
Check out my other articles about my travels in Guatemala here:
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