semuc champey

I experienced something so special in Guatemala that I will never forget in my life. But first things first – even the journey to park in Semuc Champey was interesting.



Way to Semuc Champey

I bought a ticket for shuttle bus from Antigue to Lanquinn. We left at 8 o'clock in the morning and we picked up few more passengers along the way. One of them was a very confident girl from Canada that didn’t bother to ask the driver, sat right in the front seat and plugged her iPhone in, so we were all forced to listen to her favorite music. Later however an older gentleman confidently turned her music off. There was another girl that was so inconsiderate that left a whole group of people wait for her to brush her teeth before she hopped in. We all stared in wonder and waited till she was finished.

Another guy that came with us was from Brazil and his desire to wear no t-shirt revealed his clean-shaven chest. However, he didn’t forget to bring a hat very similar to the one our grandpas wore in the 50's. Fortunately that was all of us, so we could finally go straight through Guatemala City to Coban. We arrived around two o'clock in the afternoon and then proceeded to Lanquin. At four o'clock we left the mountain side and went down to a valley on a dusty road. We arrived to Lanquin at five. We spent the last part of our journey standing in a pick-up van, that carried us for another 45 minutes deeper into unknown.

The tip I got for accommodation in Utopia was unique. What I found there really impressed me. At first, I felt like I was in a movie the Beach. The hostel I stayed in was built beside river in the middle of nature. It was a big wooden building, with its ground floor being used as a bar, restaurant and a terrace with a fabulous view into the wilderness. First floor, which didn't have walls but only pillars, was designed for sleeping. There were sleeping hammocks, beds and small rooms. No one was grumpy in Utopia, everyone was relaxed and outgoing, you could hear live music and lively conversations in the evenings, and dogs were running everywhere. Even though I didn’t plan it, I prolonged my stay there.

Utopia hostel semuc champey

At half past eight everyone slowly moved to the terrace and sat down for dinner together. There were Mexicans, Americans, Canadians, Argentinians and locals too. Mexicans had long hair, beards, braids, loads of tattoos and all in all they looked a bit scary. But whenever I got chance to get to know them a bit better, I found out that they are polite and intelligent people. After dinner they played songs on guitars and the others joined in conversations, while I drank my beer. I sat on a bench, listening to music and admired all the nature around me. Out of a sudden something quite large moved on the bench in front of me. When I focused my vision a bit I realized that it was a big scorpion staring back at me. 



Caves Grutas Las Marias

In the morning we jumped in a van and went back to Semuc Champey. It is a place where river goes underground but also flows on the surface. It makes interesting shapes and little pools and looks similar to Plitvice. And right here in this spot I experienced one of the biggest adrenaline rushes so far - we were ready to enter caves Grutas las Marias. We were asked to leave all our possessions in a little guarded shed and to follow young local man just in our swimming suits. I had a hunch that we are entering a cave that has no lighting whatsoever, but I didn’t realize it will also be completely flooded. We all got a lit candle and slowly submerged into dark and deep water. Gradually we got used to the darkness and with the help of a candle light we started to discover our surroundings. We were able to stand up from time to time but most of the time we had to keep swimming. Whenever our candles lost their light we had to wait and get a light from the person behind us. There were few times where we got to an end of a certain section in the cave and in the darkness with just candle in our hand we had to walk on wet rocks, climb ladders and even climb on ropes to get to another level, where we had to go back after just few meters in the same fashion and continue swimming. Once or twice we exchanged confused looks that clearly all meant the same thing – this can only be allowed in Guatemala. It would have been very easy to take a wrong step and slip on a rock underneath us. After 45 minutes we reached the end of the cave where there was an option for the brave ones to climb 3-4 meters higher and jump into the darkness beneath. I swam first on the way back so I could enjoy being alone in complete darkness. At one point I could hear heavy splash and screams. As I turned around I saw a girl from America that was swimming behind me. I could see her terrified face as she clearly thought the same thought as me 'someone must have died there'...we stayed still for a bit, listening hard and after a while, to our surprise, we heard laughter. After an hour and half, we got out of the cave, that young local man that was supposed to be our guide got out third and when I asked him where is the rest of the group, he replied with a shrug and walked away...

grutas las mariasgrutas las marias 2












Pictures published with agreemnet of

Whenever I met someone on my travels and we had a conversation about Guatemala, I always asked about caves Grutas las Marias. And if that person already been there before, it always got to the same question: 'Well that was something else, wasn't it?'.


More about my travels to Guatemala, you can read in the travelogue.



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