Around 177-miles (285 km) northeast of Guatemala City, Semuc Champey is one of the country’s most spectacular destinations—as famous for its stunning natural pools as it is for the long and bumpy journey out there through the mountains.
The easiest and best way to get to Semuc Champey from Guatemala City is by private transfer (around a 7.5-hr drive), but you can also hire a car, or take a tourist shuttle bus to Lanquín.
Most visitors choose to stay in the nearby towns of Lanquín or Coban and head out to Semuc Champey on a day trip, but, if you stay near the park and head out to the pools first thing in the morning, then chances are you will have the whole place to yourselves.
There are also tours from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey, like this 5-day Guatemala Adventure through the Alta Verapaz region, which includes trips out to the Limestone Mountains of Candelaría and Laguna Lachúa.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 7.5+ hrs
Private transfers are the most comfortable and convenient way to travel from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey/Lanquín. It's a long drive so make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks, but your driver will stop off every now and again for bathroom breaks and to give you a chance to stretch your legs. Your private transfer will include pick up from your hotel or the airport and drop you off at your hotel.
However, it's worth bearing in mind that the road from Lanquin out to Semuc Champey is pretty terrible, and it takes just under an hour or so to travel the last six miles (10 km). If a 7.5+ hour journey already seems like a struggle, then you might want to consider staying in Lanquín or Cobán and just visiting the turquoise pools on a day trip.
By Taxi or Rideshare
Duration: 7.5+ hrs
It is also possible to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey, however, some of the drivers have been known to cancel bookings and/or request higher prices once you get in the car, especially if they don't feel like they're going to be able to get a return fare back to the city. Prices can also increase two or three times the estimated price if there is traffic or you make stops along the way.
If you want to take a taxi make sure that you have agreed on a set price before you leave.
By Rental Car
Duration: 7.5+ hrs
The drive from Guatemala City through the Central Highlands is stunning, but not really recommended for drivers who are used to crazy Guatemalan traffic and winding mountain roads with chicken buses hurtling around corners at breakneck speed.
Still, if that hasn’t put you off, then you can look at renting a car in the capital or out at the airport and driving to Lanquín. Make sure you leave enough time to arrive in before dark as the last bit of the journey can be pretty perilous.
Just bear in mind that one-way rentals aren’t very common in Guatemala unless you go with a world-renowned car rental company like Hertz. Even then, you definitely won’t be able to return it in Semuc Champey, so if you do choose to rent a car then be prepared to drive it back to where you started.
You might be able to leave the car at Flores airport if you choose to drive onto Tikal, but you will want to double-check first.
By Shuttle Bus
Duration: 8+ hrs
Another relatively easy way to get from Guatemala City to Lanquín is by tourist shuttle. There are a few different shuttles, including ultra-modern buses with wifi and old cramped minibusses without AC, but the price difference is fairly negligible and, in our opinion, it's definitely worth shelling out a bit extra for a more comfortable ride.
Your shuttle will pick you up at your accommodation in Guatemala City and drop you at the bus station in Lanquin. We recommend booking your accommodation in Lanquín/Semuc Champey before you arrive as most hotels and guesthouses offer complimentary pick-ups.
By Local Bus
Duration: 12-15+ hrs
It is also possible to get to Lanquín via “Chicken Bus” —converted old American school buses. You will need to head out to the bus station and take a bus from Guatemala City to Cobán. From there you can take another bus out to Lanquín.
The journey is hot, cramped, and bumpy, and you will have to be careful of your belongings. There aren't many breaks, so if you do get off the bus at any point then you will have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't leave without you!
If you want to travel all the way to Semuc Champey then you will have to stay overnight in Lanquín before catching a ride out in the back of a public pick-up truck from the town square in the morning.