A Little Adrift

A Little Adventure…Candles & Caves at Semuc Champey

Traveling is all about pushing boundaries – you try new foods that you’d never dream of sampling, tackle adventures that sound just a bit intimidating and jump off that rope swing that really doesn’t “have your name written all over it” …and yes, I am talking pretty specific on that last one.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll start the tale of my day at the Semuc Champey waterfalls with this:

Prepping to jump of the swing in Semuc Champey, Guatemala

I prep for my daring jump off of the rope swing:

Just a moment prior as I get on the flimsy little rope swing over the river

The massive bruise that formed less than two minutes after I demonstrated precisely how not to jump off of the rope swing:

A massive bruise from landing wrong in the water!

Yes. That takes skills.

Moving on.

Exploring Caves Near Semuc Champey, Guatemala

The unassumingly quite town of Lanquin is pretty uneventful but has a fairly spectacular setting nestled between low mountains perpetually topped with a ring of misty thin clouds. And as pretty as the setting is, most travelers are heading to Semuc Champey when they role through here to see the glistening blue pools and waterfalls.

As a double bonus, in addition to Semuc Champey there are nearby caves that just beg to be explored.

Candles lit, we all file into the cave in a line and follow each other through the dark passages

You can only enter the caves with a guide, so from our hostel (Zephyr – which is totally chill and highly recommended) we booked a full day trip – candle tour of the caves, a bit of tubing on the river and a hike and a swim through Semuc Champey.

Now, to be fair, the coolest thing about these caves is that you fully navigate with only a lit candle in your hand – and then proceed to climb ladders, scale the sides of rocks and swim through the incredibly deep pools of water with just a candle above your head.

This is definitely something you would never be allowed to do in the States… or Europe for that matter I reckon – but perhaps that’s part of the draw – it was far from safe and a bit out of my comfort zone (and we’ve already talked about those things that you’d just never do back home are perfectly acceptable on the road!).

Rows of candles light the way through the caves and sometimes deep pools of water

Once we reached the inner most part of our cave tour we all tentatively blue out our candles one-by-one at the instruction of our guide…the idea was to go totally silent so that we could hear the bats that live in that part of the cave. In actuality though we really only managed to make everyone freak out just a bit as we stood there in the most mind-blowing pitch darkness.

It felt like dozens of minutes passed by as we sat in pure silence, straining to hear the bats over the sound of our rapidly thudding hearts.

Honestly, I was pretty relieved when our guide struck a match and relit all of our candles!

Waterfalls and Clear Blue Waters at Semuc Champey

Once we climbed and swam our way back out of the caves it was a bit of tubing down the river before the steep but short hike to the top of the mirador, or lookout point over Semuc Champey.

Semuc Champey and stair-step lakes form turquoise pools down below

The pools of water shimmer in a variety of turquoises and it actually reminded me quite a bit of the waterfalls at Krka National Park in Croatia.

Pretty pools of water and waterfalls and tiny caves

All in all, the day tour ended in two injuries – my own (pretty minor) as well as one of the other women in our group. Let me just say, sliding down the waterfalls is pretty much not a good idea…no matter what your guide says. Our guide went down first and then waited at the bottom to catch us so that we didn’t slam into the rock at the bottom – he didn’t catch the one girl though!

But to sum it all up – injuries included, it was actually an incredibly fun day…and again, not one I’d ever be able to do state-side!

There’s more photos of Semuc Champey (and the injuries ;-)