Semuc Champey, Guatemala
These beautiful cascades are the must see destination for every tourist visiting Guatemala. The aqua pools sit on a natural limestone bridge above the River Cahabón which flows underneath.
Set in thick jungle, the dozen or so large protected pools have crystal clear water and are fed by filtered water that seeps through the mountain earth. When the sun is out it is easy to whittle away the afternoon here. Hike to the Mirador (lookout) for a picture postcard photo from high above the valley. Prior to entering the pools visit the cave across the river for an eerie candlelight experience.
At the end of the day take a one hour tube ride to Utopia Eco Hotel, a gorgeous lodge on the river that offers a super chilled out vibe. Hold onto your beer through the rapids.
Entrance fees: Semuc Champey, 50Q; caves, 60Q; tubing to Utopia, 60Q.
Accommodation: El Portal (next to Semuc Champey) or Utopia Eco Lodge (one hour walk down river) are 9km from the nearest town of Lanquin.
Utopia charges almost double for tours and transport shuttles so it is worth making your own way to Semuc Champey on foot and booking your transport in Lanquin. 50Q for a dorm bed plus 25Q for return transport to Lanquin. Private cabanas are available.
Zephyr Lodge is set on a hill overlooking a valley on the edge of Lanquin which is 9km from Semuc Champey. It has a pool and reasonably priced food and tours. This is a party hostel. 70Q for a dorm bed.
Transport: Shop around and you can get transport between Lanquin and Antigua for between 85-100Q. Shuttles also run to Flores and Rio Dulce.
Dangers and annoyances: It is strongly advised to travel during the day between Lanquin and Flores with recent reports of a violent armed hold up of a tourist shuttle by plan-clothed police.
Some people are reporting food poising type symptoms after visiting Semuc Champey and some have suggested the river rather than the filtered pools may be problem.
Bed bugs are rife in Semuc Champey and Lanquin.