Getting from Flores to Semuc Champey (All Routes Explained)

Despite being a small country with just a handful of big towns and cities, Guatemala isn’t easy to get around. And the 10- to 12-hour journey from Flores to Semuc Champey is the perfect example of that – because they’re less than 100 miles apart!

Even when you consider the road distance of 160 miles, that’s still less than 20 miles covered each hour. So, understandably, transport options are pretty limited.

But Flores – conveniently located near the Belize border – and Semuc Champey – in the middle of the country – are two popular and beautiful spots on the backpacker trail. So while the road may be bumpy and the traffic plentiful, at least you’ll meet other tourists along the way.

Find out all you need to know about getting to Semuc Champey Guatemala in this complete guide – including why it takes so long and how to find the best prices…

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The brightly coloured pools of Semuc Champey

How to get from Flores to Semuc Champey: Overview

As much as I don’t like to say it, a shared shuttle is the only way to get to Semuc Champey from the northern city of Flores.

And that’s not because I dislike shuttles – I used them for pretty much every journey in Guatemala. But because I like to give people options – all their options – so they can make their mind up.

But, after scouring the internet for hours, reading websites in English and Spanish and scrolling through Facebook groups. I can’t find any way of doing this journey by bus, with confirmation of the route still running post-2020! But you can read my findings in the section on bus routes below (or skip to it).

So, here’s what you need to know about getting a Flores to Semuc Champey shuttle…

  • The shuttle will drop you off in Lanquín – the nearest town to Semuc Champey – at the Exxon gas station
  • You’ll spend the full day doing the journey. Expect it to take 10 to 12 hours and ignore what Google Maps says
  • There are no overnight shuttle options, you’ll need to block a full day of your itinerary for this journey
  • But, the shuttles are direct, convenient and safe. Getting you from A to B without any stress


Coming from Tikal to Semuc Champey?

Shuttles leave from Flores Island at 8 am. And Tikal is 2 hours from Flores – so you do the maths.

I’d recommend staying the night before in Flores to not miss your shuttle.

But if you’re wanting to travel from Tikal to Semuc Champey in one day, other options include pre-booking a taxi for early in the morning. Or you can get a local bus from El Remate to Flores for 20Q. However, the first bus leaves between 6 and 7 am, so this might be cutting it fine for a 40-minute journey.

The ruins of Tikal standing out against the dreary background and overcast sky

Shuttle from Flores Island to Lanquín

Shuttles are the easiest, most convenient and only way to get to Semuc Champey. Book your ticket, arrive at the pick-up point, binge-watch Netflix for 10 hours and arrive in Lanquín. Simple.

The shuttles from Flores…

  • Leave at 8 am each day from the I Heart Peten sign, next to the bridge
  • Seat around 20 people and are almost always full
  • Secure your bags on the roof under a plastic sheet and bungee cords or rope
  • Aren’t the most comfortable but do make rest stops every few hours
  • Don’t have toilets on board and aren’t big enough to walk around on

They’re also…

  • Direct
  • Good value for money
  • Easy to book – you don’t even need to speak Spanish
  • A good way to meet other travellers

How much do Shuttles cost?

Anywhere between 150Q and 350Q per person (20 to 45 USD).

Because the first thing to know about shuttles in Guatemala is that the prices are never fixed. And companies will charge what they think you’ll pay.

When I travelled between Flores and Semuc Champey, I asked everyone on my bus what they paid. The answers ranged from 200Q to 350Q. It’s the reality of travelling in this part of the world.

You’ll get the cheapest ticket by booking in person in Flores. Head to Los Amigos Hostel (even if you aren’t staying there) and book a shuttle for 150Q.

However, there is only one shuttle a day. So it’s best to book early, especially in peak season and around holiday periods.

Booking online costs more but you can book further in advance. This allows you to finalise your trip itinerary and travel without worrying about buying tickets or having to make last-minute changes to your plans.

> > > Check the current prices and availability online for when you want to travel from Flores to Semuc Champey

Why it takes so long to get to Semuc Champey

Google will tell you this trip takes 6.5 hours. But the reality is, it’s almost double that. Expect the Flores to Lanquín bus or shuttle journey to take between 10 and 12 hours.

Here’s why…

Firstly, the ferry crossing at Sayaxché.

It’s about 100 metres from side to side, with the most dubious boat you’ll have ever seen. Perhaps we’ll call them barges, and they only carry a handful of vehicles at a time meaning traffic builds up on both sides.

You can easily spend an hour sitting in traffic waiting to be floated across the river. And unfortunately, the northern side where the shuttles from Flores wait, has the fewest amenities.

So, if you’re doing the journey in reverse from Semuc Champey to Flores, at least you’ll have some shops to wander around. Otherwise, it’s just a case of sitting around.

Secondly, the shuttles all go via Coban.

Now, if you’ll look at a map, you’ll realise that Coban is past Lanquín. So yes, you drive about 60 to 75 minutes past the turn-off for Lanquín, stop at a McDonald’s and then drive 60 to 75 minutes back towards Lanquín. Plus the time to get from the junction to Lanquín itself.

Why? I don’t know. Most of the time no one gets on or off at Coban. But at least you get to eat!

Coming to Flores from Palenque? This guide on getting from Mexico to Guatemala across the El Ceibo border has everything you need to know about shuttles, buses and common border scams.

Zoe and Adam stood on the viewpoint edge with the pools and jungle of Semuc Champey behind

Getting from Lanquín to Semuc Champey

Now you’ve made it to Lanquín, there’s just 10 km separating you from reaching the stunning Semuc Champey

Here’s how to get to from Lanquín to Semuc Champey national park entrance…

  • Take a collectivo-style 4×4 truck from the centre of Lanquín. Simply pay the fee of 25Q, hop in the back and take in the views
  • Arrive 30 minutes later and behold the glorious natural wonder hidden in the heart of Guatemala!
  • And, if you’re taking a tour (I recommend it here), transport will normally be included in the price

And here’s how to get from Lanquín to your hostel or hotel in the town or around the entrance to Semuc Champey…

  • The most popular hostels around Lanquín run a free pick-up service from the shuttle drop-off point. They’ll take you in large trucks to the hostel, avoiding you having to walk and carry luggage along unlit roads
  • Alternatively, tuk-tuks are a common way to get around in Lanquín. They’ll almost definitely be some waiting when you arrive ready to take you to your final destination
Buildings on the water's edge in Flores Guatemala

Are there Public Buses from Flores?

Possibly. Probably. Who knows.

I found this route was definitely a thing in the 2010s, but I’m not sure about now:

  • Take a tuk-tuk or taxi to the bus terminal in the Santa Elena neighbourhood of Flores (not on the island)
  • Santa Elena to Sayaxché bus (90 minutes)
  • Cross the river as a pedestrian on the boats/barges
  • Take a bus from Sayaxché to Coban (4 hours) – pretty sure this still runs costing 50Q
  • Walk to a different bus terminal in Coban to get the bus to Lanquín (2 hours) – this definitely runs costing 40Q

Another possibility based on a few vague YouTube videos is there may be a direct public bus from Santa Elena in Flores to Coban. There, you’ll be able to get the bus to Lanquín.

But, as I said earlier, I cannot find any record on the internet (blogs, videos, forums, Facebook groups) of these routes operating post-2020. If you are going to try the bus route, I strongly advise speaking to hotel/hostel staff and locals around bus stops to figure out what is running.

Another important point is that there is often not much cost saving to be had versus getting the best price for a shuttle. So, if you’re only saving a dollar or two, is it worth it for the extra hassle and bus changes?

How to get to Semuc Champey: Summary

Still not decided? Well, here’s my suggestions…

Want to travel for as cheap as possible? Book your shuttle when you arrive in Flores (I recommend Los Amigos Hostel).

Looking to get your transport booked and get back to enjoying your trip? Buy your shuttle ticket online and you won’t have to worry about anything until it’s your travel day.

Contemplating the bus route? Speak to tour agency staff, hotel and hostel receptionists or taxi/tuk-tuk drivers in Flores to find out more about what’s currently available. Or in Lanquín, if you’re doing the journey the other way from Semuc Champey to Flores.

Coming from somewhere else? Check out these guides on getting to Semuc Champey from Lake Atitlán as well as from Guatemala City and from the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala.

Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of July 2023 but is subject to change in future.

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