Travelling from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey isn’t as simple as it should be. Because despite being just 75 miles apart, the journey between the two takes about 8 hours!
And I wish I was kidding. But the roads in Guatemala aren’t in great condition and traffic, queues and road closures are as common as potholes and bumps.
But even with the long and bumpy journey, tourists still make the slow journey to this beautiful natural monument with its famous turquoise pools. And it’s completely worth it.
So if you’re ready to hit the road for Semuc Champey, the guide below details all the transport options you have. Find out about shuttles, buses, tours and private transfers – including prices, facilities, convenience factors and how to book…
How to get from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey: Overview
Semuc Champey is a remote jungle paradise located away from any big towns or cities. And, the landscape around also makes the roads getting there pretty slow going.
So it’s no surprise that the transport options to get there from Guatemala City are limited and take close to a whole day. But, it’s a place that is worthy of a long, overland travel day.
Your options for making the journey from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey are a shared shuttle, public buses (1 change), an organised tour or private transfers.
Of course, you should know that any of these only take you as far as Lanquín. That’s the small town located next to Semuc Champey.
Lanquín is where a lot of hotels and hostels are located, so it’s a good place to stay. Then you can make the short journey to Semuc Champey when you visit.
And remember, all of these can also be done in reverse from Semuc Champey to Guatemala City.
|8 to 9 hours
|7 to 8 hours
|Toilets on board?
|On the roof, secured under a plastic sheet, only accessed on arrival
|In front of your seat, at the back or on the roof. If on the roof, bus helpers will access these throughout the journey as others get on/off
|On the roof, secured under a plastic sheet, only accessed on arrival – or in the vehicle
|On the roof if a large amount or lots of passengers, otherwise in the vehicle
|150Q (20 USD)
|140+ USD (includes return transport, entrance and guide)
|360+ USD (for up to 6 people)
|Makes many stops and requires a change of bus
|Everything organised for you, including accommodation
|Direct, hassle-free, only travel in your group
|How to book
|Online (Guatemala City to Coban only) and in person
|Online or through an agency in Guatemala City
|Online or through a local company
Getting from Lanquín to Semuc Champey
Open-back, 4×4 pickup trucks run all day from Lanquín to Semuc Champey. The 10-km journey takes 30 minutes and costs 25Q.
However, if you’re taking a tour or guide from Lanquin to Semuc Champey, then your transport will be included. These can be booked with your hostel, a local agency or an independent guide in Lanquín.
And it’s important to know that taking a tour can actually be cheaper than a DIY day out. Tours typically cost just under 200Q and include round-trip transport (50Q), entrance fees (100Q), exploring the caves (60Q) and you get a guide!
Coming straight from Guatemala City Airport?
All routes to Lanquin and Semuc Champey start in central Guatemala City. So you’ll need to get to the shuttle pick-up spot or bus terminal first – I recommend using Uber.
But, you do have to leave early in the day from Guatemala City to get to Lanquín that day. So unless your flight arrives before 8 am, I’d suggest staying overnight first.
The poor road conditions mean that driving to Semuc Champey after dark isn’t safe. Because drivers can’t see the bumps and turns in the road well. And as such, there are no overnight or late-in-the-day transport options.
If you’re flying in to Flores Airport or coming from Belize overland, check out this guide on how to get to Semuc Champey from Flores.
Shared Shuttles from Guatemala City to Lanquín
A shared shuttle is the perfect compromise of cost and convenience. It’s direct, hassle-free and means you can sit back and relax.
- The shuttle leaves from McDonald’s Utatlán in Zona 11 of Guatemala City at 9.30 am
- 8 hours or so later, you’ll arrive in Lanquín – the gateway town to Semuc Champey
- The usual drop-off place in Lanquín is at the Exxon gas station
- From here, a lot of the hostels and hotels offer a free pick-up service in a truck to get you back to the property. And as most tourists arrive by shuttle, these are normally ready and waiting when the shuttles arrive (but confirm with them first).
It’s a good idea to book your shuttle at least a couple of days in advance. More if you’re travelling around holidays like Easter and Christmas.
I recommend using gottoGo, which is a Guatemalan-based travel comparison site. Their easy-to-use website makes it simple to look at what options you have for your journey, comparing prices, journey times and departures.
They also offer WhatsApp support in case you have any questions about your booking. Much better than the faceless shuttle companies you’ll get if you book through third-party tour agencies in the country.
Taking Public Buses to Semuc Champey
Because, of this, it’s easily doable in one day. Although the journey will still take around 8 or 9 hours.
- Head to the Monja Blanca Terminal in Guatemala City’s Zona 1
- Board a bus from Guatemala City to Coban. Book your ticket in advance online or in person on the day, although seats are limited and unlike chicken buses this bus doesn’t have standing room.
- In Coban, walk 5 minutes to Transportes Martinez.
- Take the bus from Coban to Lanquín. This last leg takes about 2 hours and costs 40Q.
Many hostels in Lanquín and Semuc Champey run free pick-ups. Just let them know in advance roughly what time you’re arriving and they’ll give you the details.
Guatemala City to Semuc Champey Tours
For the busier people amongst us or for those who find travel planning stressful, tours are a convenient way to get around. And everything is planned for you, simply turn up and off you go.
Tours to Semuc Champey are pretty straightforward, they include transport, a hotel and a tour to Semuc Champey itself.
- Day 1 you’ll travel from Guatemala to Lanquín by shared shuttle arriving by early evening. You’ll spend the night in a hotel
- On Day 2, you’ll spend the day at Semuc Champey enjoying the caves, river, pools and viewpoint with a guide. Transport to and from Lanquín is also included as is a second night in the hotel
- Finally, on Day 3, you’ll head back to Guatemala City. Although you might also be able to get a shuttle to Flores or Antigua instead
Prices for tours can vary wildly – from 140 USD to 430 USD for a 2-night tour! Because of this, it’s important to shop around and always ask what’s included and what’s not.
gottoGo is my go-to for transport and tours in Guatemala because they’re Guatemalan-run and based. Their tours are reasonably priced and they’re clear about what’s included.
Check out their tours from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey online and see the current prices and availability.
Private Transfers to Semuc Champey
Private transfers are most cost friendly when travelling as a small group. But, for some, the peace of travelling without strangers is worth the price.
You can book 6-seater transfers for 360 USD online. Which if full, would work out at 60 USD per person – not that much more than a shared shuttle.
Why I wouldn’t recommend a rental car in Guatemala
There’s a few reasons that driving a rental car in Guatemala isn’t a great idea, in my opinion…
- The road conditions are pretty poor – especially once you’re outside of Guatemala City. Expect dirt roads, potholes, loose gravel and narrow passing places. All of this makes damage to the car quite likely
- Driving after dark isn’t safe. Not just because of the possibility of crime but because it’s harder to see obstacles in the road – even the shuttle drivers who do the route all the time try to avoid it
- You can’t drop the car off in Lanquín – there’s no rental companies there. So you’d have to be going to Flores or back to Guatemala City.
Ready for your Trip to Semuc Champey?
Take your pick from a shuttle, bus, tour or private transfer…
- Book your shuttle from Guatemala City to Lanquín
- Travel by bus from Guatemala City to Coban and then Coban to Lanquín
- Take a 3-day, 2-night tour to Semuc Champey with transport, hotel and a day tour included
- Find a private transfer company online and travel in style
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.
More Central America Travel Ideas…
EL SALVADOR: Best Time to Visit El Salvador (Don’t Skip It!)