Semuc Champey & Lanquín
The village of Lanquín, 56 km east of Cobán, is the starting point to visit two natural wonders that are reason enough to take on the long and bumpy journey from Flores or Río Dulce. On the eastern edge of the province of Alta Verapaz, on the border with the lowlands of Izabal, hides the […]
On the eastern edge of the province of Alta Verapaz, on the border with the lowlands of Izabal, hides the gigantic cave system of the Grutas de Lanquín, even if only a comparatively small section of the more than 100 kilometres that make up the cave tangle is accessible to visitors.
The cave is traversed by the Lanquín River of the same name, which flows a few kilometres downstream into the Cahabón River, notorious for its rapids.
Some of the bizarre limestone formations are named after animals or other objects they resemble. Some of the halls still serve as places of worship for the Mayan population. The most famous is “El Altar de la Picota”, whereas e.g. the place called “Bridge of the Falling King” got its name only in 1958, when an old wooden bridge collapsed under the weight of the Belgian king Leopold.
A special spectacle is to be seen every evening at dusk, when the cave dwellers, thousands of bats, leave the cave in a huge swarm and start hunting.
Where the Lanquín emerges from the cave, so-called tubing tours are offered, where the participants drift downstream in old truck tyre tubes.
Even more spectacular than the Grutas de Lanquín are the limestone sinter terraces of Semuc Champey with their unreal turquoise water, which is due to mineral erosion.
At Semuc Champey, the Cahabón forms a natural limestone bridge that is largely crossed underground by the river’s water, while a smaller part is collected in seven above-ground basins or terrace pools that are one to three metres deep. This rare phenomenon can be admired over a length of almost 500 metres before the main stream finally reappears with a roar as a small waterfall.
The best view of the travertine terraces can be enjoyed from a vantage point that is reached by a short, but rather arduous path that is as steep as it is slippery.
During the rainy season it may happen that the sight of the turquoise basins is denied to the visitor as the then swollen river washes over the terraces with its muddy water.