Lanquin, Guatemala – Home to Semuc Champey, one of Guatemala’s top natural tourist attractions. Also home to one of the coolest hostels in the world, the friendliest locals and a plethora of activities for adrenaline junkies. We extended our stay here because we loved it so much… Want to know why? Get reading then!
We waved goodbye to beautiful Antigua and caught a shuttle bus to Lanquin. The journey was not 100% successful – Abbie’s travel sickness returned and our only pitstop was for a McDonalds. Normally, I wouldn’t complain about McDonald’s – it’s my guilty pleasure (bla bla so unethical, so unhealthy blaaaa don’t care) but this time there were NO VEGETARIAN/VEGAN OPTIONS 😭
Alice asked ‘Hi, is there a vegetarian option?’
The server said ‘Yes! We have a salad…. with tuna’
So, we had chips. Yummy, but definitely not enough food to keep us satisfied on such a long journey! When we finally got to the town of Lanquin we were greeted to a ton of locals shouting out names of hostels. We’d booked a hostel in advance called ‘Zephyr Lodge’ but it was hard to tell what everyone was saying! It was pretty manic and there was a lot of pushing and shoving to get out of the crowd but we eventually found a guy calling for our hostel and hopped in his truck.
All the vehicles in Lanquin are pick-up trucks. So there’s room for a driver + 4 passengers inside of the car and then everyone else just piles in the back and holds on to the sides… SAFETY FIRST . We somehow managed to score the seats inside of the truck, which we were super thankful for when we saw the size of the hills on the way to our hostel.
Zephyr Lodge is located in the middle of the mountains and is honestly the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed at in my life! The dorms are all built into triangular wooden huts but there are luxury private cabins for older guests/backpackers with more $$$.
When we arrived Alice decided she was going to take a shower. It’s an on-going joke that Alice never showers, so Abbie and I were shocked to hear such a bold statement from our fellow travel companion. Turned out that there was no water in the tank that afternoon, meaning that Alice would have to wait a bit longer. I think she was secretly happy about this… It’s almost like the universe doesn’t want her to be clean.
The WiFi at this hostel is switched off between 7pm and 7am, which means everyone is out of their rooms and in the common areas in the evening. We loved this and met so many great people during our stay. Special mentions to Dulcie and Josie – two English girls who played the board game version of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ with us for a whole 4 hours and Emjay – an Aussie girl (who we met back in San Juan del Sur) with a shared passion for massive amounts of veggie food. She even ordered dessert with me when everybody else was full – that’s true friendship.
The next day we went zip lining and tubing with the hostel staff. The zip lining consisted of 5 wires above the forest canopy. We had a lot of fun but one guy in our group, Adam, was far too heavy for the wire and crashed at the end, almost breaking his arm. The second time round he tried to slow himself down beforehand and ended up stopping in the middle of the wire, just dangling above the trees. We can probably conclude that zip lining is not Adam’s forte but also that there are no health and safety standards at all here – height and weight should definitely come into the equation when we get harnessed up.
Afterwards, we went down to the river for our tubing activity. We were all given a rubber ring and 2 beers. The current was really strong and I lost control of my ring after about 2 seconds, crashed into a tree branch and flipped over. Is anyone even surprised? I wasn’t. I lost my beers and although I was gutted about polluting the river, I was also rejoicing because I bloody hate beer. After that, one of the hostel workers told me to keep hold of his ring to save me from doing anything stupid again. Everyone laughed at me but karma bit them back when, one by one, everyone else started flipping out of their rings. One girl even ended up half way down the river because the current was so ridiculously fast. Luckily, no-one took themselves too seriously and we were all strong enough swimmers to cope so it turned out to be one of the best afternoons!
When we got back to the hostel, we found that there was a GIANT TARANTULA in our dorm. This was actually quite a regular occurrence – Zephyr is not for the faint hearted. I couldn’t sleep that night because I kept thinking that there was a spider on me. Alice and Abbie also couldn’t sleep but that’s because they had been drinking espresso martinis since 9pm and had too much caffeine and liqueur in them to rest…
The beds in the dorm were 3-story high bunkbeds. Unfortunately we were split up. Alice had the top bunk, I had the bottom bunk and there was a random girl in the middle of us, whilst Abbie was on a bottom bunk just around the corner from us. Let’s just say, the bed in the middle of me and Alice saw more action in 3 days than most hostel beds see in a lifetime…. we’re still a bit scarred for life, actually. They really are the funniest stories but probably not the most appropriate thing to share on here… If you want more details, message us privately 👍
There were 2 whole days when we didn’t leave the hostel. I can’t imagine us doing that anywhere else but that just goes to show how great Zephyr Lodge really is. We felt permanently relaxed, the food on site was so tasty, we didn’t want to eat anywhere else and the staff were always so keen to hang out with us and keep us entertained.
That said, one morning we decided we should make some effort to explore Lanquin. I think we spent about 30 minutes there in total – we got cash out of the ATM, I bought a new memory card for my GoPro and I took 1 picture…
Before we knew it we were back at the hostel sunbathing by the pool. While we were in town, Alice had made a comment about how pretty the local women’s skirts were. I’m not sure how to describe them really – they were long and colourful, made of traditional woven material. Abbie and I didn’t really think much of Alice’s comment, so when she decided to go back in to town later on that day with one of the local Guatemalan guys from the hostel we certainly did not expect her to come back and say:
‘Guys…. I bought a Guatemalan skirt’
We asked to see it but she said it was currently being made and would be delivered that night. She carried on telling us:
‘I had to pick a material that I liked and there was this absolutely BEAUTIFUL one but it was about £70! And then you have to pay money on top of that for them to make the skirt so it was well out of my budget. I asked for their cheapest options and they showed me a pretty plaid pattern that was about £15, so I said yes. I’m not sure I would have said yes if I was on my own but they opened the shop specifically for me and I felt bad leaving with nothing!’
We had open minds but when the skirt was delivered later on that evening it turned out to be a bit of a disaster. A disaster for Alice, I mean. Abbie and I thought it was the best thing that had ever happened.
The skirt was MASSIVE. It was big enough to fit all three of us twice around. I’m not even over exaggerating. It was so heavy too and Alice joked that she wouldn’t even have room in her backpack to take it with her. Although she was disheartened, she didn’t want to offend the locals so she smiled, said it was brilliant and then packed it, hoping that we might be able to get it fixed at our next stop.
I don’t think I can explain in words how funny this situation was. Abbie actually woke herself up at 3am in the morning because she was still laughing about it…. Hahahahaha, ah, these are the stories that we’ll remember, eh?
The next day, we headed to Semuc Champey. My friend Steve (who I met on a beach in New Zealand last year) happened to be travelling Guatemala at the same time as us. He had arrived at Zephyr Lodge the night before and agreed to come with us on the tour. Whilst Steve and I had been catching up, Alice and Abbie had been getting drunk with our friends from zip lining, Adam and James. I left them unattended for just a FEW HOURS and this is what happens…. hahahaha. Obviously, I was expecting them to be feeling pretty crappy for our Semuc Champey tour and wondered if we’d have to cancel. We all agreed to go anyway – Adam seemed fine but Abbie and James were hanging pretty bad. The main focus of this story, though, is Alice… who was ridiculously hyper and probably still a bit drunk. She was filled with adrenaline – jumping off bridges and swings into water, hanging off the back of the pick up truck and powering through every hike. I was truly amazed.
The first stop: The Kan’ba Caves
This part of the tour was a bit of a bonus. Near Semuc, there is a network of caves filled with water that you have to climb, crawl, swim and jump through to navigate. You’re given a candle to see (it’s pitch black in there) and told to wear nothing but your swimsuit and trainers. I didn’t take my GoPro because I thought I might drop it, but I wish I had some visual evidence of how cool this experience was. That said, it was yet another activity in Lanquin with 0 health and safety…. It’s actually a pretty dangerous in parts: every rock is slippery, the ladders aren’t very sturdy, the water is quite deep and sometimes you’ll have to go under the water, which not everyone will enjoy. It’s quite a physical challenge at times too but we love stuff like that. I’m officially obsessed with caving – this was by far the most fun thing I’ve done so far in Central America. Abbie disagrees with me but she was feeling a bit worse for wear and I think Acatenango volcano will always be numero uno on her list of favourite activities.
The second stop: Semuc Champey
When we were hiking Acatenango volcano (a.k.a the hardest hike in the history of the universe), we were told by some other people in our tour group that the hike up to Semuc Champey was equally as difficult. Surely, that couldn’t be true? Acatenango is a 2 day hike with a backpack full of camping gear, Semuc Champey is just a 1 hour walk to a viewing platform…. We were a bit nervous about what to expect.
Well, now we’ve done it we can officially say that the people in our tour group must have been to a different Semuc Champey. It was NOWHERE NEAR as hard as Acatenango! If my hungover friends can get to the top in 40 minutes then anyone can do it. It’s a bit muddy and slippy at times but that’s about it. The views were pretty spectacular and you can see all of the limestone pool formations perfectly.
After the hike, we were given time to relax in the pools. There are 4 or 5 of them all together but most people tend to stay in the first 2. When you get in the water, you’ll feel a few tiny prickles on your skin, which are actually little fishes that eat your skin. People pay good money for those kind of treatments back at home so make the most of it! I say that like I actually made the most of it… I didn’t. It tickled too much so I spent the whole time sitting on a rock. Sigh.
Aaaaaand that brings me to the end of this post about Lanquin! We had such an amazing time here and we probably would have stayed for a month or two if we didn’t have time restrictions. I can see myself returning to Zephyr Lodge in the future, for sure! Looks like Guatemala is shaping up to be the best country so far…