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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

How to get to Semuc Champey from Flores | Flores to Lanquin

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

After the 2am alarm yesterday for Tikal, setting a 7am alarm for this journey was an absolute dream!

We opted for the tourist shuttle from Flores to Semuc Champey (well actually Lanquin, the main town, that acts as base for visiting Semuc Champey) over public transport as we had heard some horror stories about the journey. Although we have travelled a fair bit in our time, Becca isn’t the best traveller due to getting a little queasy on the more hairy journeys.

Semuc Champey, the reward for travelling from Flores to Lanquin. Waterfall & beautiful blue water swimming hole
Semuc Champey, the reward for travelling from Flores to Lanquin

Where to book your tickets from Flores to Semuc Champey

There is the option to book shuttle tickets from the main bus station in Santa Elena. However, as this is a 30 minute walk from Flores island it’s not ideal as you’d have to lug your bags over there. If you are staying in Santa Elena this would be a good option.

Due to staying on the island, we opted to book a shuttle through Los Amigos Hostel (we weren’t staying there) as we booked our Tikal Sunrise tour through them. The cost of the bus ticket from Flores to Lanquin was Q150 per person (April 2023).

The shuttle was operated by Coban Travels, but the price to book with them directly was Q200, so more expensive than booking through Los Amigos Hostel.

How long does the bus from Flores to Semuc Champey take?

Our journey time including stops was 11 hours, there have been reports of anywhere between 10-12 hours, however I’ve never seen a post stating the 9 hours the tour operators advertise.

What is the bus like from Flores to Semuc Champey?

The bus is a standard 16 seater air conditioned mini bus. We had visions of the aisle having those horrific fold down seats or worse a plastic seat! The fears were unfounded, our main bags were hoisted on the roof and covered with a plastic sheet. We had plenty of room on board, the bus was full but only to the capacity of the seats.

How bad is the journey from Flores to Semuc Champey?

We were picked up at a very civilised time of 8am, after a few more pick ups we were on the road for 8:30am. For the first couple of hours, there nothing much to note, decent tarmac roads all the way. The driver spent most of the time on his mobile phone, but hey, that’s normal here!

At 10:15am we pulled up in front of the Rio de La Pasion to board the ferry, a little change of pace whilst being tugged across the river. As we were boarding the ferry our driver didn’t line up too well & there was an almighty crunch. I remember thinking, let’s hope it’s just a scrape!

River crossing to Semuc Champey from Flores
River crossing to Semuc Champey from Flores

The journey continued on, much the same as before the river until at around 11:30am, just after we passed into Petén the PET-11 ground to a halt. It turns out there’s been an accident up ahead, rumour has it that there was a fatality. Talk on our bus turns to how safe are the roads are in Guatemala!

One thing you have to love about the Guatemalan people, someone actually set up a stall off the back of his tuk tuk selling ice creams while people waited!

After around 45 minutes we were back on the road. Our driver taking a new phone call as he was driving away. 30 minutes later we stopped for our first scheduled stop at a service station, which looked to be the spot all of the tourist shuttles stopped at as it was full of Gringos.

Our stop at the services showed the crunch getting onto the ferry may have caused a bit more damage than we thought. There was a constant drip from under the engine bay the driver wasn’t happy about, he decided to jack up the van and take the wheel off for a closer look. A small inspection later, it seems there’s nothing to worry about so it’s time to hit the road again. Breakneck speed whilst talking on his phone, hurtling round corners, here we come!

A bit of vehicle maintenance on the way to Semuc Champey from Flores!
A bit of vehicle maintenance on the way to Semuc Champey from Flores!

By 2pm we were still on tarmac but the roads had become windier. Our driver definitely fancied himself as a bit of a racing driver, breaking hard and accelerating heavily through the turns. By this time we had well and truly made our way from regular settlements to a jungle filled horizon, which had two benefits. One, it’s beautiful to look at, but also the driver had no phone signal, so he wasn’t hurtling around the bends on his phone. The corners did however bring a regular unnerving knocking noise!

Around 3pm our driver had a bit of a sulk about the girls at the back of the van keep opening the windows so turned the air con off. We then had no choice but to open all the windows and had a bit of a sweaty run to our next stop at McDonalds at 4:15pm.

McDonalds stop on the way to Semuc Champey from Flores
McDonalds stop on the way to Semuc Champey from Flores

We should have had 45 minutes at the Golden Arches, however our driver was 15 minutes late picking us up. We sat in the sun contemplating what time our driver may turn up and hoped he was just running on Guatemala time rather than having abandoned us!

Upon setting off again the driver allowed us another chance with the air con. Around 6pm the air-con was off, the drivers window was opened & he was showing all the signs of someone driving well past their tachograph. I wasn’t sure whether it was a good thing that the roads were windy or not. On the one hand it was good as he had to be engaged constantly, I’m not sure he would have a chance of staying awake on a long straight motorway, however it wouldn’t give much time to dive forward if he did fall asleep! Luckily with the music on & window open he was okay.

At 6:45pm we saw a very welcome sign 20km to Lanquin. I remember thinking I wonder when the unsealed bumpy road will start. I wonder if we are going to miss them altogether?

Then 5km to Lanquin, we had nearly made it! The driver promptly turned the lights on in the back of the van which feel like floodlights after the darkness. All those on the van peacefully enjoying a sleep had been abruptly woken as if by a bucket of water, there was many a groggy face as I looked around.

Just after 7pm the van pulls up at the Exon gas station, no bumpy roads, all sealed apart from the occasional pot hole. Yes the driver took the turns at quite the pace but we made it and the journey had been loads better than the many blogs made out.

Upon further investigation after our journey, it turns out if the shuttle takes the longer route via Coban it avoids all of the unsealed roads. When booking your shuttle make sure to ask if they go via Coban, the journey will be long but really not that bad at all. After all, your a traveller, you’re made for long bus journeys!

Is Semuc Champey worth it

Firstly, as the journey in and out of Semuc Champey was nowhere near as bad a many of the blogs make out, Semuc Champey is 100% worth it! Yes, the journey is long both ways and you will spend a full day travelling in and out (read about journey from Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan here), it is windy, but it’s all on sealed roads as long as you take the shuttle.

Either way, even if the journeys were as bad as you’re expecting Semuc Champey is absolutely beautiful and it will be a highlight of your Central American adventure. Make sure you don’t miss it just because you are worried about the bus to Semuc Champey.

We'd love to hear from you if you go to Semuc Campey, to hear about how you found it too. Please drop a message in the comments at the bottom of the page. For more inspiration for your Guatemala visit see our other Guatemala blog posts.


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