Where are we in Guatemala?
Utopia Eco Hotel is about 284 km from Guatemala City, 11 km from Lanquin and approximately 3 km from Semuc Champey. Our land extends about 700 feet / 220 meters along the Cahabon River. This access to the river is great for tubing, relaxing on the rocks or taking a short walk down the riverside path to a nearby swimming hole. There are at least 90 different species of birds to see while strolling along the many paths that meander through the wild flowers, coffee trees and cacao plantations.
Getting to Utopia
There are many ways to get to Utopia Eco Hotel, so it is always worth looking around for the best trip to suit you and your budget, but here are some tips to get you started. There are several shuttles and tour operators working out of Antigua, offering daily shuttles to Lanquin, which is the nearest town to Utopia. Let us know when you will be arriving and we will pick you up from Lanquin. On a budget, you can hop on a public bus headed for Coban, followed by another bus from Coban to Lanquin, and the total cost would be around $6 USD. For a little more comfort, private transportation can be arranged for you - contact us and we can arrange a pick up for you.
Transportation from Utopia
All shuttles leave at 7am
- Q25 to Lanquin
- Q170 to Antigua
- Q245 to Lake Atitlan
- Q185 to Flores
- Q185 to Rio Dulce
Private transportation available, contact us for more information.
Passport / Visa
All travelers will need a passport valid for six months to enter Guatemala. No visas are required when citizens are from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.A. On arrival in the country, you will be issued a 'one month tourist visa', which can be renewed each month for approximately $45 per additional month. After three months you will have reached the national limit for a tourist visa and you will have to leave the country for three days. Upon return, you can either carry on using your 'tourist visa' or apply for a work permit or residency.
The national currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal. The US dollar is NOT widely accepted so it’s wise to have a supply of local currency on hand. There is one bank in Lanquin where they will cash travelers checks and exchange USD, but only if in excellent condition (no marks, tears or imperfections of any kind). They will NOT give cash advances on your credit or debit cards and you WILL need to present your passport to do a currency exchange in Guatemala. Please check your money / bills before leaving for Guatemala. There is an ATM machine in Lanquin. At Utopia Eco Lodge we accept payment via PayPal with a 3% fee or in cash USD (exchange rate of 6.5) but again only bills in good condition. We accept credit cards with a 17% fee.
The national language of Guatemala is Spanish: very little English is spoken so you may want to bring a dictionary or take part in our Spanish School. The indigenous people of this region speak mostly Q’eqchi. Because of its unique history, the native people of the Alta Verapaz department have preserved much of their language and customs. Alta Verapaz was never 'conquered'; rather, Juan Matalbatz, the chieftain of the warlike Q'eqchi people, voluntarily converted to Christianity and allied himself with the Dominican priests. The dominant language of Alta Verapaz remains Q'eqchi, and Pocomchí, not Spanish. The Q'eqchis and Pocomchís are shy and wary of strangers, but if you can say a few words in their language, they respond warmly ("en-kwan-bee" means "hello"; "ban-tee-osh" means "thank you").
As you tour around Utopia you will encounter our personal security guards. Although this area is generally safe for tourists and visitors alike, normal precautions should be taken. When walking at night in remote places you need to bear in mind that you are in a third world location.
Weather / Climate
The climate here is often referred to as the land of 'eternal spring' so you should be prepared for a range of temperatures. The average temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Annual rainfall of 70 inches makes the countryside green and lush. The dry season (March - May) can be quite warm; the winter months (December - January) very chilly and damp but when the sun comes out it warms up again. Always be sure to drink plenty of water. There are no particular health hazards in the highlands so no special precautions are necessary. However, it is advisable to avoid eating street food and bring insect repellent.
Clothing / Dress Code
The dress code is casual. Shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits are all fine to wear, and lightweight trousers and shirts may also come in handy. Don't forget sunscreen as the sun is intense. Lightweight flip-flops or sandals are perfect for everyday use but if you're planning on doing some of our more adventurous activities, then more robust footwear will be needed. You may want to bring a pair of shoes for the river and a pair of hiking shoes or boots for the trails.
Semuc Champey is located 11km to the south of Lanquín, in a steep valley surrounded by tropical humid forest. There is a 300m long limestone bridge, above which there are several natural pools of different sizes, filled with crystalline mountain spring water. The pools are 3-14 ft deep. Underneath the bridge is the Cahabón River. At the end of the bridge, the water from the pools falls and rejoins the river, forming a 40ft waterfall. The color of the water changes during the year depending on the season, sun and other natural factors, making for unique photo opportunities. It is a beautiful and idyllic place. Activities include: swimming, hiking, birdwatching, spending quality time with family and friends, meditating, admiring the surroundings from two viewpoints and getting close to nature. Semuc Champey has a diversity of flora and fauna, including 90 species of birds, 34 mammals, 25 reptiles and amphibians, and 10 species of fish. There are more than 120 species of trees and shrubs. Here is what the doctor and journalist from Solola, Epaminondas Quintana, said about Semuc Champey: “we are sad to say that there is something better than Lake Atitlán and surprised that there is something better than the gulf of Río Dulce, but there is…Semuc Champey is better, given its uniqueness, more marvelous than Panajachel and the Gulf of Polochic. There are magnificent lakes by the hundreds in the world, and rivers similar to Izabal. There are NO two rivers that meet like in Semuc Champey, there can’t be, not even in unexplored parts of Africa, nor in the Amazon jungle, nor in any part of the world.” Semuc Champy is a unique wonder of the World. Tourist services at Semuc Champey include: a visitor's center with bathrooms, a wooden shelter near the pools, an entrance fee hut, and a parking area. Entrance fees are Q30 for nationals and Q50 for foreigners. Semuc Champey is open every day of the year from 8am to 6pm.