Where are we in Guatemala?
Utopia Eco Hotel is about 284 km from Guatemala City, 11 km from Lanquín and approximately 3 km from Semuc Champey. Our land extends about 220 meters along the Cahabón River, offering many access points to enjoy the fresh water where you are invited to go for a tube, relax on the rocks, or take a short walk along the riverside path to a nearby swimming hole.
Immersed in the lush, green canopy, we live amongst a plethora of flora and fauna. 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 a few different ways to get to Utopia Eco Hotel, so it is always worth looking around for the best option that suits you and your budget. Here are some helpful tips to get you started...
Check with your current accommodation for direct shuttles to Lanquín, the nearest town to Utopia.
For your safety, avoid purchasing shuttle tickets to your next destination directly on the bus or on the street. Often times they will charge you with no intention of actually providing the service. We recommend buying your tickets in your hotel or with a travel agency.
To make your arrival here at the hotel as comfortable as possible, please let us know from where in Guatemala you will be arriving from and what type of transportation you will use (private car, tourist shuttle, or public bus). If needed, we will arrange pick up from Lanquín; free for bookings of 2 nights or more, Q25 ($3 USD.) for 1 night stay only.
* For a little more comfort, private transportation can be arranged for your arrival and/or departure - contact us
If you are coming from Antigua:
There are several shuttles and tour operators that work out of Antigua, offering daily shuttles to Lanquín. This should cost around Q250 ($32 USD.).
On a budget, you can hop on a public bus, however, this would be from Guatemala city. You can take a shuttle or a chicken bus to the city in order to head to Cobán. Once in Cobán, you can catch another bus to Lanquín. The total cost of this trip would be around Q100 ($17 USD.).
If you are coming from Lake Atitlán:
You can find shuttles that depart from Panajachel anywhere from Q180 ($23 USD.) to Q450 ($57 USD.).
If you are coming from Flores:
There is a direct shuttle from the bus terminal at the mercado viejo in Santa Elena. It leaves everyday at 7 am and costs around Q250 ($32 USD.).
Shuttle leaves at 7 am everyday to Lanquín. If you book further transportation through us, as listed below, the cost of your departure is included. If you only want to be dropped off in Lanquín, the cost is Q25 ($3 USD.).
From Lanquín to:
Antigua (leaves at 8 am everyday) = Q250 ($32 USD.)
Flores (leaves at 8 am everyday) = Q250 ($32 USD.)
Panajachel, Lake Atitlán (leaves at 8 am; dependent on bookings) = Q350 ($44 USD.)
Rio Dulce (leaves at 8 am; dependent on bookings) = Q230 ($29 USD.)
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 '3 month tourist visa'. After three months you will have to leave the country for a day to renew.
Note: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are 'CA-4' countries, which means that crossing the border between these countries will NOT reinstate your visa.
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 an ATM in Lanquín, as well as a bank where they will cash travelers checks and exchange USD., but only if the bills are 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.
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.
Please notice that we do NOT accept Credit Cards at this moment.
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'eqchi's and Pocomchí's 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. Don't be flaunting your valuables around, it can cause undesirable attention. Be conscious of your surroundings and remember that you are guests on this land.
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 °F (21 °C) with an annual rainfall of 70 in. (179 cm), making for a very green and lush countryside.
Here we have a dry season (March - May) and a rainy season (December - January). Dry season can be quite warm; Rainy season is damp and chilly, but warms up when the sun comes out.
Clothing / Tips
The dress code is casual. Shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits are all fine to wear, and lightweight trousers and a sweater could come in handy. 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.
Don't forget sunscreen as the sun is intense. We recommend bringing insect repellent as well.
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.
Semuc Champey is located 11 km to the south of Lanquín, in a steep valley surrounded by tropical, humid forest. There is a 300 m 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 40 ft. 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 (there are 2 viewpoints) and getting connected 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 Champey is a true wonder. Tourist services at Semuc Champey include: a visitor's centre 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 from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 6 pm.