A rocky descent to the Río Cahabón for a dip in the turquoise pools and tromp through the caves
Dist: 73 km; Date: Feb 2017
You leave the pleasant city of Cobán going northeast on sinuous, forested Highway 5. This 51 km stretch will take well over an hour for all the lovely curves. There will be some truck-passing but traffic shouldn’t be too bad as the main artery to the north is Highway 9 through Chisec. At the small community of Pajal Highway 5 turns to dirt but this is where you’re making a hard right onto descending, unpaved Highway 6. Before jumping onto 6, you might grab a cold drink at the small roadside shop. From the Highways 5 and 6 intersection, it’s a 12 km off-tarmac stretch that’s not too rocky, gravelly, or sandy to the town of San Agustín Lanquín.
Not much to see in Lanquín, but the small Catholic church offers a night resting point before throwing yourself into a 10 km plunge to the Semuc Champey Natural Monument at the valley floor. This is a much tougher challenge than the first half but, fortunately, the most precipitous slopes are paved with parallel tracks, which between them offer a glimpse of the suspension-busting brutality that you would otherwise face. Bucolic hillsides and lush scenery abound throughout so it’s easy to turn this into a much longer trip if you’re constantly stopping for photography. Around the natural monument are several hostels – all quite rustic. Utopia Eco Hotel is the only one that I know has a couple private rooms in addition to the shared bunks.