Possibly the Best Hostel in the World

Lanquin Travel Blog

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Looks quite a tame thing, but it is a brute in places
If You Are In Guatemala, You Should Come Here
It gets a separate review, but El Retiro must make the list of the World's Top Ten Hostels. Lanquin is alright as a place, but the situation of this place a little out of town is cracking.  A river runs through it on which one can go tubing or kayaking.  Steep sided mountains rise either side and nature smacks you in the face wherever you turn: bats swooping between pines; fireflies courting; hummingbirds humming and fish playing in a swift current. 

The whole area is quite "Alpine" looking and the views of The Verapaces from the higher passes are breathtaking, the sort with sun lancing down through gaps in the clouds building in the distance. Guatemala really has surprised me with the sheer beauty of the place.
Towards the restaurant

It's About People Too
The other thing about El Retiro is you meet some great people there. Its strength and weakness is it is quite self contained in that you tend to meet Westerners rather than Guates.  But, 5% of one's bill goes to local projects, so the weakness is mitigated a little.  And part of this travelling lark is about meeting like-minded (and in some cases alien) souls. El Retiro is great for that.  And because Lanquin is such a ball ache to get to, the hedonistic, party travellers don't seem to get here (added to the fact it isn't on a beach).  It makes for a really relaxed atmosphere.

Semuc Champey
The key pulling point of the Lanquin Valley is this place.
See that bridge? that is the one I didn't jump off
From here up to Yucatan is limestone country, and that means river etched valleys and cave systems.  Semuc Champey has both.  Perhaps stupidly, I went on Santa Semana Saturday, although our early arrival means the river was teeming with locals as we were leaving. But it was also great to see the locals do exactly the same as yer average English family on a Bank Holiday - go and clog up a local beauty spot for the day.  The river is incredible - part of it enters an underground cave systems that emerges with force and a waterfall a couple of hundred metres downstream.  Above this bridge is a systems of crsytal blue pools and much slighter waterfalls.  So what better fo westerners to do that swim these pools and then jump into the lower pools, finally leaping a couple metres into the shifting turbulence of the big waterfall.
Weirdo pools at Semuc Champey

And then climb back up.


After that, we made our way to an underground cave system where we did what comes best here, defy litigation.  Armed with a candle, some trunks and a pair of Converse All-Stars, it was into the depths of the Earth to swim underground rivers and explore cave systems with very sharp underwater rocks - as my shins will testify. Man, it is insane - really, one shouldn't be allowed.  But the experience of being in a cave and having the guide take away all your candles and walk away...  Utter darkness is comforting when you know that the light is returning.  But one could also imagine how impossible it would be to escape without light. A faint terror exists just around the corner in that darkness.

The cave formations are also amazing.  I must go to castleton when I get back to see how it compares, but anyone who has seen the the "Alien" paintings by Geiger will understand where he gets his rock inspiration from by visiting these sorts of caves. 

Finally, some idiots jumped of a 7 metre road bridge into the river below before going home.  I didn't.
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Looks quite a tame thing, but it i…
Looks quite a tame thing, but it …
Towards the restaurant
Towards the restaurant
See that bridge?  that is the one …
See that bridge? that is the one…
Weirdo pools at Semuc Champey
Weirdo pools at Semuc Champey
Lanquin Hostels review
This place is fabulous, simple as that. Sleeping accommodations are a number huts on stilts rising up the side of a river bank. I got a single room f… read entire review
photo by: siri