After spending time in Guatemala City, the Pacific Coast, and Antigua, we finished our travels through Guatemala with a few days in the rainforest. In addition to being beautiful and surreal, the rainforest was a place for me to face a variety of fears, including my fears of the dark, of insects, and of underwater critters!
El Retiro Lodge
Our group set off from Guatemala City in Rolan’s father’s invincible pickup truck, ready to face the rocky, winding roads. After hours of dramatic curves and mountain views, we arrived at El Retiro Lodge, a beautiful hostel frequented by American and European backpackers. The tropical grounds and rushing Cahabón River made a lush backdrop for our cabins. Each night, we enjoyed a buffet-style dinner with the other travelers and some inexpensive cocktails at the bar.
After checking in, we headed straight for the Lanquín Caves, a vast series of chambers featuring dramatic limestone formations and occasional Mayan altars. Lucky for us, lightbulbs had recently been installed throughout.
We toured the caves around the time when its bats wake up for the night, and we felt them fly all around us as we made our way out of the cave!
The next day, we headed to the turquoise, tiered pools of Semuc Champey. Our steep and sweaty hike to el Mirador (the Lookout) rewarded us with stunning views. It was especially fun to watch the tiny swimmers hopping and sliding from pool to pool.
After hiking back down, we cooled off by swimming in the clear water and relaxing on the limestone formations. We even used a waterfall as a slide!
Later, we paid a visit to sunny Lake Lachuá, located in the middle of a national park. A leisurely walk through forest preserve brought us to a beautiful swimming spot frequented by locals. While the tiny, nibbling fish scared me out of the water after a few minutes, Rolan took great joy in following around the biggest fish with a GoPro waterproof camera.
Our last and most adventurous activity was three hours of inner tubing through the Candelaria Caves, whose caverns are carved out by the Candelaria River. Given the caves’ majestic and other-worldly appearance, it is unsurprising that they are sacred in the Mayan tradition.
For much of our journey, we paddled along in complete darkness—just us, our guide, and some blind fish. Every now and then, openings in the caves allowed the sun to stream in, revealing the turquoise hue of the water and every detail of the caves’ formations. I’ve rarely seen anything so beautiful.
After three hours of riding through the caves, we exited into the daylight and hit the road back to Guatemala City.
Until next time, Guatemala!