You may not be able to place Guatemala on a map (hint: it’s below Mexico), but you might be aware of its enduring attractiveness to travelers in recent times; it receives over two million tourists annually. Considered a danger zone for many years due to a bloody, thirty-six-year-long civil war, Guatemala is much more peaceful these days and finding its feet again as a perennial bucket list favorite. While there’s much to explore in Guatemala, from ancient archaeological sites to pre-Hispanic cities, one of the most attractive hotspots can be found to the north of the country: a clearwater man-made lake called Laguna Lachua.
Given that its name in the native language of Q’eqchi translates as ‘fetid water’, you could be forgiven for not expecting much from Laguna Lachua. This less-than-appealing nickname comes from the unique smell that the water gives off, due to numerous sulfur deposits that line its waters. Once you get over that minor detail (you get used to it), you will quickly discover that Laguna Lachua is one of the most beautiful displays of natural beauty that you’ll have ever laid eyes upon. Why not take a few minutes to explore BUCKiTDREAM and see if any other travelers have ventured to Laguna Lachua’s way; if they have, maybe you can get inspired and see for yourself how beautiful the place really is. Then whip out that handy BUCKiTDREAM planner and start penciling in a trip so you can witness all the beauty in real life!
Laguna Lachua is situated in a park all its own: the titular Laguna Lachua National Park. As one of the most cared for lakes in Central America, it certainly deserves this honor, though it can be a little hard to find at first. The nearest city is Cobán, which is small enough by itself, housing only 260,000-odd residents. From Cobán, Laguna Lachua is a two-hour bus trip; it’s only accessible by public transport, though the route is simple enough. You’ve got to double up, first by taking a bus to the Chisec crosspoint (halfway on the route from Flores to Semuc Champey) and from there, hopping on a second bus in the direction of Playa Grande. Once you reach the National Park, you won’t be able to see the famous lake straight away; there’s a small bit of hiking to do first.
The park is 14,500-hectares large and will undoubtedly be one of the most serene and tranquil places you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The lake itself is situated in the center, which means you have to trek through the surrounding rainforests for about an hour before laying eyes on it. The 4km hike is a little rough-and-ready, but the way to the lagoon is clearly signposted. The beautifully maintained forest is full of fauna and wildlife. You might hear monkeys howling, frogs croaking or toucans making whatever noise toucans make; there’s also an impressive array of vibrant butterflies, and more than a few species of snake, so watch where you’re stepping!
Eventually, the dirt of the forest floor will turn to sand, signaling your arrival at Laguna Lachua. The almost perfectly circular man-made lake is home to some of the clearest waters you’ll ever see; impossibly turquoise and incredibly inviting, many have fallen in love at first sight with Laguna Lachua. Gorgeous little wooden piers jut out into the water dotted around the lake’s circumference, and the views across the horizon are simply stunning. Of course, pristine beauty such as this doesn’t come without a lot of upkeep; the park keepers are extremely strict when it comes to maintaining the litter-free reputation of Laguna Lachua. You’re limited to bringing a towel and a camera down to the waterfront, so if you burn easily in the sun, you’re on your own, unfortunately, and had better start scouting for shade asap. Smoking is also strictly forbidden, and while all the above might seem harsh, it’s a necessity to keep Laguna Lachua looking as good as it does.
There’re two options for accommodations when it comes to Laguna Lachua but it should be stated upfront that many people don’t stay at the lake,and instead treat it more as a day trip from Cobán or other surrounding areas, where hotels are more plentiful. However, that’s their loss; a couple of nights at Laguna Lachua can be very rewarding. The first option is to camp. There are designated camping grounds in the National Park, and for a small fee, you can sleep under the stars.
For those that find rainforest camping a little intense and would prefer to be out-tents, there’s a little bungalow cabin by the lakeside which provides a very basic and very limited place to stay, yet it is not without its charms. Staying at the lake does afford you the opportunity to catch the mythic Laguna Lachua sunrise, which we believe, is worth the price of admission alone.
Springtime is the best period to visit Laguna Lachua; March through May brings the best weather, very warm and very dry. June through November is best avoided due to ever-present rains and sticky, unrelenting heat. Wintertime is viable, but it can get downright cold, so remember to pack warm.
Speaking of packing, a traveler to Laguna Lachua needs to come prepared. Decent hiking shoes are a must for the back-and-forth rainforest trek, and you’ll need some sandals or lighter shoes to switch into for when you’re down on the waterfront. A towel is a good thing to have, as is sunscreen, although as stated before you won’t be allowed to bring it down to the lakeside. Don’t forget a bathing suit, and make sure to pack some bug spray, as mosquitos are plentiful around the lake. The most important thing you need to bring with you, ESPECIALLY if you’re staying a couple of nights, is food! There are no restaurants or food stalls around the lake, so make sure to bring your own. There is, however, a well-equipped kitchen to the side of the cabin and multiple churrasquerías available in the camping area.
Also, if you’re around for a couple of days, make sure to check out the Candelaria Caves, some of the biggest in Guatemala and certainly some of the most striking. They are half-submerged in water and are on the same route from Cobán as Laguna Lachua.
While there’s nothing quite like the Laguna Lachua sunset, which paints the whole lake neon orange, the absolute must-see, or must-do in this case, is to take a dip in the cool, tranquil waters that stretch out before you. Though be warned: swimming over fifty meters beyond the shore is forbidden and with good reason. Laguna Lachua is home to an abundance of crocodiles, so if you like your limbs where they are, you’ll stick to the prescribed limits. Tiny schools of fish are also plentiful, and they swim in right to the shore, so don’t be surprised if you feel the odd annoying pinch on your feet; the Guatemalan marine life is a little bolder than what you might be used to.
Taking a dip is a wonderful way to relax any time of day, so make it your priority to head to Laguna Lachua as quick as possible to experience it. It doesn’t need to remain a bucket dream for long, and it’s not as far away as you think. Start planning right now, and get ready for one of the most peaceful, beautiful experiences of your life.