After a boat, a border crossing and a bus later, we finally landed in Flores, a small town in northern Guatemala in the Peten province. This town surrounded by dense jungle is a gateway for the nearby Mayan ruins and visiting Tikal had been on our radar for quite some time. Flores is situated on an island on Lake Peten Itza linked by a causeway bridge to the town of Santa Elena. It is a picturesque, quaint colonial town with a laid back atmosphere where you can find plenty of charming cafes, restaurants and shops. Our cuisine expectations were low coming to Guatemala as we had heard that the staple foods were rice & beans however we can confirm that this was incorrect and we had some delicious local cuisine here.
On our first morning we opted for an early start, a 4.30 am shuttle to Tikal to explore the famous Mayan ruins. The appeal of going at this time was to avoid the big crowds and the midday sun but also to hear the jungle awakening! Having recently visited Chichen Itza we were slightly apprehensive about visiting another set of Mayan ruins but Tikal exceeded all of our expectations. Firstly 75% of the site is yet to be discovered and so remains ‘under nature’ surrounded by thick jungle giving it a mysterious and unique feel. Secondly, it was much less commercialised and so we left feeling more educated and culturally enriched. The site itself dates back to 200AD and once covered an area of 16 square km, which we were told in the height of the Mayan era was completely paved and deforested. The impressive temples are the real highlight here with a number of them being completely uncovered by archaeologists for tourists to marvel in and enjoy. We were also astounded by the ability of the jungle to completely take over an entire city and we both left here with a new appreciation for nature and how quickly it recovers.
On our final day in Flores, we spent the day on the lake, renting kayaks and paddling to a nearby attraction, Jorges rope swing. Tiring ourselves out was the best option before we endured the overnight bus to Guatemala city!
- Early morning trip to Tikal to explore the magical Mayan ruins
- Rent a Kayak and head to Jorge’s rope swing
- Stroll around the cobbled streets of Flores