The Péten region in Guatemala is known for its numerous ruins and Mayan culture. Flores is a perfect hub to visit a lot of these temples. As a tiny peninsula in Lago Peten Itza, this cozy little town is almost completely surrounded by water.The colonial town is a fantastic place to hang out for a while. Restaurants, bars, and hostels are everywhere and the town has a great backpacker vibe. It’s very simple to get a ride to any ruins you want to visit in the region. The most visited ruins in the area are the Tikal ruins. After appearing in one of the fabulous Star Wars movies, people suddenly had to go there. Keep reading to find out how to do all this.
Transportation and accommodation
Getting to Flores isn’t that hard. There are multiple ways of getting there. The Mundo Maya International Airport is located just outside the peninsula, in case you want to fly into the area and only visit Flores and the ruins. Most visitors are backpackers who travel slowly and arrive by bus or collectivo. Since so many tourists visit the Tikal ruins each year, there are plenty of buses going to this popular hub in the region. Of course, there is always the option to travel through the region with a tour. If you don’t want to travel by yourself, we recommend the Mayan Adventure by G Adventures.
Flores is small a small town and everything is easily accessible by foot. You don’t need any transportation within the city. It will take you only fifteen minutes to walk around the Flores waterfront. To get out of Flores to the nearby villages, tuk-tuks are the best way to go. For visiting ruins, a tuk-tuk is not really an option. Sixty kilometers in a tuk-tuk on an offroad track is not recommended unless you don’t plan on sitting down for a few days. Guatemalan taxis are also cheap and drivers will wait for you while you visit the ruins. We were a little worried that our taxi guy would just drive home and leave us in the jungle. He didn’t. He had parked his car, hidden in the bushes and was fast asleep by the time we returned. You won’t have any trouble finding transportation in Flores!
Where to sleep
Flores counts quite a few AirBnB hosts with prices varying between 15 and 80€ per night. If you use our link to join Airbnb, you’ll get a discount on your first booking and we will get a discount too. There are also dozens of hotels and hostels in Flores. Most of the other towns in the Lake area are quieter than Flores. We listened to “Nosa Nosa Asi você me mata” all freaking night! It is a great song, but not sixty times in a row. When the music stopped and all alcohol was consumed, one of them got sick for the remainder of the night. Apart from our sleepless night, Flores is a cool little town! Another option is to book accommodation close to Tikal ruins and submerge in the jungle life.
Mayan Ruins around Flores
Visiting Mayan ruins that are located in the jungle is a great experience. Since we like the deserted places most, we enjoyed Yaxha a lot. It is a must to climb at least one of the temples. The feeling of standing on top of an ancient ruin built hundreds of years ago and surrounded by nothing but lush jungle and wildlife. I must admit getting that “on top of the world” feeling. Sunset visits to ruins are a wonderful experience too. And if you’re into long jungle hikes, check out the Mirador and Carmelita ruins. This website lists 10 archeological sites in Guatemala and follow this link to find all Mayan sites in Central America. Keep reading to discover our favorite Guatemalan ruins!
As seen in Star Wars, Tikal ruins are pretty cool. They are the most visited and busy ruins in the area. It is located 60 km from Flores but can be done in a day trip. It’s also possible to spend a night close to the ruins if you want to visit the ruins to admire the stunning sunset or sunrise. The entrance fee will set you back around 150Qz. Best visiting hours to spot more wildlife and fewer tourists are early in the morning. Tour buses start rolling in around 7 and they won’t go away until after dark. For Tikal, it pays off to be early!
Even though Tikal are the most famous ruins in Guatemala, we strongly recommend visiting Yaxha. I visited it twice before and wouldn’t hesitate to go back there again. In this park, you can walk around for hours and only meet howler monkeys and fire ants. The few people we met were the people who worked there to maintain the park. They were so happy to walk with us and talk about the ruins and the monkeys. Entrance fee to the park is around 80Qz and allows entrance to Yaxha, Nakum, and Naranjo. Since these ruins are far apart, you need a vehicle to get you to Nakum and Naranjo ruins.
El Mirador – El Tigre – El Muerte – Carmelita
El Mirador and Carmelita ruins are for the hardcore travelers. Getting to the ruins involves multiple days of jungle hiking. The Mirador ruins are much older than Tikal and they haven’t been restored yet. El Mirador, El Tigre, El Muerte, and Carmelita are close to each other, but the distance is still difficult to travel since all of it is a dense jungle. You can opt to hike to the ruins, preferably with a decent guide. Some people choose to fly over the area, which is a great option if you have money to spare. This Carmelita tour organization offers great guided tours in the Peten area.
These are just of few of the many Mayan heritage sites in the area. They happen to be the ones that interest us most. Some of them, we already visited, while others are still on our list of places to go. Submerging yourself in the Mayan culture is something we recommend a lot. It is very interesting, to begin with. Once you start researching the theories, religion, and beliefs, you might find yourself craving to learn more and visit even more ruins!