Flores, Guatemala (1/10-1/14)

Welcome to our four day tour of Flores, Guatemala. We hope you enjoy traveling with us and are inspired to take your own trip. This trip was the start of our seven-month journey around the world which we began here in Flores. See a summary of the destinations we traveled to here: link.

Gateway to the Mayans

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Why Travel to Flores?

Our original plan was to check out Belize and then go through Guatemala and onwards, but after several last minute changes we decided to save Belize for another time and added the connecting flight to Flores.

Flores is located in Guatemala’s northern region and is known as the Gateway to the Mayan Ruins. As the #1 “to-do” on our Guatemala itinerary was to travel to Tikal, one of the most well-known and preserved Mayan ruins, Flores was a logical choice. Flores to Tikal is about an hour and a half bus ride.

Picturesque aerial view from the Cesna of the gorgeous island – Flores, Guatemala

Flores is a small colorful island that you can walk the whole circumference of in an hour. One of the main attractions is walking the cobblestone streets. The buildings and doors are painted in colorful pastels and even the old tattered buildings have a historic charm to them.  The island is filled with a variety of restaurants and hotels/hostels. There is even a vegan joint (if it’s ever open).

You can stroll the shoreline and catch a beautiful sunset. Or take a scenic boat ride, perhaps stopping at the local wildlife rescue center. Street food is also plentiful in the town square. If you are lucky, you’ll be there during a festival where the locals come alive. And of course, there is always Tikal!

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How long to stay in Flores, Guatemala?

We spent four nights in Flores. We believe a day for Tikal and a day to explore the city would be sufficient, but any extra days add more time for relaxation and additional activities.

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Top Things to do in Flores, Guatemala


1) Parque Nacional Tikal


One of the country’s most famous cultural attractions is Tikal National Park, which is believed to have been settled by the Mayans as far back as 900 BC. Deep in the jungle, the well-preserved Mayan temples sore higher than 140 feet. The temples were built in the late 600’s AD through early 900’s AD. Surely, this ancient city is a must-see when in Guatemala.

We spent more than 3.5 hours at Tikal National Park, from 2:30 p.m. until after sunset, with sunset being around 5:45 p.m. This was a great time to visit to see the incredible sunset over the Mayan temples.


Tikal Cost and hours of operation:

Hours of operation:
Tikal National Park is open daily for visits from 6:00AM to 5:00 PM.

Cost:
Group transportation and guide from Flores: $100 Guatemalan Quetzal (“GTQ”) or approximately $14 USD/pp

Tikal entrance fee: $150 GTQ or approximately $21/pp

(Figures are translated at our time of travel)


2) Stroll the streets


A top attraction is walking the cobblestone streets enjoying the colorful buildings and coastlines. See the pictures for further evidence:


3) Enjoy a festival or town fiestas (dependent on time of year)


We were lucky enough to be in Flores during the weekly celebrations of The Dance of the Chatona (doll). How do the Guatemalans partake in such festivities? No other way than with lots of firecrackers, parades, and locals (more specifically men dressed as women) in brightly-colored garb dancing up and down the streets..TODO EL DÍA (ALL DAY LONG) even from 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. Absolute madness, but a sight to see! To this day we still don’t quite know the full story behind this tradition.

Local dressed in festive garb
Live music and dancing in the town square
Locals parading up and down the streets
Freshly made local desserts
Fireworks literally coming off this guy’s back
A piece of the fireworks bounced off Kurt’s back causing us to run for cover. Clearly, you don’t know a good party until your dodging fireworks.

4) Take a private boat ride


We hired a private boat to take us around Lago Petén Itzá (Lake Petén Itzá), Guatemala’s second largest lake. There are many boat drivers waiting along the lake. Ask around or negotiate, so that the first person that offers you a ride doesn’t rip you off. It helps if you get someone that speaks some English as they can provide a better tour, unless your primary language is Spanish; then you are in luck.

On our first stop during our boat tour we climbed a ladder to this lookout post overlooking Flores
Sweet panoramic view of Lago de Petén Itzá from the Mirador del Rey Canek in San Miguel

Next stop iguana island where we saw these giant iguanas, sometimes well hidden, perched in many interesting places/positions

Little private island owned by the famous local beer maker Gallo

5) Arcas Wildlife Rescue Center


Another stop on our private boat ride was Arcas Wildlife Rescue Center, a non-profit organization. The wonderful people here dedicate their time and efforts to combat the illegal trade of animals throughout the region by providing care for the animals. This was a nice side trip during our evening boat ride, which was a surprise because we hadn’t heard about the sanctuary until then. The wildlife center had parrots, macaws, howler monkeys, bigger cats like jaguars and pumas, and more.

It was a different feel compared to a zoo because the animals were rescued and because it felt more intimate (we were the only visitors at that time). Some of the animals had disabilities that would make it tough for them to survive in the wild on their own. Also, we got to hold hands with the howler monkeys!


6) Eat! (Where to eat in Flores, Guatemala)


The wonderful thing about having a bite to eat on Isla de la Flores is that the views of most restaurants are along the lake and are up to par with the cuisine! You are almost always guaranteed a sight with your meal.

Breakfast


Dona Goya


Lunch/Dinner


Hotel Peten



La Casa de Enrico


Flores 101: There are also several street food options for the budget friendly and/or courageous travelers

7) Los Amigos Hostel – (Where to Stay in Flores, Guatemala)


It’s odd to put a hostel as a thing to do, but Los Amigos (the friends) was a unique experience. We would highly recommend staying here, and if you don’t, find a way to at least take a walk through it. Los Amigos not only offers accommodation, but also a relaxing spa, restaurant, a bar/club, a night lounge and small cinema. To us, the highlight was the décor, art, and well-manicured hippie garden inside the lobby. You felt as if you were in a jungle, but without the incessant bugs. 😉

Our first hostel (my first ever) together. EEK! So exciting!
As so began poor indoor plumbing…
Oh, and they clean your sh**s

*Another highlight was the activity-booking department. The walls were covered in writing with every activity under the sun and booking was made easy. We quickly booked our Tikal activity and our bus trip out to our (spoiler alert) next stop, Antigua from here.*

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Other Recommendations of Things to Do

These are all adventures that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do on our own but would have considered if we had more time:

  1. Hike El Mirador, Guatemala – Deep in the jungles of Guatemala, lies the largest (by mass) Mayan pyramid! Next time for sure. This is a five day hike out of Flores, so be prepared.
  2. Visit the Ruins of Uaxactún: Another sacred place of the Mayan civilization, about 12 miles north of Flores.
  3. Visit Yaxhá: You guessed it, another Mayan ruin. As we said, Flores is known as the gateway to the Mayans.

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? Questions for you ?

Obligatory cut-out photo
  1. What is the top activity you would recommend on a journey in Flores?
  2. Has ANYBODY been fortunate for this restaurant to be open? We walked by three times. Apparently employees are on siestas (an afternoon rest or nap) every day.

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4 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed Flores many moons ago back when I was a young backpacker (now just a boring old housewife lol). Your pictures bring back some fond memories! Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

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