Flores is a town in Petén, Guatemala. The town proper is an island on Lago Petén Itzá, connected to land by a causeway, on the other side of which lie the twin towns Santa Elena and San Benito. All three are often referred to as Flores, and are grouped in one article here accordingly.
For many, the main reason to visit Flores is its proximity to Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala, or as a starting point for trips around Petén. But the city itself is a wonder — dense with colonial, red-roofed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, a historic church and Spanish plaza, and restaurants that are easy to stumble upon walking the city's charming streets. Most will find that this island city is more than just a take-off point, but a memorable attraction in itself.
Flores is a quiet and peaceful place, and probably one of the safest places in the sometimes wild north. Santa Elena and San Benito require a little more caution, but offer a more authentic experience of a Guatemalan town, complete with traffic, litter and street food.
- 1 Mundo Maya International Airport (FRS IATA) (is just outside Flores). is the only other international airport in the country aside from Guatemala City. This modern facility with its 10,000 ft. runway is courtesy of the US CIA.
Tropic Air also offer an inexpensive option from Belize City in a light aircraft which, if you're lucky, flies low providing amazing views of the rainforest. They have daily flights from Philip Goldson International Airport to Flores at 8:30AM and 3PM, with return flights at 9:45AM and 4:15PM.
A taxi from the airport to Flores costs Q20 (quetzales), or Q10 per person, whichever is larger. It is about two kilometers from the airport to the Flores causeway.
Shuttles to Tikal meet every flight.
Buses from Guatemala City and Belize City as well as various other destinations all over the country stop at the 2 New Bus Station (Terminal De Autobuses) is located 1.5km south of the causeway to Isla Flores.
From Antigua Guatemala
There are numerous travel agencies in Antigua offering trips to Flores as a one way or a day trip (to Tikal) with return. The one way is usually a ticket with the one of the bus companies (in the below) and a shuttle transfer to the bus company's terminal in Guatemala City from Antigua. They also offer round trip/return by bus or by plane with shuttle transfers to bus station or airport on both ends. From the bus station or airport in Flores the shuttle takes travelers to Tikal for a guided tour and than back into town for the return trip back to Antigua via Guatemala City.
From Guatemala City
From Guatemala City (travel time: 8 to 10 hours), you have the following options:
- Autobuses del Norte (ADN), Terminal De Autobuses, ☏ , . The final stop from Guatemala City is Santa Elena, but the bus will go to Flores to drop passengers who wish to stay there. These are comfortable buses, and the price includes a drink and a snack. The seats are two across on the left and solo on the right. Try to get a seat to the back, as you will be far from the driver's and assistant's talk. Keep in mind that the seats have different spacing for the legs, so it's worth asking to check the bus before choosing your seat.
- Linea Dorada, Mercado Nuevo Interior Zona 2, ☏ . Runs first class buses leaving Guatemala City (15 Calle 10-40 zona 1 & Centra Norte) at 9PM for US$30,"first class" buses at 10AM and an economy bus leaving at 9:30PM for US$16. Get your tickets from the official office, as the touts will sell you crappy seats in the back row for double the money and leave you wondering why all the other passengers get drinks and food, there is no food or drinks in the economy and first class buses, they make several stops along the way, and usually arrive with an hour or two delay.
- Fuente del Norte. Has 15+ departures from Guatemala City per day (17a Calle 8-46 Zona 1 & Centra Norte). Most of these are local runs with second-class buses (older pullman coaches without air conditioning), but they also operate a few first-class express buses (with toilets and air conditioning) leaving from Guatemala City at 10AM, 2PM, and 10:30PM, and a deluxe bus leaving from Guatemala City at 9PM. Tickets range from Q110 for a second-class bus to Q160 for a first-class bus to Q200 for the best seats on the luxury bus (Maya de Oro). Get one of the downstairs "camitas" and bring either a sweater or blanket if you are going overnight.
Monja Blanca has a nice bus with movies for Q50 to Guatemala City from Coban
From Cobán (travel time: 5 to 7 hours), there are a few through Fuente Del Norte local buses, or you can use the frequent public microbuses (colectivos) that operate along the highway between Coban and Santa Elena. If you choose the microbus option (total fare: Q70) you will have to change to another microbus at Sayaxché after you take a quick boat or maybe the ferry across a river. The colectivo option may actually be quicker, because if there is a backup for the ferry, you can quickly pay a couple Quetzals for a boat ride across.
There are also tourists shuttles offering direct door-to-door service from Flores to Cobán for around Q100. The road from Cobán is very scenic; it's a smooth paved ride all the way (though windy for about an hour out of Coban).
From Belize City
From Belize City, you have the following options:
- There are tourist shuttle buses from the Belize City water taxi terminal to Santa Elena: Autotransportes Del Norte (ADN) at 9:30AM or San Juan Express at 9:30AM and 2:30PM, ~US$25 (Dec. 2014), travel time: 5 hours. These buses do not make any stops in Belize; if you are travelling from San Ignacio or Belmopan, you must use the option below.
- Take a local Belize bus (BZ$9 in Dec 2014) to Benque Viejo (3 km from the border). Then take a taxi to the border (BZ$20/4 persons, in Dec 2014), walk across, and continue to the Melchor de Mencos bus station (5 min away), where there are frequent microbuses (Q30, in Dec 2014) and the occasional pullman coach to Santa Elena. Approximately US$11 and 6 hours travel time in total.
- There are private transfer from Belize City to Tikal or Flores by San Ignacio Shuttles, prices varies on the number of people.
From other locations
There are other travel agencies that offer or book onward shuttles and/or guided tours to Antigua, Guatemala City, Tikal, Uaxacatun, Lanquin, etc:
- Reino Kan Mirador, Calle 30 de Junio (Corner of Calle 30 de Junio and Calle Centro America.), ☏ . Independent agent booking onward transport and tours to Tikal, Uaxactún, Mirador (5 day trekking); Antigua, Guatemala City, San Salvador, Lanquin, etc.
Walking is the most common way to get around, and circling the whole island takes about 15 minutes. It is an easy walk to Santa Elena and San Benito from Flores. Otherwise, auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuks), vans and buses are an option. The standard fee for an auto-rickshaw in the Flores/Santa Elena/San Benito area is Q5, but if you have a lot of luggage or squeeze in two people, the fare is Q10. For a tuk-tuk from Flores to the bus station in Santa Elena expect to pay Q15 for two people with luggage.
The towns of San José and San Andrés, located on the northern shores of the lake, can be reached by hiring an expensive boat. The once-regular passenger boat service has been reduced following the improvement of the road - it's now easier to take the regular van or bus service there from the Santa Elena market, which costs Q7 and takes around 30 minutes. These buses leave when they are full, and will be packed to capacity and often beyond! A chicken bus goes once an hour; these are more comfortable and slightly cheaper at Q6, but take longer.
There are regular boats to San Miguel (Q4), a small village directly north of Flores. There is a gap between hotels east of Hotel Doña Luisa at the most northern part of the island.
Boats are moored behind Hotel Santana, and run to Petencito Zoo and are available for lake tours. Prices are not fixed, and haggling with the boatmen is a must.
- 1 Ak'tun Kan (La Cueva de la Serpiente, the cave of the serpent) (Take the main road through Santa Elena, turn left at the end of the road and follow signs. It is clearly marked. From the causeway in Flores, it is a 30 minute walk, or taxis are available for Q20), ☏ . Inside the cave are many formations that resemble various objects, such as animals, people, and of course ordinary stalagmites and stalactites. Most of the relics are labeled (in Spanish) and will be identified by your guide. Q15 (including guide).
- ARCAS (Asociaciòn de Rescate y Conservaciòn de Vida Silvestre), ☏ . A wildlife rescue center dedicated to the prevention of animal trafficking. There are possibilities to offer your services here as a volunteer. The center operates its own boat service from Flores, with boats leaving at 8AM and 3PM. Alternatively, take a boat to the Petencito Zoo, which is located nearby.
- 2 Petencito Zoo, Carr. a San miguel. A small zoo that is home to monkeys, jaguars and raccoons as well as some animals rescued by ARCAS. The zoo is a 10 minute boat ride from Flores (inquire behind Hotel Santana).
- 3 Tayasal (El Mirador de Kan Ek). Large overgrown Maya ruin a stone's throw from Flores, on the San Miguel peninsula just across the lake about 250m distant. Easiest way to get there is by boat. Haggle with the lancheros, who will want to take you on a full (more expensive) tour of various sights. If archaeology is your thing, insist on only seeing the Tayasal ruins, and that the lanchero guide you to the major pyramids (all overgrown) - otherwise you might miss them on the forest trails. The first pyramid, known as the Mirador ("viewpoint"), is a 5-minute walk from the lakeshore, with concrete steps up the side to reach the top, where a wooden tower has been built to give fantastic views across the lake. There is another large pyramid nearby, and the main plaza has a couple of badly damaged stelae, and a smaller pyramid.
- Castillo de Arismendi. The old colonial barracks were built immediately after the conquest of the native Itza in 1697; it is on the north side of the central plaza, and now serves as a tourist information centre, with a traditional handicraft shop.
- Parque. The central park is a plaza on the highest point of the island. There are a number of Maya sculptures dotted around the central kiosk; these were brought from the Maya ruins of Ixlu, at the east end of the lake.
- Cinema, Calle Central (near Las Puertas restaurant). A small cinema with removable chairs and roll-down screen that shows all kind of movies (sometimes very good titles).
- Rent. Canoes and bicycles are available in Flores.
- Hire a small covered boat. Travel across Lake Peten Itza to visit the town of San Jose. It takes about 40 minutes while enjoying the beautiful aquatic scenery and bird life.
- Swimming. Take a swim in the warm waters of Lake Peten Itza and refresh yourself on a hot day. There are several public piers on the north side of the city where many locals and tourists gather to jump off of and swim near.
- Visit Tikal. There are many travel agencies in Flores that can book a shuttle, with (Q100) or without (Q80 return ticket) guide for you. Entrance for Tikal (Q150 regular, Q250 for sunrise) is typically charged separately in Tikal. If you book through Los Amigos be aware that you have to share your guide with about 20 more people. Busses leave Flores at 3.30am, 4.30am and 8am and return 11am, 12.30pm and 3pm. It takes about 1.5h to get there. There are vendors for food and drinks at the site. It can get really hot from 10am so make sure to go there early.
- Ixpanpajul Natural Park, km 468 (Via Rio Dulce to Flores, Petén). Ixpanpajul is a natural park located a short 15-minute ride away from the island of Flores in Petén. The organisation of Ixpanpajul has a pick-up service from Flores or Santa Elena that takes you quickly to the park, to experience the great activities in the great wild forests typical of Guatemala. The activities to be experienced are swinging through the forests on a Zip-Line, taking a walk on the Sky-Way and going horseback riding. Larger groups are given discount rates.
- El Mirador. Hike to the ruins of El Mirador near the Mexican border. This ancient Maya city was once home to hundreds of thousands of people and has the highest pyramid of all Mayan cities of about 70m. The site is covered by vegetation and excavation is still going on. Prepare for a 17km hike to the ruins of Tintal on day one, 23km to El Mirador on day two, one day at the site and then all the way back through dense jungle. A tour can be organized in Flores. There is also a 6-day tour that takes an alternate return route to include the ruins of Nakbe and Florida. Keep in mind that a minimum of 2 people is necessary and therefore there is often only one tour per week during low season (if the weather allows). Prices range from Q1300-1600 depending on the length of the tour and the season and include transport to Carmelita, food, water, tents for camping, mules to carry your stuff, 2 guides and a cook. Bring good shoes, a headlight, mosquito repellent, flipflops, and some extra cash for bucket showers and tips. No cell phone coverage at all, no electricity. Not all of the guides speak English.
- Spanish Academy Dos Mundos, Calle Fraternidad, ☏ . This Spanish academy was opened on Flores in January 2008. The school offers one-on-one or group classes with competent local teachers, home stays with Guatemalan families, entertaining activities after school and opportunities to do volunteer work at an orphanage, a nursing home and a community project.
- [dead link] Jades Yaxha, La Casa del Jade, Calle 30 de junio. Exhibits an assortment of jewellery and numerous copies from masks, which were found in tombs of kings or other important Mayan personalities. Jade had an incomparable value for the Mayans and symbolized eternal life. Important personalities were buried with a great amount of jewellery made of jade in order to guarantee them a privileged treatment in the new world. The shop is worth a visit to see the masks and jade pyramides.
- Chile Salsa. The locally produced, ecological Salsa de Chile Habanero (Guatemaya brand) is really good. You can buy it at ECAO, Calle de 15 Septiembre, ☏ , or try it at Las Puertas restaurant (you have to ask for it). Maya Ik is also an excellent salsa.
- Woodwork. The road to Tikal between Ixlú and El Remate is the best place to find finely crafted woodwork, the typical souvenir of Petén.
- Textiles. Although more expensive than in other parts of the country, Flores offers a good selection. Bargain hard though as prices are hiked for Gringos.
You can also get souvenirs in the shops in Flores, but the prices and selection are better elsewhere in the country, so only worth checking out if this is your only stop in Guatemala.
Two ATMs in Flores next to Hotel Petén and at the supermarket "Fotomart" at Calle 30 de junio allow cash withdraws from Visa cards. More ATMs can be found at the airport, as well as across the street from the airport. They support MasterCard as well as Maestro cards. Cross the street towards the Maxi Bodega supermarket and enter the mall left of the supermarket entrance. The ATM is a few meters down on the right side.
Wild animals are a common item on the menus in Petén. However, many of these species are killed illegally, so consuming them is detrimental to the local ecology.
- Cafe Arqueológico Yax-ha, Avenida de 15 Septiembre. Offers a variety of Guatemalan, international and pre-Hispanic dishes. After having placed your order, you can have a look at the library with lots of books about the Mayan culture. There is photo exhibition of new and ancient pictures of various archaeological sites
- Bistro Puertas del Cielo (formerly Las Puertas), corner of Avenida Santa Ana and Calle Central, ☏ . Noon-10PM, closed Tu. This is a great place for breakfast and lunch. It is run by Cristina, a Chilean known for her support of local wildlife and her organic, safe food. Try the panone with homemade bread and choice of chicken, ham, cheese, steak or vegetarian fare. The chicken in cream sauce and the Pasta "Survivor" make this every rich local's favorite restaurant. The restaurant also serves a variety of licuados (fruit smoothies) of which you should definitely have the strawberry (with water instead of milk). She also offers wild honey harvested from the Tikal jungle and natural "chicle" chewing gum, harvested by Mayan farmers still today. This is a pleasant place to relax with a drink in the evening - in addition to the usual selection of cocktails, licuado with rum is also available. Films are shown at 16:00 and 17:00, and there are also live music sessions.
- Cool Beans / El Cafe Chilero, near the causeway by the Flores bus stop. Gets great reports for its coffee, baked goods (including brown bread) and filling breakfasts. Open daily at 06:00, breakfast for around Q15.
- Mayan Princess, Avenida Reforma. noon-22:30. Shows films at 16:00 and 20:00 Main dishes Q40, drinks Q10-20.
- La Danta, Calle Centro América, ☏ . Crepes, pizza, puyaso.
- 1 El Zotz, Calle 15 de Septiembre. A typical breakfast and lunch restaurant. Try Camarrone, a local drink with salt and lime or Licuada Maya, a smoothie-like sweet drink made of pineapple and some greens. mains Q15-30.
- Restaurant Mirador del Lago. Located on the square, it serves good, inexpensive food.
- Restaurante Capitan Tortuga, Calle 30 de Junio (Flores, Peten), ☏ . 11:00 to 22:00. Good food for a good price. Guatemalan and international food, fish of the lake, pizza & pastas, Nice place to sit outside and watch the sunset. Has room for big groups. Special menu for groups. Q45 for chicken burritos. Happy Hour from 16:00 to 18:00. Ice creams with lake view
- For the more budget-minded with not-so-sensitive stomach there are many street food sellers after the dusk usually all repetitively offering grilled chicken with spring onions and complimentary tortillas (for around Q20) adjacent to the Santa Elena Bus Station
There's a supermarket on Calle 30 de Junio opposite Hotel Petén that is open 24hrs, and a large grocery store "La Torre" in the new mall just across the causeway towards Santa Elena.
- Las Raices. Su-Th ??-??, F-Sa ?-1AM. A lake side restaurant near the municipal dock.
- Cool Beans. Cool Beans is a great little cafe in Flores. They have good coffee and great frozen drinks as well. US$1.50.
Almost all travelers will stay on the island of Flores, but there are a couple options in Santa Elena and San Benito if for some reason that strikes your fancy.
- Chaltunha Hostel. A new hostel, three minutes by boat from Flores. Beautiful sunsets over the water.
- 1 La Terraza, Callejón principial peatonal (pedestrian street that connects Calle Playa del Sur with Calle America Central, right at the bridge), ☏ . Small relaxed hostel with a 6 bed dorm. The roof top terrace features some hammocks and benches sourrounded by a lot of flowers. It has a roof so you can even enjoy a rainy day there. The hostel opened in Sept 2019 therefore, the mattresses are new. All beds have a locker and a small fan. Breakfast included (from 7am), two clean bathrooms, a kitchen and a fridge, no bar, laundry service and a place to hand wash laundry by yourself. The owner Erick is very warm and welcoming. He helps you organizing tours and transport and knows the adresses in town where to eat out cheaply. US$6 for dorm.
- Casazul, Calle Fraternidad, ☏ , , email@example.com. Spacious rooms with TV, fan, noisy AC and refrigerator - great view of lake. US$41/48/60 for single/double/triple room in high season.
- Hospedaje Doña Goya, Calle la Union, ☏ . Q100/80 for a double with private/shared bath, Q25 for a bed in the dormitory.
- Hospedaje Doña Goya II. Next door to Doña Goya, but a little roomier, with a friendly atmosphere and good breakfasts. Roof top hammocks with a nice view of the lake are available.
- Hotel Isla de Flores, Avenida la Reforma, Ciudad Flores Petén, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel la Casona de la Isla, Calle 30 de Junio, ☏ , email@example.com. Restaurant, pool, A/C. US$36/43/53 for single/double/triple room.
- 2 Los Amigos, Calle Central, ☏ , fax: . A hostel in the center of Flores that's popular with travelers. European owned with a restaurant, cheap Happy Hour, internet access and a book exchange. Skip the boxed lunch for Tikal, unless you like soggy white bread and processed cheese. Using the door to get in can be tricky. Just ring the door bell and out of nowhere you will hear this bird chime. This is their 'door bell'. Someone will soon open the door for you by pulling a rope from the ceiling. If you want to get out, find the tweety bird hanging from a rope in the lobby and pull it, that should open it. Don't use their travel services (especially for shuttles) or trust their travel information on the website. Will sell you first-class seats on Linea Dorado and put you in second-class seats on a lesser bus line. Q70 for a dorm bed, Q170 for a private room.
- Hotel Mirador del Lago, Calle 15 de Septembre, ☏ . 30 clean rooms with hot water and fan - some also have views of Peten Itza lake. There is a travel agency across the street that arrange local trips and tours. They have an internet cafe in the lobby, and laundry machines, both can be paid for at the front desk. Dorm Q25, double room Q70 some with lake view.
- Hotel Petén, Calle 30 de Junio, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfortable rooms, some with a nice view to the west over the lake, TV and a jug of filtered water. US$35/43/52 for single/double/triple room.
- Hotel Santana, Calle 30 de Junio, ☏ . Request room with balcony and view of the lake. US$31/40/55 for single/double/triple room.
- Hotel Villa Maya, 10 km outside of Flores, on the way to Tikal. A quiet place by Laguna Petenchel with a pool, restaurant, and kayak and bike rentals. There are crocodiles in the laguna, so bathing is safest in the pool. There are various paths in the area, from a 10-minute stroll on the premises to one hour around the laguna. This hotel is a little expensive, but worth the extra cost.
- Hotel Casa Amelia, Union Street, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PM. Small hotel near the airport with A/C, TV, private bathrooms, internet, and a view of the lake. US$25/$40/$60.
- Petén Esplendido, very near the causeway to Flores. Expensive (and not worth the price).
- Tikal.net and Peten.net, Calle Centro America. 8AM-10PM. Both can transfer photos from digital cameras to CD and charge Q8/hour.
- Tayazal.net. 8AM-10PM. Q8/hour.
- Autotransportes Del Norte (ADN) and San Juan Express operate morning buses respectively at 06:00 and 07:00 from the Santa Elena bus station. Tickets can be purchased from the bus companies at the bus station in Santa Elena and at third party agencies.
- Beware that some third-parties sell bogus tickets. Receptores Turisticos Peteneros S.A. on Calle 15 de Septiembre in Flores sells legitimate tickets (posted on sign at Q180, though offered for Q100 in November 2019) and includes shuttle transportation from the entrance to Flores at 06:00 that connects with the 07:00 bus to Belize City.
- Caye Caulker and San Pedro ferry tickets can be purchased with the bus tickets, but note that buses are no longer permitted to drop off passengers at the ferry terminals and therefore passengers must arrange a taxi (US$5 as of November 2019) from the Belize City bus terminal to the ferry terminals.
- Guatemala City
- [formerly dead link] Autobuses del Norte (ADN), Terminal de Buses Santa Elena, ☏ , . Has departures from Flores at 22:00 (Q200 - Dec 2010). The bus leaves from Santa Elena. Contrary to previous reports, this bus does not go to Flores. A taxi to the bus terminal in Santa Elena should cost you no more than Q35. Very comfortable seating and excellent service. Don't bother with San Juan Express, its just a tourist trap. All the locals use Altobuses del Norte or any of the other bus companies leaving from the Santa Elena bus terminal.
- Linea Dorada, ☏ . Has three departures from Flores, at 09:00 (Q190), 10:00 and 21:30 (Q150). This buses also pick up the passengers in Flores, in the same place as ADN.
- Tikal - this park is a major attraction in Guatemala, and is located 60 km from Flores. Open: 06:00-18:00 (after 15:00 arrivals gain free re-entry the following day). Admission: Q150. To avoid crowds and experience the rich wild-life at its best try to arrive around 06:00-07:00.
- El Remate – A small village 30 km from Flores with a nice, calm and rural atmosphere, and normally less crowded than other places in the area, making it a nice alternative base for those exploring Tikal and the region. All minibuses from St. Elena to Tikal (US$1) stop here. However, some large buses (US$0.30) only stop at a crossing 7 km from El Remate, so ask first. Taxis are available for US$20 from the airport/Flores.
- Motul de San José - a largish Mayan site just north of San José. Buses, minivans, and tuk-tuks operate to the site. The ruin has a few stelae with visible glyphs and a number of large overgrown pyramids.
- Ixlú is a small Mayan site near the Melchor de Mencos junction on the way to Tikal. It is only of interest to the die-hard fans of Mayan sites. There are a number of overgrown mounds, and a few badly damaged monuments. The best preserved monuments have been moved to Flores central park.
- El Peru, AKA Waká, AKA the formerly elusive Site Q, can be seen on a three-day trip from Flores.
- Holtún is a small archaeological site 60 km from Flores on the way to Melchor de Mencos and the Belizean border. A broad, but unmarked path leads to the site. Locals can give directions. The site contains tree and vegetation covered temples. Painted masks adorn the inside of one of the temples, but this part is off limits to tourists (unless you can get a permit from the guard in charge). The part open to tourists also has masks, but these are not as impressive.
- Uaxactún an archaeological site beyond Tikal, with some interesting ruins. Take the bus from Santa Elena bus terminal, which passes through Tikal. Insist that you are not visiting Tikal and the Tikal Park guards may not charge you the full Tikal entrance fee just to go through. Uaxactún is a small jungle hamlet laid out around a former airstrip. There is a single hotel but take your own mosquito net. The food in the hotel restaurant is terrible, you may be able to persuade one of the local women to prepare you fresh chicken, rice, and tortillas. Best to spend two nights, with one full day to explore the ruins, with groups on both sides of the airstrip.
- El Mirador - Flores is the base for tours to the site of the largest Mayan temples, El Tigre and La Danta. This archaeological site deep in the rain forest near the Mexican border is of huge significance and can only be reached by foot and mule train - a five day round trip trek. Expect to pay US$150-500 (shop around) for the entire package including guide, food, mules and transport to Carmelita, the starting point. An extra day allows further travel along much of an ancient raised causeway to the ruins at Nakbé, which is around 3.5 hours away and 5 km closer to Carmelita. Any agency in Flores or Santa Elena can arrange tours to these places.
- Yaxhá is an archaeological site 73 km from Flores on the way to Melchor de Mencos and the Belizean border. 62 km from Flores, just after Holtún, turn off on to the dirt road to Yaxhá (11 km). The site is not as popular as Tikal, but is well worth the trip. In addition, you may find that you are the only visitor, which offers a very different kind of experience from that of wading through the crowds at Tikal. There is ongoing restoration work at the site. The entrance fee covers Yaxha, Naranjo, and Nakum. The sites are very far apart and without a vehicle, impossible to do in one day.
- Topoxté is a small site on an island on the west shore of Lago de Yaxhá. It can be reached by lancha (boat), costing around Q100 for the 15-minute journey.
- Nakum is an impressive site some 20 km north of Yaxhá. From here it is a one day walk to Tikal, but you will need a guide. This site is undergoing extensive reconstruction and has an acropolis that is larger than that of Tikal. You can get there in the dry season with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. To get here, you have to pay the entry fee at Yaxha.
- El Parque Natural Ixpanpajul - a 5-minute drive from Flores (US$5 by taxi), which has a canopy tour, a walking loop with suspension bridges and, in addition, offers horse riding and camping facilities.
- Palenque in Mexico. Various travel agencies offer packages to Palenque in Guatemala or varying standards. You can choose to do it independently though, as follows:
- Take the 05:00 Pinata bus from the Santa Elena bus terminal to La Técnica - the last stop past Bethel. It takes approximately four hours. The last couple are on an unpaved but beautiful road - just be glad you're in the bus and not in a minivan! They'll stop at the immigration checkpoint for you, and this is the last time you can change your Quetzals into Pesos. There is no exit fee for Guatemala.
- There's then a five minute boat journey across the river to Frontera Corozal. It should cost Q15 (locals) but you'll end up paying Q20!
- There will then be comfortable combi vans waiting on the far bank to take you to Palenque. You can leave your bags in the combi and go on to immigration. It's up the bank, follow the road around to the right then straight on for about 100 metres and immigration is on your left.
- Neighboring towns - Don't forget that aside from Flores and Tikal, there is more to see and do around Lake Peten Itza, particularly the locals in some quaint neighboring towns. On the north shore of the lake, just across from Flores are San Andrés and San José. These two lovely little towns boast a similar architecture to that of Flores but set on the side of very steep terrain, which makes for quite a dramatic street stroll with beautiful views of the lake. The people of both towns are very lovely, polite and helpful. Why not come across and have a chat with the locals to practice your Spanish? And if this is out of your lingual reach, you could take intensive Spanish classes in either town along with culturally enriching home-stays. To get there, just head to the bus terminal in Santa Elena (10 minutes on foot) and wait for one of the very frequent local buses (colectivos). Local buses to and from run between 06:00 and 17:00, ask at the station for which one to take.