Flores is a small, colorful town in the Petén province, in the northern region of Guatemala. The town center is located on an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. Besides being a pleasant place to stay, Flores also played a significant role in Maya culture and serves as the ideal base to visit Tikal. This ancient Maya city is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Central America, where you can admire the world-famous Maya temples. Additionally, Flores has more to offer, and in this article, I’ll tell you all about all the things to do.
How to Get to Flores?
From Lanquin & Semuc Champey to Flores
The bus journey takes about 9 hours, and you can reserve tickets online in advance. This bus has air conditioning, which is quite comfortable because the route is quite challenging with many twists and turns. Take a motion sickness pill before departure if you tend to get car sick.
From San Ignacio (Belize) to Flores
From San Ignacio, it’s a 20-minute drive to the Guatemalan border. Once you cross the border, it’s another 2 hours to Flores. In total, this bus ride takes about 3 hours, and you can book tickets online in advance. You will be picked up at your hotel in San Ignacio and dropped off at your accommodation in Flores.
From Rio Dulce to Flores
The bus from Rio Dulce to Flores takes about 4 hours. On the way, you’ll stop at a restaurant for lunch. Check the departure times and reserve your spot on the bus.
Water Taxis in and Around Flores
The historic center of Flores is so small that you can easily explore everything on foot. However, not all places of interest are in the center, and for some, you’ll need to cross the water. There are always water taxis at the shore to take you to your destination. You pay a fixed amount for a ride, not per person. So, it’s more economical when you share the water taxi with more people. If you don’t want to depend on water taxis, you can also rent a kayak and paddle around on your own. Kayaks in Flores is a good rental company.
What to Do in Flores?
Although Flores is not large, there’s plenty to do to keep you entertained for a few days.
Explore the Colorful Center of Flores
The center of Flores is located on an island and is the old historical center where the Mayans used to live. It was an important place for ceremonies and trade for them. In the 16th century, it was conquered by the Spanish who left their colonial mark on it. Today, you can still find a lot of this colonial architecture. When you take a walk through the cobblestone streets, you’ll see charming pastel-colored houses everywhere. Meanwhile, there are also many souvenir shops and cozy restaurants to be found. Great for strolling around and having a meal. At the bottom of this article, you can find restaurant tips for Flores.
Enjoy a Cocktail at Sky Bar During Sunset
When the sun sets in Flores, you can sit in the front row on the terrace of Sky Bar to enjoy the beautiful view. Order a nice drink and look out over Lake Petén Itzá where the sun will set behind. The reflection of the colors in the water creates a picturesque view. Be on time if you want a spot at the front of the terrace because around sunset, the terrace fills up with people wanting to take a beautiful photo.
Relax at Jorge’s Rope Swing
Across the island, there’s a small swimming paradise called Jorge’s Rope Swing. You can enjoy swimming here, jump from a six-meter-high (20-feet-high) diving board into the water, or swing into the water from the land like Tarzan or Jane on a rope. It’s often crowded here, and you can easily meet other travelers. If you get hungry in between, order some drinks and a snack. This place is perfect for an afternoon of ultimate enjoyment!
Visit the Ancient Maya City of Tikal
When you travel to Flores, a visit to Tikal is likely at the top of your wishlist, and for good reason! This ancient Maya city was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Maya history. Besides learning a lot about the history of Maya culture and admiring beautiful temples here, it’s also the best place in Guatemala for wildlife spotting. Tikal is located in the jungle where you have a good chance of encountering toucans, monkeys, coatis, and many more animals. The area covers almost 600 square kilometers (232 square miles), so there’s a lot to explore. Read all the Tikal tips before your visit.
Admire the Temples of Yaxha
Yaxha is the lesser-known brother of Tikal, and here too, you’ll find gigantic temples surrounded by lush nature. Yaxha is much smaller than Tikal, covering 16 square kilometers (6 square miles), and because it’s less known, it’s quieter. I found the temples at Tikal a bit more impressive because there are more large temples there and more excavation has been done. However, it’s also more crowded, and you have to walk longer distances between the temples. I found the compact complex of Yaxha beautiful to walk through.
I visited Tikal first of the two, and surprisingly, I learned many new things about the life of the Maya during the tour of Yaxha. You’ll also encounter a lot of wildlife in Yaxha. My guide even spotted a tarantula, which we all let crawl on our hands with some reluctance!
It’s recommended to book the sunset tour. At the end of the tour, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful sunset that you’ll watch from the top of Yaxha’s highest temple. Very impressive!
Tip: If you have limited time and want to visit both Tikal and Yaxha, you can do these two tours in one day. This is a fairly intensive day with a lot of walking and climbing, but the beautiful ruins, nature, and interesting stories are definitely worth it. Be sure to bring your own lunch and snacks, as sometimes the next shuttle is already waiting, and you won’t have time to get something in between. You can book this combination tour with Getaway Travels.
Enjoy the View of Flores
View Flores from a different perspective! Opposite the island is Mirador de Canek, where you have a beautiful view of the island of Flores. It’s just a short boat ride from the center of Flores, and you can either take a water taxi or paddle there in a kayak.
Tip: If you go by water taxi, ask if the driver can wait for you until you’re back down. This takes about half an hour.
Stay by the Lake in a Lodge in El Remate
Would you like to stay in the midst of nature in a beautiful lodge? Then it’s great to spend one or more nights in El Remate. El Remate is a tiny village on the other side of Lake Petén Itzá. It’s much closer to Tikal and Yaxha, so this village can also be a great base for visiting the temple complexes. In El Remate, there aren’t necessarily many activities to do, but you’ll find some beautiful lodges by the water. You can take a walk through the protected nature reserve Biotopo Cerro Cahui, which is the natural habitat of the turkey. There are also many monkeys and tropical birds to spot.
Special Accommodation: Most lodges in El Remate are quite expensive, but at Hotel Gringo Perdido, you get the best value for money because both breakfast and dinner for two people are included in the price. The lodge is located directly by the lake with many comfortable seating areas such as hammocks, hammock nets, and sun loungers. There are free kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkels available for exploring the lake. Because the lodge is quite secluded, you can enjoy a beautiful starry sky in the dark and clear nights. You won’t want to leave!
Best Restaurants in Flores
Maracuya – A delightful restaurant with a lush garden, where you can even sit in a small butterfly garden. They serve delicious smoothie bowls, sandwiches, and burgers.
Sky Bar – This is the place to have a bite and a drink around sunset.
Los Amigos – At this hostel and restaurant, you can enjoy delicious dishes all day long. Especially in the evening, it’s a cozy place to have drinks and where many travelers gather.
Street Food Market – In the middle of the bridge, there’s a stall with a buffet that includes tacos, among other things. Tasty, local, and cheap!
Maple & Tocino – On the extensive menu, there’s something for everyone: waffles, pizza, soup, and many dishes with avocado.
Achiote – Nice restaurant where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day long. A big plus is that they prepare their dishes with lots of fresh vegetables, so you’ll get your daily dose of vitamins here.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Flores
Los Amigos Hostel is the place to be when you’re looking for a good time. This popular hostel features a large garden, a restaurant, and a bar where it’s always lively, and games are played. You can enjoy (special) beers, and they serve delicious food. If you prefer a quieter hostel, Hostal Don Cenobio is a great choice. This hostel is right by the water and has a beautiful rooftop terrace with amazing views. You’ll have a tasty breakfast in the morning to start your day right. Do you have a bit more to spend and want to enjoy a nice pool? Then Hotel Isla de Flores is fantastic. This charming hotel offers beautiful rooms and a rooftop terrace with a pool. It’s a great place to relax!
|Los Amigos Hostel
|Hostal Don Cenobio
|Hotel Isla de Flores