Flores and Tikal are two of Guatemala’s most popular tourist destinations. And they were the next stop on my Central American journey.
From Antigua we caught a private minibus, making a few stops at petrol stations and roadside restaurants along the way. Guatemala is not an easy place to get around. The roads aren’t always sealed, the local chicken buses are kind of a terrifying prospect and there are big distances between cities and towns. The journey took about 10 hours, and I spent it listening to audiobooks because that’s the type of person I am.
The town of Flores is located on a tiny little island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza. People do live here, but it also caters to tourists who are visiting the nearby temples of Tikal. You can walk around the entire island in about 15 minutes, through narrow streets lined with colourful shops and buildings. The edges of the island are lined with restaurants and bars that look out over the water.
It’s possible to do lots of active things like kayak and swim while staying in Flores. I spent most of the time in the hotel pool. In the afternoon we took a boat out around the lake to watch the sunset. The boat wasn’t exactly fast moving but it was definitely nice to get a good look at Flores.
After two nights we were ready to visit Tikal and move on to our next destination: Belize.
Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city that dates back as far as the 4th century BC and peaked between 200-900 AD. It was a very important part of the Maya civilization which stretched across most of Central America. The temples were rediscovered by people from outside Guatemala in the 19th century, and it is now a pretty big tourist attraction. Oh and George Lucas used a shot from one of the temples for about 1 second in the first Star Wars movie.
We had to get up early, because it gets unbearably hot at Tikal and it’s best to get there as the sun is rising. So we all loaded into our bus before the sun was even up. It was definitely an early start. The drive took about an hour, and the sun was just starting to rise when we arrived.
We had a local guide who was a total expert on the history of Tikal. There’s a lot of walking to do, because this was a city and things are quite spread out. Tikal is a really interesting place, and unlike in most other countries they allow you to climb all over the temples. Some of the steps were pretty steep so this could actually be very dangerous.
We stayed at Tikal for a few hours, and it started to get hotter and hotter. The early start had definitely been worth it, and as we left we saw more and more tourists pouring into the site. I was pretty happy to get back on our airconditioned bus after all that time in the hot sun!
We stopped nearby for lunch and then it was back in the bus to start our drive to the Belizean border.