In search of the Maya at Tikal ruins and Yaxha

I tried to travel to Guatemala on a budget, but I would never dare miss one of the most impressive Mayan archeological sites. Guatemala tourism is often associated with Tikal ruins, making this one of the places to visit in Guatemala. Flores, in Peten Guatemala, is the easiest access point to the world famous archeological site of Tikal. The city is located on a beautiful island in Lago de Petén and a 500 meters causeway connects it to another, less touristy city – Santa Elena.

Tikal is a well preserved Mayan archeological site with steep-sided temples. It definitely is one of the places to visit in Guatemala. Its most striking feature are the temples that can be as tall as 61 meters. But what is incredible about Tikal is that it is completely immersed in the jungle. Its main plazas have been cleared and the temples restored, but as I walked from one place to the other, I crossed the dense jungle, smell earth and trees, and see lots of animals. Walking around, I could see racoons, and I saw and definitely heard the hauler monkeys, as well as various species of birds. This is the jungle, and I was glad to have carried mosquito repellent as I did not want mosquitoes to feast on me.

Tikal, Guatemala

One of the many pyramids of Tikal, Guatemala

Among the other places to visit in Guatemala but yet to be fully promoted by Guatemala tourism, Yaxha is a great, less explored site, closer to the border with Belize and with similar features to those of Tikal ruins. I think anybody willing to travel to Guatemala, should as well add this to the list of places to see.

How to get there and away:

Flores Guatemala can be easily reached with direct buses from Guatemala City and Antigua. It also has connections to Belize City, Rio Dulce and the Mexican Border and there are regular flights to Guatemala City, making this an easy stop when travelling to Guatemala.

If on one of the many Guatemala tours and hoping to avoid going back to La Antigua Guatemala, it is also possible to reach it from Lanquin: Atitlan Tours runs regular direct shuttle services for about $35, the trip lasts about 9 hours.

If heading South towards Copan Ruinas Honduras, it may be a good option to catch an early morning Fuente del Norte bus from Santa Elena to Chiquimula, where there is another bus going to El Florido. The overall trip should last about 12 hours and cost no more than $15.

Tikan archaeological site Guatemala

Tikal is one of the best preserved Maya sites

How to get to Tikal:

Regular buses connect Flores to Tikal. Buses leaving early in the morning (allowing visitors to catch the sunrise in Tikal) or later on in the afternoon (for those who want to see the sunset) are more expensive. Otherwise, a return ticket should cost no more than $10. The bus can be booked in advance, deciding on the pick up time, from any good hostel or from one of the many agencies in town.

Where to stay and eat in Flores:

Chaltunha hostel, located just a few minutes by boat from Flores (transportation to and from the hostel is included in the price), is a good option. From there I could enjoy a beautiful sunset view over the lake and village.

There are plain comfortable dorms and private rooms in cabanas overlooking a very well kept garden and a nice swimming pool to cool down from the heat. Meals are available at a reasonable price. Beware as this is a gorgeous location but as it is located on an island in the lake, meaning I had to take a boat any time I needed to go to the village. Consider this when thinking about extra-cheap eating options and nightlife.

When I was craving meat, I opted for Raices and I wasn’t disappointed. The juiciest, biggest fillet steaks in Flores!