Flores, Guatemala: The Gateway to Tikal

I arrived to Flores, Guatemala late at night after crossing the Belizean border (one of the easiest border crossings ever!) and hopping on a chicken van that takes about two to three hours depending on how many times it breaks down in the middle of the road.

As soon as I boarded a Tuk-Tuk to reach the island of Flores from the nearby town of Santa Elena I was surprised by the pitch-black darkness that surrounded the place.

Turns out there was a strong wind that knocked down the power cable at the bridge so I had to walk all the way to the dock of Flores in order to take a boat to my hostel, located in San Miguel, a piece of land directly across from Flores.

The pitch black boat ride with only one candlelight to lead the way remains as one of my favorite experiences of my Central American journey!

Panoramic view of Flores Guatemala

Panoramic view of Flores Guatemala

The Island of Flores, Heartland of the Peten Region

The morning after the blackout, the first ray of sun hit the island of Flores and that’s when I knew it: Guatemala is definitely one of the most beautiful and overlooked places in all of the world!

Sure, most visitors will only spend a few hours exploring Flores since they will only use it as their base to visit the nearby Mayan ruins of Tikal but hey, it’s their loss.

Last week I spent one complete day discovering the hidden beauty of this small lovely town. Here’s a few of the main attractions I found.

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #01: Relax near the lake

Flores is one of the most peaceful touristy towns since most visitors are absent during the day so you can take advantage of that to enjoy unrivaled views and local prices all around.

My favorite spot is this place located in the Santa Elena-Flores bridge. I definitely love the effect of the sunken wooden bridges and the reflection of the water.

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #02: Visit the Mundo Maya International Mall:

Yes, I know what you’re thinking “A shopping mall, really?”. This mall located just after the Santa Elena-Flores bridge is actually home to some amazing replicas of the Mayan estelas that can be found in Copan.

If you cannot make it there, at least you can enjoy these impressive monoliths located outside the mall!

Maya Mall Flores Guatemala

Mundo Maya International Mall

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #03: Take a boat to San Miguel and back:

For the small price of 5 quetzals (less than 1 USD!), you can take a shared boat San Miguel, where you can go to any nearby hill to get a panoramic view of Flores.

My favorite part, however, is the boat ride back to Flores. Seeing this medieval-looking city from the middle of the lake is a breath-taking experience!

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #04: Visit the Mayan Ruins of Tikal

From Flores, a one day trip to Tikal is extremely easy to arrange. You can go either by local bus or by tourist van. Prices are not that different but you’ll definitely save a lot of time by taking the tourist van.

Stay tuned next week for an in-depth article about the ruins of Tikal and the day I befriended a tarantula!

Tikal in Guatemala

Tikal in Guatemala

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #05: Enjoy Local Life at the Main Square

Did you know you can eat and drink like a king for only 20 quetzals (3 USD)? The street food vendors and the small restaurants in the main plaza of Flores (just follow the white church and you’ll be there in seconds) is where the locals eat and drink so everything is super cheap.

I remember I had lunch at a small restaurant called El Mirador. Watching the Guatemalans go crazy due to the Champion’s League was a very good local experience! They sure scream louder than the howler monkeys!

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #06: Go bird-watching at the Lake

Sure, you won’t find any exotic bird here in Flores (for that you have to go to Tikal) but you can certainly find many interesting photo opportunities thanks to the sunken wooden bridges and the amazing reflections at the lake.

Even a boring bird can create a very unique photo!

Flores Guatemala and the lake

The boat ride from San Miguel to Flores

Top 7 Things to Do and See in Flores, Guatemala #07: Explore Flores by Night

If you’re lucky, you will see some unique water reflection effects thanks to rain and floods. Yes, I know that sounds awful but floods sure bring out some of the best photos opportunities. Take this one for example!

Magical, isn’t it?

How many days should you spend in Flores?

That is entirely up to you. My personal recommendation would be to spend two nights and two days. On day one I explored Flores itself while on day two I went to Tikal before boarding the night bus all the way to Antigua, Guatemala.

I know most people only spend one night and one day here since it IS a very small town (you can walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes) but trust me, you’ll end up loving it!

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Have you ever been to Flores? Would you like to?  Share your comments and let me know what you’re thinking.

Things to Do and See in Flores Guatemala Central America Travel

Pin to Pinterest?

19 Responses

  1. Tim

    Another trip down memory lane for me Raphael and much appreciated. I went to Flores in 1991 and loved it and the surrounding area. It really doesn’t look like it has changed much; except for the tuk-tuk :)

  2. Marilyn

    On a visit to this area about 12 years ago, I enjoyed a boat trip in a little wooden lancha skippered by a shy teen-aged boy. He took me to a small zoo on the other side of the lake and all around the island. It was fun, and this inspires me to look up the photos I took (before I had a digital camera!)

  3. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey

    I am never really sure if I’ll ever make it to this part of the big wide world, so thanks a bunch for teaching me something about a place I had never given much thought to.

  4. Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster

    I LOVE Flores! Well, Guatemala in general. I would go back in a heartbeat and hope to soon. :-) We spent one night at Los Amigos Hostel on Flores, which was awesome. We explored the town a bit in the morning before taking the bus to Tikal for an overnight at Tikal Inn. I wished we were able to explore Flores more. Your photos are lovely as always and I can’t wait to read more about your travels in Guatemala.

  5. Charli

    This looks like such a quaint little town and so full of vibrant colours! I’ve yet to see much of Central America but this has inspired me to add Flores to my list!

  6. y. P.

    what a great post – and wow – the pole lying on the ground was wild. and my favorite photo was “The magical vibe of Flores by night” – even though the whole post flowed so nicely – beautiful place mi amigo!


  7. Dave Cole

    I am dying to explore more of Central America precisely to experience towns like Flores. Cheap, authentic and beautiful are great qualities. It seems like some people may miss out on all Flores offers, so I’m glad you took the time to properly see the island.

  8. Jules

    Takes us back to time spent in Guatemala and our trip to Flores/Tikal. Awesome spot! Great photos :)

  9. Rashad Pharaon

    What great shots, looks like a very romantic town. It’s interesting how they have tuk tuks very similar to those of Thailand :)

  10. Elena

    Tikal looks so similar to Chichen Itza or it is just me? That´s my next big project everything between Costa Rica and Mexico :)

  11. Margherita @The Crowded Planet

    Amazing post! As a MASSIVE GoT fan I couldn’t help but read this, and now I really really want to go. I’ve been planning a Central America trip and postponing it for years, I guess 2015 will be the year for me, and I’ll be able to wander around Flores humming the theme!

  12. Megan Claire

    Amazing photos! I’ve been hearing more and more about Guatemala recently – I hope to get there before it becomes too mainstream touristy!

  13. Jenna

    Gorgeous photos! I love the sunken bridge. Guatemala looks like a great place–I would love to stop at the ruins of Tikal, but I hope not to befriend a tarantula :)

  14. Chris Boothman

    Thanks so much for linking up with us in #WeekendWanderlust – this is a really great article showcasing a spot that would be great to explore on a weekend trip!

    Flores looks like a really intriguing town in Guatemala despite only being relatively small. These types of places for us are usually a one day trip where we pass through, so perfect for a Weekend Wanderlust trip I think (if you are in the region). However, despite it’s small size it looks like a city that can pack a punch so to speak with a variety of things to see and experience, whether it is relaxing by the lake that interests you or sampling some of the local cuisine and shopping scene.

  15. Travelling Penster

    Great article! In my experience, Flores gets a bit of bad rap with travellers in Guatemala (most saying it’s a bit boring and the only thing good about it is its proximity to Tikal). I loved it there as much as you – pretty, relaxed feel, friendly people, and cheap! … Just heading over to read your Tikal post now :)

  16. Shelley Kowalyshen

    Thanks for this! I was there in 1999, and would love to journey back again! The people of Guatemala are amazing as well! So welcoming, and love to share about their country! Great shot of Tikal! I took 2 days to go through it all with my students. It was a wonderful experience for us all! Flores is like being in ajother time, or world! We happen to be there during a carnival, and it was so fun, the whole town was up all night! So thanks again for bringing back some memories for me! Enjoy your journey!

  17. John

    Interesting town for a few hours. Hot and humid. Medieval? Not by a long shot.

  18. Halef

    Thank you so much for the pointers! I will be in Flores next week and I’m super excited to explore Flores and Tikal – especially after reading your blog post!