The Isle of Flores is a small island situated in the middle of Lago Peten Itza in the Northwest of Guatemala. Connected to the mainland by only one road bridge, the town of Flores spans both sides of the bridge, with the area on the island itself being it’s main tourism centre where all hostels and main activities are located.
The main reason you’ll likely be visiting Flores is as a base is to get your Mayan face on and visit Tikal. Even including this you don’t need more than two nights in Flores, but there are a few things to do;
1) Wander the Old Town
This Island town is utterly a-door-able! Get it!? With lots of pretty colonial architecture and colourful houses, take a look…..
2) Stay at Hostel Los Amigos
This hostel is one of the most chill, relaxing and social hostels I’ve stayed at in my travels. It’s got an amazing “hidden” central garden where you sit and chill on comfy beanbags & hammocks amongst the flowers and fauna. They do great food, comfy beds, have secure lockers and there is even a night club inside the hostel itself (but it’s tucked away at the back to keep noise down for sleepers and neighbours).
3) Stuff yourself with Street Food
If you’re coming from Mexico or Belize, it’s likely that Flores is your first stop and introduction to Guatemala’s culture and food. A great evening is to head down to the lake on the west side of the island after sunset (around 7pm) where there is a daily food market. Here, you can taste different delicious foods, juices and desserts from the various vendors. Go at it “tapas” style and have a little taster from each stall to get an idea of the different things on offer.
4) Take a boat trip
There are plenty of local guys with boats who are more than happy to take you on a boat trip around the Lake. There are some smaller islands that are home to Iguanas and some beautiful birds. There is also one island which has a Wildlife “sanctuary” on it, but it’s more like a Zoo in reality. I went unknowingly and was sad to see the animals in captivity.
I took a boat on my own and paid around 100quetzales which was very expensive in hindsight; try to barter them down!
5) Rooftop Cocktails at Sky Bar
Watch the sunset at this lovely rooftop bar on the west side of the Island!
6) Breakfast at Cool Beans
This little cafe tucked away on the North East corner of the island does great vegetarian food, fruit juices and coffee. I’m not veggie myself but it’s worth a trip here for the delicious breakfasts, which you can enjoy sat beside the promenade* that circles the island and overlook the lake. (*you’ll notice that the promenade that encircles the island is now flooded due to rising levels of the lake, maybe a take a rubber ring and have a floating breakfast).
7) Visit Tikal
This is the main reason for making a stop off here in Flores. Organise a day trip from your hostel. It’s also possible to stay in the Mayan site overnight (there are some campsites). It’s one of the more well organised Mayan sites that I’ve visited in the sense that they have good signs, routes and so on for explaining the history of the civilisation that lived here, but it’s definitely worth paying for an English speaking guide who can explain it even further.
It’s a vast complex, one of the largest Mayan sites ever discovered, with various temples that peek out above the canopy of the rainforest, making for impressive views if you make the climb to the top of one of them.
Arriving and Leaving
Buses aren’t allowed on the small island and so the bus terminal is over the bridge. Tuk-tuks can take you over the bridge, or you could even walk – it’s maybe 20minutes.
When leaving…if you’re sticking to the general backpacker route, you’ll either be on your way to Belize next, or heading for Lanquin in the mountains of Guatemala. Whilst chicken buses can be super cheap and fun way of experiencing local-life, there is a good tourist shuttle system in Guatemala that allows you to book from your hostel normally and they’ll collect you from outside.