Aside from visiting family coming to the largest known Maya city: Tikal was the highlight to my Guatemala trip. It’s a very cool place and I am so glad I got to see it. I was very fortunate to be able to see so much history this summer – from the Maya ruins in El Salvador, Guatemala and of course the Inka City of Machu Picchu in Peru, what an awesome summer! I loved each trip and look forward to seeing more historical sites in the years to come.
Flores is the name of a small hub town in Petén, Guatemala. Flores is used as a tourist travel hub to such places as Tikal, Yaxhá, Belize and so forth. It’s about an hour bus ride from Tikal and the reason why I traveled here from Coban. It’s a very small town with some historical charms like the cobblestone streets, red roof tiled buildings and the waterfront layout. Yet, it’s geared toward tourism so there are many overpriced souvenir shops, tour agencies and restaurants. It’s a nice small town that resembled the travel hub town I visited to get to Machu Picchu: Aguas Calientes. Much like in Aguas Calientes, I stayed in a private hostel in order to check out the ruin sites. I spent about four days in Northern Guatemala and had a very nice time.
I stayed at a hostel called the Green Monkey, it’s really not a place for backpackers, instead it’s more for tourist wanting a private room with air conditioning and breakfast. This trip completed my tiring two month journey so I thought opting for comfort this time around was fair. And it sure payed off as the Maya Ruins I visited were very tiring, it was great to return to a comfortable room to rest up.
During each evening of my stay in Flores, the small town got riddled with hundreds of small birds. They arrived each day at about 5 pm and left in the early morning hours. It was a neat sight to see but so many birds made it dangerous to walk under the power lines.
There are several good food options in the area, I was able to try several typical foods during my stay. But of course, the purpose of my travels here was to see the world famous ancient city of the Maya.
In Maya the name Yaxhá means “blue green water” as it is derived from the large lake it overlooks. The various structures are very well preserved and guests are allowed to climb each one of these magnificent temples and pyramids. The focal point is Temple 216, located in the East Acropolis. This is where the best view of the ancient city is seen and where each tour ends with a spectacular sunset.
Yaxhá is the third largest Maya City and it’s part of the Yaxhá-Nakum-Naranjo National Park Complex. The tour started at noon and went into the evening. It’s a very nice place. The howler monkeys are so loud and active, they really help give a stronger impression of the forest around you.
The toughest part about this tour and the Tikal tour was the very rough micro-bus ride to these sites. There are a lot of speed bumps, pot holes and asphalt-less roads that make the commute to these sites very uncomfortable. Plus the weather tends to be pretty warm and the drivers seem to avoid using the A/C. So the hour and a half commute time to Yaxhá under these conditions proved to be pretty tiring.
When we did arrive, the loud “welcoming” calls of the howler monkeys and initial sight of the first temple structure was a nice invitation. I really enjoyed my time here – the tour guide was very knowledgeable which is always a plus. In total I climbed up about six steep structures, and progressively felt the weariness set in after each. The goal was to be at the tallest temple by sundown to catch the awesome sunset. The weather was pretty warm and I found out the hard way that it’s possible to sunburn through clothing. By the time we were finished my back ached and I was feeling exhausted. I knew then that I would be hating it the next day.
The time came for me to check out the heart of the once Maya civilization. I signed up for the sunrise tour which meant I had to be out of bed and on a micro-bus by 3:30 am. It was dark, I was sunburned and still very tired from the previous tour – yeah I was definitely going to be hating it! We climbed the tallest temple, Temple IV, to catch the sunset, but unfortunately the sunrise was less than stellar as it happened to be a foggy morning.
Still, I was determined to make this trip count and see all I could – the Tikal National Park is huge; it resides in the center of a thriving jungle ecosystem. There is a wide range of flourishing fauna and flora such as the many species of monkeys, birds, large felines and an abundance of different types of trees and plants. I would of loved to see a wild Jaguar but I was not so lucky. Most of the jungle animals are easy to spot and hear during the early morning hours. Spotting a Jaguar is rare but possible in the early morning or on the more secluded walking trails.
Entrance costs is GTQ150 ($20) for regular hours and for the sunrise tour the tickets are GTQ250 ($35). You will need to buy the entrance ticket at the local bank in Flores if you want to do the sunrise tour. I packed breakfast and lunch and brought plenty of water in my camelbak as I planned to stay at the park for a long time. I joined a Spanish speaking tour and learned a great amount of fascinating information regarding the park and the Maya culture.
The Tikal National Park is Guatemala’s national pride as it is a registered UNESCO world heritage site. It’s an marvelous place, especially the city’s Great Plaza, which houses other noteworthy structures such as ceremonial buildings, stelea, carved altars and the two magnificent pyramids facing each other: Temple I and Temple II. The highlight of Tikal is of course the Jaguar Temple (aka Temple I).
I was completely exhausted by the end of my visit, but I had a great time seeing and learning all that I did. This place dazzled me and I would highly recommend anyone to visit. Seeing the Inka City of Machu Picchu and the ancient Maya city of Tikal this summer was a real treat that will long be unforgettable memories. Happy Travels!