Flores is a unique and increasingly popular destination in northern Guatemala. And not without reason. The old center is located on an island in Lake Peten Itza and you can enjoy beautiful green views and warm sunsets. But Flores is also known for its magnificent Mayan ruins, the most famous of which is Tikal, located some 60 km from the city. You can read about the best things to do in Flores in this post.
Must do’s in Flores Guatemala
Strolling around the old center
The center of Flores is easy to explore by foot and everything is within walking distance. In no more than 15 minutes you can walk from one side of the island to the other.
What makes the old center of Flores so special is that it is located on an island. At times of high water levels, the lake intrudes into the city walls which causes a remarkable scene. Also the inhabitants of the lake such as frogs and small fish are literally swimming through the streets.
Try the dirt cheap taco’s at the main square
There are plenty of good restaurants in Flores for every price range. But if you really want to eat local and cheap, I can recommend Tacos los Peces in the central square. The woman at this stall sells really tasty and especially super cheap tacos, burritos and tosdadas. For 22Q you can try them all with a drink to go with it!
A visit to Tikal is a must during your stay in Flores. These 1,700-year-old Mayan ruins may not be the largest you will find in Guatemala, but Tikal was one of the most powerful cities of the Mayans.
Walking past the remains of this city is very special. Bizarre to realize is that only 20% of the original city was excavated to this day. Some structures can also be climbed by wooden stairs, or via the carved stone steps.
One recommendation is to go early in the morning because it can get extremely hot during the day. You will also have a better chance of spotting wildlife that often hides during the day.
It’s nice to visit Tikal with a tour because it allows you to learn much more about its history. In fact, there are a very limited number of information boards. Tours can be booked at several places in the city. At Los Amigos Hostel you pay 130Q and at Getaway Travels a tour costs 110Q. On top of the cost of a tour, you also pay the park entrance fee of 150Q.
If you opt for a tour, the options are to be picked up in the morning at 4:30, 6:00, 8:00 or 10:00 am. From Flores, it’s about a 1.5-hour drive.
It’s possible to stay overnight in the park, in the middle of the jungle, for example at the Jungle Lodge Tikal Hostal. An even more special experience is to camp in Tikal. You can do so for 50Q per night, but you will need your own camping gear.
Tip: er is geen ATM in de nabije omgeving, dus neem voldoende cash mee voor de entree en voor eventueel een hapje of drankje in het begin van het park. Je kunt ook zelf een lunchpakketje meenemen door bijvoorbeeld de dag van te voren een dikke sandwich te halen van de lokale bakkerij voor 40Q. Of haal spotgoedkope pupusas en een kipsandwich bij de mevrouw op de hoek tegenover de apotheek.
Tip: there is no ATM in the nearby area, so bring enough cash for the entrance fee and for any snacks or drinks at the beginning of the park. You can also pack your own lunch by, say, getting a big fat sandwich from the local bakery the day before for around 40Q. Or get dirt cheap pupusas and a chicken sandwich from the lady on the corner across from the pharmacy.
Jorge’s rope swing
Another popular activity in Flores is Jorge’s rope swing on the other side of the lake. From this rope swing you swing from a considerable height into the warm lake. The swing was once installed by a family near their home and attracted many visitors. Nowadays it’s a well-known spot for many travelers to spend an afternoon.
There’s an entrance fee of 25Q, which allows you to stay as long as you like. You can bring your own drinks and snacks, but they also sell a variety of options.
To get there you’ll have to take a boat from Flores. You can try to arrange a boat sporadically at the north end of the island, or ask your ho(s)tel for a favor. Pay no more than 150Q round trip and agree with the driver to pick you up again at a certain time.
You can also choose to paddle there in your own rented canoe. Just make sure you paddle back around 5:30 p.m. to avoid being on the water in the dark.
Going for drinks on the weekend
If you’re looking for cheap food and drinks, walk to the south of the city, toward the bridge that connects downtown Flores to the mainland. Here you will find many local restaurants, food stalls and fun bars.
Fridays and Saturdays are kinda the only days it’s really lively here when locals from the rest of the city know how to find the bars. On these nights, a few bars also open where you can have a dance!
Dining on the other side of the lake
The Raices restaurant in southwestern Flores is a great place for a sunset dinner. But perhaps even nicer is to use their shuttle service to go to the establishment on the other side of the lake; Raíces del Lago.
I found out by chance that you could also dine on the other side of the lake, also with a nice view. The food is very good, but is in a slightly higher price range by Guatemalan standards.
How to get to Flores?
Many travelers choose to travel to Flores from Antigua, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan or Semuc Champey.
From Antigua you can arrange a (night) bus via your accommodation or at one of the tour agencies in the center. You will most likely travel first to Guatemala City from where you get on the bus from Fuente del Norte station.
The night bus is quite an experience. You have the choice between first class and luxury and I can absolutely recommend the latter. In the luxury buses, the seats can be almost completely reclined so you have the best chance to catch some hours of sleep. The first class bus leaves at 21:00 and the luxury variant at 22:00. After about 12 hours of driving, you will arrive in Flores in the morning.
The buses leave from Fuente del Norte in Zone 1 in Guatemala City. I must say that at first I was very apprehensive about safety, since traveling Guatemala City in the evening is being discouraged. The bus station was not a very comfortable place, but there’s seating inside and there are often other travelers. It’s wise to arrange snacks in advance for the road since nothing is sold at the bus station.
To travel to Flores from Lake Atitlan, you actually also always travel via Antigua or Guatemala City. I left San Pedro at 14:30, transferred to the night bus in Guatemala City and finally arrived in Flores at 9:30. So in total a hefty ride of about 18 hours from San Pedro. This whole ride costed me 550Q.
From Semuc Champey is the simplest, but nevertheless still a long ride by minibus that you can book in any ho(s)tel.
From Flores to Belize
Flores is not that far from the border with Belize. Therefore, many travelers choose to combine these two countries. GetAway travels is a good travel agency to arrange this trip with. They provide you with all the necessary information and help you get your documents in order. A trip from Flores to Belize City costs 125Q, but it’s also possible to travel to other destinations such as Caye Caulker for 250Q.