Completely & utterly encompassed by their environment, the ruins of Tikal are a must on anyone’s Guatemala itinerary. We opted for a sunset tour of the ruins, a magical time to visit when the jungle around us was starting to sleep for the night & the resident howler monkeys were happily lulling around in the trees. Staying in the sleepy town of Flores we were able to visit Tikal very easily on a day trip, Flores is also a nice little place to wander around & chill for a day or two. Here’s what we did when we were there & how we got to the ruins….
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Flores is a peaceful & still little island town with everything centred around the lake it is set on, Lago de Peten. There is not much to do other than just wander around, drink coffee, do some shopping or maybe hire a kayak, it’s the perfect place to just chill out & catch up with yourself. Whilst we were there we did just that, from a recommendation we opted to stay at Amigos Hostel & we were not disappointed. With an awesome restaurant that had a big comfy area to just chill, a great menu & something going on every evening it was a great place to spend a couple of days & we were easily able to nip out to explore the town from there. The hostel also has a eucalyptus steam room that you can hire privately should you fancy really relaxing! The dorms are basic but good enough for a couple of nights, the booking desk covers everything from tours to Tikal & buses out of Guatemala, both of which we booked with them.
You have the option of a sunrise, early bird, day or sunset tour to Tikal, we opted for the latter due to us arriving on a bank holiday weekend & not being able to get to the bank in time, which is where you need to pre-purchase your Tikal entry tickets from, or so we were told. We went to all the effort to try to get tickets in advance only to then find out that the bus stops along the way at the airport which has a bank counter for tickets purchases but honestly some people on our bus arrived with no pre-bought tickets & were still able to get in. All in all the whole thing is confusing, from what we could gather it’s only sunrise tickets that need to be purchased from the bank in advance to cover the extra cost required for entering at sunrise but we would strongly advise, if doing this yourselves being firm with who you book with to get a straight answer on what you need to do.
Once we were inside we actually opted to break away from our group & guide as we wanted the magic of exploring by ourselves, we met up with them again from time to time but really enjoyed being able to wander & just take it all in at our own pace. The ruins themselves were huge, the whole area actually spans an impressive 576 km². The time of day that we had opted for meant that everything was starting to slow down, it was perfect, we wandered around in cooler temperatures, howler monkeys all around us imagining what it would have been like during the classic period when Tikal reached its peak. We watched the sun go down from atop one of the temples, it was so beautiful & peaceful with birds fluttering all around us & nothing but jungle & ruins as far as the eye could see.
We were lucky enough spot monkeys, ocelets & toucans whilst we were at Tikal but being surrounded by so much jungle there is also a chance you’ll spot other wildlife too, like, wild turkeys, tarantulas, pisotes and foxes! This for us made the experience of the place, having so much wildlife around meant that the ruins were different to any we had visited at that point.
A Bit More Tikal Know
Tikal is an UNESCO world heritage site, which was inhabited by the Mayan from the 6th Century B.C. to the 10th Century A.D. You can also stay in one of the hotels in Tikal National Park to be close to the ruins or opt to camp there at the National Park Campground. The best times to visit are at sunrise or sunset. Tikal is located 65 km out of Flores & should take around only 1.5 hours by bus. The National Park entrance fee is 150 Q with the tour fee coming in at around 100 Q including return transportation & a guide. You can catch a local bus to Tikal to avoid paying the hefty bus & tour guide fee but for us arriving on Easter weekend with only 2 days to spare we opted for the more expensive option to save some time. So to round it up the whole thing cost us 250 Q per person, took around 1/2 a day & is best at sunset or sunrise. We would recommend taking plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen & maybe even some snacks with you!
Leaving Flores & Tikal
Our next stop after Flores was Mexico, we took the bus from Flores to Chetumal through Belize which we’ll be writing about very soon, so remember to subscribe to our blog for updates! If you have any thoughts, questions or anything you would like to add please tell us in the comments. Thanks for reading & happy travels 🙂 Kelly & Adam x