Nuestra Señora de los Remedios y San Pablo
Leaving behind the Caribbean short stop-over in Belize, we continue overland entering Guatemala. Starting at the very north is the Peten Itza Lake with the city of Flores, a little island connected to mainland to Santa Elena just across the causeway. But why to come here you may think? Flores is the gateway to the heart of the Maya Civilization, with Tikal, one of the ancient capitals of the Maya world just at little over an hour away.
This northern region of Guatemala is very peaceful and tranquil, almost fully covered in pristine jungle. Because of its remoteness you will be happy to know that it’s not very touristy and restaurants and bars are still so real and traditional without inflated prices nor tourist traps.
Flores and Santa Elena both have nothing else to offer than that, a beautiful spot in the middle of your trip. The point of arrival into the incredible Maya world of this region. Still, very charming streets, churches and its amazing people, a unique colonial flair everywhere. So colourful and so traditional, it seems time stood still in this region. Not to mention the gorgeous food anywhere.
There’s not much more you should know beforehand or to be said for this brief introduction to the city, however should you be wishing to get further information about Flores check this Wikipedia article. Guatemala’s currency is the Quetzal (GTQ). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Flores
- Central Square Is the only square in the city and lies at the highest point of the island. The main church is at one of the sides.
- Walk around Being such small city you can walk all of it in little over one hour, therefore consider the stay here as a place to rest, and of course, your base for reaching Tikal. Many nice colourful colonial houses are everywhere but do not expect a great colonial city as Antigua can be.
- Boat trip Negotiate the price for having a boat tour around the Peten Itza Lake. Prices vary depends on duration, but do not pay more than 20$ USD for two people for a tour of 1 hour. They will quote you higher prices at the beginning, just simply leave and ask other boats, they will come back to you reducing the price. They know it is either taking the business or letting it go.
Coming by bus from Mexico or Belize (or elsewhere in Guatemala) is pretty straightforward. Consider costs and times and decide if maybe you would be better off flying than spending too many hours on a bus loosing a whole day.
In our case we came by bus from Belize City, a route of around 4.5 hours so perfectly fine and cheap compared to the high fares of Tropic Air. The main bus companies are Linea Dorada departing Belize City Bus Station at 13.00pm, arriving in Flores around 18.00pm; and Fuente del Norte departing at 10.00am from Oficina Express Water Taxi Terminal, arriving in Flores at 14.30pm. Both companies charge the same, 25$ USD single ticket.
Within the city you can move using rickshaws. The basic fare is 10 Quetzals. This is, if you take it to the airport or if you go from Santa Elena to Flores Central Square for example, it’s the same price. Don’t pay any higher than this (at least as of January 2014).
You can opt to stay either in the island of Flores, or in Santa Elena just across the bridge. In Flores you will not find big properties, but guest houses instead, while in Santa Elena there are good and big hotels. A good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at what perhaps was the best Hotel in the area. Without any doubt I would recommend this to anyone, and will not hesitate in staying again should I return to this place. Hotel La Casona del Lago, Calle Litoral, Santa Elena. You can easily walk to Flores from the hotel or to/from the bus station as it’s a short walk away. The room was beautiful, large, clean and comfortable. The whole hotel design was extremely nice, even the colours used, and the best, the pool and hot tub. Flores has very hot weather, believe me, you will be glad to have a pool to cool down and at nights the hot tub to rest after a long day.