Diary blog | Our last days in Guatemala: Flores and Tikal

We are on a tour through Guatemala. The last few days we were in Semuc Champey and Lanquin, which unfortunately was a little disappointing, here you can read more about it. Now it’s time to continue to our last destination in Guatemala: Tikal. In this blog we will share our experiences from visiting the beautiful Tikal National Park.

Guatemala Day 9: A long bus ride to Flores

When we get up, we see a bright blue sky and the sun is shining. Yesterday, when we were visiting the pools, it was constantly raining and even a bit. Wrong timing to leave Lanquin today…

After a quick breakfast, we get our backpacks and get on the bus. Today we are accompanied again by Stef, Matthias and Linda, which makes it a nice and fun ride all the way to Flores.

It’s a long ride, but looking outside of the window we drive through some amazing landscapes. In the beginning, all we see is a beautiful green and brown hills. They look strange, like huge molehills, close to each other. Exactly as I imagine the chocolate hills in the Philippines. As we drive further, it gets warmer and warmer. In the vicinity of Flores, the landscape changes from humid rainforest to a real jungle. And then we enter the city of Flores, first along the coast, and then via a long bridge to the island where a part of the city is visible. We see colourful houses, palm trees and everything has a bit of a Caribbean vibe.Flores Guatemala

Via winding roads visiting the jungle

And the same applies to our hostel. This is located on the other side of the river, on the side where there is no bridge. However, that is not a problem at all, the owner of the hostel is awaiting us with her speedboat to bring us in two minutes to the other side. Hot and sticky, I fall down on the big bed to rest for a while. But not more than a minute after I have entered to room, Ries is already calling me to come out. He has asked the owner of the hostel where he could see the most beautiful sunset, and she is so sweet to immediately arrange that her father will take us to a nearby place.

That ‘nearby’ is half an hour of winding roads through the jungle away and we feel a bit encumbered to that sweet old man. Luckily he looks very happy and seems to enjoy himself while chatting to us in broken English. We reach a small parking lot, where the man gestures that we have to go out and climb a narrow staircase. Meanwhile, the sun is almost down, so a bit in a hurry we climb up. When we arrive at the top of the stairs, we reach an open space where we indeed have a great view of the island of Flores, the river and the setting sun.

Curious where we were staying in Guatemala? Here you will find the Guatemala hotel guide with hotels and accommodations we can recommend!

Flores Guatemala

Monkeys in the jungle of Flores

After some magical moments during sunset, it starts to get dark and we hear some strange sounds. A kind of loudly roaring screams and grunts. At first, we think there must be pigs somewhere in the neighbourhood. Back in the car, our guide tells us that they are not pigs, but monkeys that define their territory in this way. He stops the car and we get out to see the animals. And indeed, high in the tree we see the shadows of two monkeys, screaming and sort of fighting about their territory.

We end the evening at restaurant San Telmo, where we have dinner with Matthias, Stef and Linda and eat a very special (and unappetizing) meal, which we wash away with delicious Cuba Libre’s.Flores Guatemala

Guatemala Day 10: Tikal

We sleep for a long time, and we stay even longer in bed. Today we are going to Tikal, but the bus leaves at 1 pm, so we have plenty of time. After checking out we are taken by speedboat to the island of Flores, where we have breakfast with Stef and Matthias and where I quickly publish a new blog. We go to the ATM (there are no ATM’s in Tikal) and then get back on the bus, this time for only a short one-and-a-half-hour ride.

Tikal: a century-old Mayan city

Tikal is a centuries-old Mayan city which lies in the middle of a huge natural park. This national park, which is the same size as the whole country of Israel, almost exclusively consists of the jungle. Many wild animals such as pumas, monkeys and snakes live here. We secretly hope to see one of these animals and during the bus ride, we keep our eyes open. Most people bring a day visit to Tikal from Flores to visit the various temples. However, we have chosen to stay in the park to be able to admire the temples and the park during sunset, sunrise and daylight. As we get closer to Tikal, it starts to rain. That’s a pity since we were hoping for a clear sky tonight and therefore a clear sunset. Later, luckily stops raining, but the sun is nowhere to be seen.

Will you also be visiting Tikal? Read more about this beautiful Maya village!

We did not book a guide in advance, so as soon as we arrive at the hotel that is something we need to arrange. After some talking and negotiating, we find a nice guide who will take the five of us for an evening and morning tour. Before leaving, we have the time to relax and explore the beautiful hotel. We sleep in the hostel section, but that also looks very nice with fine white beds and colonial decor. This hotel used to be the residence of archaeologists during their months of research into the ruins. Now it’s incredibly luxurious with a swimming pool, beautiful lodges and even a cinema room. It feels more like being in a luxury lodge in Africa than in the middle of the jungle in Guatemala.Guatemala Tikal

Impressive pyramid-shaped temples

The guide turns out to be a very nice storyteller with a lot of knowledge. Everything we want to know about the Maya is discussed. He tells about their rise, hundreds of years before Christ, until their downfall, which was caused by greed between the 9th and the 11th century after Christ. He shows the different small ruins and mountains of sand, under which temples will be hidden, and slowly we walk through the jungle.

Suddenly we stand face to face with an impressive pyramid-shaped temple. Gradually the large temple rises up to the top, dozens of meters above the ground. This is also the temple that we will climb and from where we will see the sunset. A long iron staircase runs up the pyramid. It is not the intention to climb the normal steps of this temple, because these have become too damaged over the years by tourists who have gone up and down. As far as the number of other tourists we encounter, that’s super low. In the whole park, we only see 15 other people, it is super quiet we feel like we have it for ourselves.

Once upstairs, we have a great view. This pyramid looks straight at another large equivalent temples and also in the distance we see the tops of several temples. The tall trees that surround the temples contain a lot of life: monkeys, falcons and we even see a toucan with a bright orange beak. Despite the clouds, it is a wonderful time to be at the temple. As it slowly begins to dawn, we see a storm in the distance above a number of temples.

Visitors who get lost…

When it is completely dark, we start walking back, while our guide tells horror stories about visitors who got lost in this huge park. With only the light of our flashlights and all those strange sounds around us, those stories are extra scary. One story is extra scare, it’s about a man, who was found after weeks, who refused to let go of his rescuers and eventually had to be disconnected by electric shocks. No pleasant prospect and a very clear message: it is far too dangerous to walk around here on your own in the dark.

Back in the hostel, I don’t feel well. The rest of the group is having dinner, but after two bites of bread, I feel so miserable that I crawl into bed. Tomorrow morning we will depart for a sunrise walk at 03.30 so I better have some rest.

Guatemala Day 11: Tikal and Flores

Unfortunately, I am really sick and according to Ries I have a fever all night and I am delirious. At 03.30 I feel so miserable that it is better to continue sleeping. And so I spend the rest of the night and morning sleeping.

Ries, Linda, Matthias and Stef leave the park around 4 o’clock in the morning. Fortunately, it is warm and it doesn’t rain anymore. They walk through the park between the dark shadows of temples and ruins. This time they climb a different temple than yesterday. At the top, they wait until the sun comes up slowly. Unfortunately, the sunrise is not so sharp because there are clouds everywhere, but the moment is magical. Around them the park wakes up, monkeys awaken and make sounds and birds start fluttering around. It feels like they have the park all to themselves, there are hardly any other visitors to see.

When it is completely light, the guide takes the group to see the rest of the Maya city. This is so immense that Ries is only back at the hostel around noon. They have walked around for hours, taken pictures and listened to the beautiful stories.

Back to Flores

In the meantime, it has completely cleared up, so while I continue to sleep for a few hours, Matthias, Linda, Stef and Ries relax by the pool. They have some time to tan before we board the bus back to Flores around 3 pm.

Arriving in Flores, I immediately crawled into my bed again while Ries and Linda arrange bus tickets for our trip of tomorrow: to Belize. Stef and Matthias come to the hotel room to say goodbye. Since I won’t join them for dinner, and they travel to Rio Dulce tomorrow, I won’t see them anymore. Then I fall asleep again and Ries has a very nice last night in Guatemala.

Tomorrow we will travel to Belize. We are really looking forward to this because here we will relax and enjoy the sun and the beach. Click here for all of our blogs on Belize!

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  1. by Stephanie on 28 October 2021  17:51 Reply

    Hi, I am very happy with the way you describe your trip to Guatemala :)
    I am planning to visit Tikal in a month with a sleep in as suggested, the only thing I'm worried are the bus rides to Flores,

    you describe Flores to Tikal bus leaves around 1pm
    and Tikal to Flores bus leaves around 3pm
    Is there many bus schedule options or only 1 - 2 shuttle per days ?
    I am just worried because I was planning to save time with flights Flores to Guatemala city but if buses aren't reliable I'll just take the long way :)


    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 30 October 2021  10:20 Reply

      There are multiple bus companies, but not super many. And in my memory they indeed only go once a day. One thing is for sure... the busses can have major delays. So I wouldn't bet a flight on them...
      Hopefully this helps!!

  2. by Hemali on 14 January 2023  13:07 Reply

    Hi Charlotte,
    Thanks for all the information. Which bus company did you take going from Flores to Belize City and how was your experience? Sorry, if I missed a post about it.

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 15 January 2023  15:36 Reply

      Hi Hemali,
      Ooo I am sorry, we don't remember. However you can just book a ticket at one of the tourist companies in Flores or ask your hotel to book something for you. I remember it being very easy and having multiple options, including multiple time slots.

      Our experience was good. Not a too long ride and it all went easy.

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