A lovely town in Petén, Guatemala, Flores is an island on Lake Petén Itzá. It is surrounded by the twin towns of Santa Elana and San Benito. The island is connected to mainland Guatemala by a short causeway, so it is reachable by foot or motor vehicle. Many visitors flock to Flores due to its close proximity to Tikal, which is located just one hour away by bus. However, the island of Flores is a charming town worth spending at least a day here.
Historically, Flores was once the Maya city of Nojpetén during pre-Columbian times. The island of Flores was also the very last independent Maya state that held out against Spanish conquerors. Hernán Cortés came to the island in 1541 but he was unable to conquer it. It wasn’t until 1697 that the island of Flores finally fell to the Spanish, who attacked and destroyed the town, forcing Itzá people to flee and hide in the jungles for many years.
Currently, Flores is among the most peaceful and safest areas in this region of Guatemala. Many red-roofed colonial style buildings are densely packed within the town’s cobblestone streets. Most businesses in the town cater to tourists, offering accommodations of a variety of styles and prices, in addition to restaurants, grocery stores, gift shops, coffee shops, and of course tour companies offering trips to nearby Tikal and other natural wonders in the area.
Most visitors reach Flores by bus or colectivo (chicken bus) arriving either from elsewhere in Guatemala or trekking over from Belize. Those traveling from Belize will typically need to take a taxi within Belize to the country’s border, cross the border on foot, and then hop into a minibus or taxi on the Guatemala side and head directly to Flores. From the Belize border, Flores is about a 2-hour ride one-way, and mini busses or colectivos should cost approximately $12 USD.
Once you reach Flores, the entire island is walkable; in fact, you can circle the whole island in about 15 minutes. Alternatively, motorized rickshaws or tuk-tuk drivers can also be hired to take you around the island. Covered boats are also available for traveling across the lake to visit the nearby town of San Jose (about a 40-minute boat ride), or simply to view the surrounding nature and bird life in the area.
Accommodations in Flores
There is no shortage of hotels and accommodations in Flores, and nearly all are affordably priced.
Things to Do in Flores
Flores is typically a resting point for visitors who are on their way to Tikal National Park, located about 2 hours away. Some visitors will spend the night in Tikal before or after spending a day in Tikal. Besides Tikal, there are a few other noteworthy attractions nearby Flores including:
Actun Kan Caves
La cueva de la serpiente (the cave of the serpent). This natural, partially-lit limestone cave contains many stalagmites and stalacites, Maya relics, and formations that resemble animals and people. The cave is located about a 30-minute walk away from the Flores causeway, and it is clearly marked. There is another on-site cave system, Jobitzinaj Caves, that can also be explored. Visitors must bring their own flashlights. Actun Kan Caves are open from 8am-5pm and general admission is about Q20 ($3 USD) per person. The caves can be explored in 1-2 hours.
ARCAS (Asociación de Rescate y Conservación)
Animal lovers will appreciate this wildlife center dedicated to preventing animal trafficking. There is a volunteer center as well as a small zoo (Petencito Zoo) that is home to exotic animals such as monkeys and jaguars. The zoo is a 10-minute boat ride away from Flores, and entrance fees cost Q20.
Swimming in Lake Peten Itza
The fresh water lake surrounding Flores is clean and clear and makes for a refreshing dip on a warm, humid day. Many public piers are found throughout Flores, and both locals and visitors use them to take daily swims.
Flores Photo Galley