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mistybleu Flores - A travel report by Amanda
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Flores,  Guatemala - flag Guatemala -  Petén
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mistybleu's travel reports

Sunset over Guatemala

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Sometimes it takes a while for your travel plans to become reality and going to Guatemala had been on my bucket list for over 10 years. Even to the fact I was meant to go last year and didn’t make it.


Flores travelogue picture
Similarly this year, I was meant to be heading to Ecuador and Chile so you can imagine my surprise when plans changed again and Guatemala rose to the head of the list.

Guatemala is sandwiched between Mexico/Belize and Honduras/El Salvador like a perfect club sandwich; and has a coastline on both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. I chose to explore two main areas: Antiqua and Flores (the main town and base for visiting Tikal).

Unfortunately like most of Central America it has a bad reputation for safety. Advisory says to steer clear of Guatemala City, travelers are listening to the warning and using Antigua as a base especially to learn Spanish.

I liked the charm of Antigua, with the quaint cobbled streets, traditional Spanish buildings and church ruins, makes it quite alluring. I was lucky to be there for the Holy Week – Semena Santa, where the vibes completely changed, and there was so much colour around. Owing to 47% of the population being Catholic and another 40% protestant this time of the year was a huge deal for them. It was even nice seeing the hill people come to town to be part of the processions – it just made it magical. The locals were so colourfully dress. It was amazing to see them.

Favourite spots:
Flores travelogue picture
Before booking my trip I assumed that Tikal was the place I needed to travel to, but it turns out that the main town is Flores which is still 60km from Tikal. But what’s great about being in Flores is that it is on a little island - on Lake Peten Itza. There are many hotels, restaurants and bars, and there is a carefree spirit of island life.

The lake is the second largest in Guatemala and there are many Mayan sites dotted around it.

The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway to Santa Elana. Along the shores there are many piers which allows the local to take a swim and when the day gets really hot you can see fully clothed people cooling down.

To get to Tikal any of the myriad of travel agents can book a return shuttle that departs at schedule times during the day or stay in a hotel which has the shuttle included like the Ramada which was a wonderful place to stay.

What's really great:
Flores travelogue picture
Travelling around Guatemala is very easy if not long. I was "lucky" enough to have taken a couple take a few chicken buses. I was questioning whether they got their name from the drivers playing chicken on the roads or from the passengers' goods. I'm still questioning, but I did hear a cockerel and some baby chick so just possibly it's the later... I couldn’t help but laugh.

Antigua is the old capital and quite a good base to start exploring as it is far safer then heading to Guatemala City. I would love to say that I was able to visit GC to make up my own mind but I only drove through so I can’t comment. Whilst Antigua is on the tourist route and has great connections around the country, you may need to go through GC as the capital and it is only an hour or 36km from Antigua.

Antigua is very pretty with cobblestone street and low rise buildings, and windows that pertrude onto the side walk.

Favs: Central Park, Saint Catalina Arch, San Francisco Church and La Merced Church.

Sights:
Flores travelogue picture
The Mayan civilisation was one of the great Pre-Colombian civilisations, extending throughout Central America. Visiting pyramids and ancient city in Guatemala is more than Tikal. For example Zaculeu - the white city; Quirigua has mostly stelas (tall stone carvings); Yaxha - kind of a mini Tikal and the setting for the 2005 Survivor series; and El Mirador possibly more grand than Tikal if it was excavated.

However, like many tourists I wanted to see the UNESCO site of Tikal. It took longer than expected to drive the 60km and then we only had a couple of hours to enjoy the extensive site. The main gates is then 17km from the actual site, once there it’s only another 15 minute walk to the main temple.

Tikal was the capital in this region and one of the more powerful Mayan kingdoms. I was in awe when I saw Temple I (standing 47 metres tall) and the classic shot you tend to see of Tikal.

I couldn't imagine a journey to Guatemala without visiting this marvelous site.

Accommodations:
Flores travelogue picture
In Flores accommodation can be expensive, the nearby community of Santa Elena can be a little cheaper. However being on the island was quite quaint and the mid-priced newly built Ramada had a certain appeal. They organised a shuttle into Tikal which is good as safety was always of concern, especially following climbing Pacaya Volcano when we had a guard and they didn’t want anyone straying for the main group which was a little annoying. So this was so very attractive. To be fair, I will always opt for a new hotel if I’m made aware of it.

They have a couple of swimming pools plus as it sits on the lake, it was easy just to have a dip in there and it’s so convenient to find when getting onto the island.

I also stayed in Antigua. I saw some really nice Spanish inspired hotel, no high rise, no chains - independent hotels. I stayed in smaller hotel here just outside of town with restricted views of Volcan del Feugo. But having a local breakfast on the veranda was very pleasant.

Other recommendations:
New 7 wonders of the world - Chichen Itza
New 7 wonders of the world - Chichen Itza
Top five of the best Mexican arechlogical sites as a consideration for my multi-centre journey:

Tulum - Is a pre-Colombian walled city and is located around 100km outside of Cancun, and over looks a protected beach.

Palenque - is an amazing site and a joy to explore as it is very extensive. The ability to climb most of they pyramid makes this a joy to explore. I met a few travelers who enjoyed this far more than the next entry. Also the Cascades de Azul are fairly close and can be done in a day trip.

Chichen Itza - The largest of the Mayan cities in the Yuctan peninsula and has become Mexico's number one visited site. It is located just over 100km outside of Cancun and even closer to Playa del Carmen.

Teotihaucan - Located just a train ride outside of Mexico City. It is amazing to see the size of the sun temple and the moon temple. On a hot day there is no shelter there from the sun so a good hat and plenty of water is essential.

Published on Tuesday June 14th, 2016


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Mon, Jul 18 2016 - 09:23 PM rating by eirekay

Charming report about one of my favorite places!

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