(updated July 2007)
Steve & Deborah, s/v
Pictures/Journal page 20, for
a great slide show and pictures of this trip)
“LP p. xxx” refers to
page number in Lonely Planet Guatemala book, 2nd ed., Jan.
'04. (New edition came out Sept. '07.)
Spend the first night in Flores. Spend 2 nights in Tikal Park –
spending the night in the park is
a must to
getting the most out of your Tikal experience without exhausting yourself.
This enables you to be there for sunrise/sunset, leisurely exploring the
ruins with breaks back at the hotel for meals and cooling off in the
pleasant pool. Then spend the last night in Flores. We hear there are a
couple of other ruins nearby (Palenque and Uaxactun, I think) that are worth
exploring, but we did not do that.
A highlight was
watching sunrise from atop Temple IV. While still completely dark and
quiet, the howler monkeys started waking up “yelling” at each other,
followed by birds and other jungle wildlife. Through the ground fog the
tops of other pyramids slowly emerged in the twilight. Simply magical.
We also did the full
moon rise (8-10 p.m.) from atop Temple II. We did a sunset from the
magnificent Gran Plaza – the only people there (our guide came to get
us afterwards) – eerie thinking what it was like back then.
Incidentally, most of
the pyramids have a 2-way wooden stairway with railings, broken up by a
series of landings, so even those with a fear of heights, like myself, are
able to get up and down without too much trouble (easy for me to say now).
After climbing 7 high pyramids, I then subjected myself to the Canopy tour
- an island on Lake Petén
Hotel Isla de Flores
Tel 7867-5173/75/76 (eff. 7/07); Ave. La Reforma; www.junglelodge.guate.com. About $41. Very nice, very
clean, A/C, get on top floor w/ lake view (rooms #301, 302, 303); roof top “patio” gives good view
of town and you have a view of the Saturday night celebration on the town
plaza, which was a variety of bands, singers, and dancers that was actually
rather entertaining. (LP p. 247)
Hotel La Mesa de los Mayas
Tel 7926-1240 (probably changed in 7/07); Ave. La Reforma; email@example.com. About $25 with A/C ($17 w/o A/C). A
cheaper alternative; clean, small, funky rooms (i.e., sheets may not match
pillow cases). We had room #23 with A/C. (LP p. 247)
La Luna Restaurant & Bar
Corner of Calle 30 de Junio & Calle 10 de Noviembre; Tel 7867-5443 (eff.
7/07). Great food and great atmosphere, probably the best restaurant
on the island and very reasonably priced.
La Lunada Restaurant and Bar
On the east shore of the island. Casual outdoor dining on the dock
over the water with surprisingly good food.
Buy your liquor in
Flores to take with you to Tikal. Although Tikal Inn does have a full bar,
there is nowhere else to buy anything there.
From the Rio Dulce, the
best choice is Linea Dorado/Mundo
Maya bus. It’s a pleasant 3-hour trip, with only 1 stop, on a comfortable,
air-conditioned bus. It leaves Fronteras around 3:00 (the bus comes
from Guatemala City) and arrives in Flores around 6:00; a shuttle (included
in bus price) then takes you to your hotel.
San Juan Travel
to shuttle us between Flores and Tikal. They have an office in Flores on
Playa Sur calle, 7926-0041/2, 7926-2146. Q50 ($7) round trip per
However, to buy our
return Linea Dorado/Mundo
Maya bus ticket back to the Rio Dulce, we bought from a little place next
door to San Juan Travel – we found prices varied a lot in Flores. We
hear it's even cheaper if you go to the main bus terminal in Santa Elena (on
the mainland). Or buy your return ticket at the same time as your
Tel 7926-1917/50/53, 7926-0065, front desk 7861-2446; they
respond to email sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org; not sure about email@example.com.
(They can be hard to get ahold of so be persistent.) (LP
p. 264). $75/double room, includes breakfast and dinner for 2 people -
a good deal. The
place is nice and attractive, clean, good meals, pleasant and very
accommodating staff and a lovely pool area. Recommend room #C-9 (3
windows) or C-10, both face the pool area; or B-1 and B-2 which are
bungalows by pool (same room configuration, just more private and cost a bit
more). As there is no electricity in Tikal Park, the Inn runs their
generator for only an hour in the morning and roughly 6-10:00 p.m., so bring
flashlights, candle/matches, etc.
The 2 other lodging
The Jungle Lodge has very nicely landscaped, sprawling grounds, a pool and
very good restaurant, and costs more than Tikal Inn. The Jaguar Inn,
which appears to be more of a backpackers place (with hammocks and tents)
although it does have individual cabins, has a pleasant restaurant, and
would be the least expensive of the 3 choices. If you stay at Tikal
Inn, you could enjoy lunch at these 2 restaurants as an alternative, as we
To be in the park
(ruins) after hours (e.g., sunrise, sunset, full moon) requires an escort or
guide. Although they are plentiful, we used the guide that worked with
Tikal Inn and were very pleased. We think his name was Luis – he was very
flexible, spoke good English, very knowledgeable and had previously done
excavations and worked with a Harvard archeological group. Suggest you let
Tikal Inn (or wherever you stay) know you’re interested in a guide/sunrise etc., when you make
reservations, but we didn’t “reserve” anything ahead of time.
Before midnight each
night, we heard the jaguars marking their territory – it was a complex
sound, as if a choir was practicing scales.
There are 2 small
near the park (ruins) entrance. One has stelae and other large carvings. Of
particular interest were large poster-sized pictures showing what the
temples/pyramids looked like when discovered. It took about 10 years just
to cut away the jungle growth of one temple/pyramid before excavation could
even begin. Outside of this museum is a large, to scale display of Tikal
central. The other museum has pottery, jade and other items removed from
the ruins, including an actual tomb complete with bones and offerings.
Tikal Canopy Tours
Tel 7412-7252(LP p. 264). $25/person. This is a zip line through
the jungle (8 lines/9 stations). It was well-done, professional staff
and equipment, and used safety lines. Children can easily do it with a
guide. It’s located at the national park entrance (not the ruins),
about a 15-minute ride from Tikal Inn. The Inn can make reservations
and arrange for your transportation there and back ($30 per person including
transportation). (A zip line is a tour through the jungle by harness attached to a
series of cables linking trees up to 900 ft. apart.) July 2007
update: Call Alvaro Galvez, manager of Tikal Canopy Tours, directly at
5819-7766, he'll give you a special rate including transportation for
$25/person. Be sure to wear good footgear, secure your camera
and eyeglasses, and leave loose things like hats, sunglasses, packs, etc. behind.
WHAT TO PACK
Flashlights – you’ll
need them to climb pyramids in the absolute dark and for your room. One
person used a “headlight” for climbing, which allowed her to keep both
hands free to hold onto the stair railings. Tikal Inn supplied us with
flashlights, but best to have extras.
lantern – whatever you want for your room at night as there is no
Alarm clock – if you
plan on doing a sunrise
Good foot gear – lots
of walking; climbing pyramids
Cool clothes, hat,
sunglasses – it was hot, although part of the time you will be in the
shade of the jungle growth
Swimsuit for pool – it
feels great after a hot morning in the jungle
Guide book, or copy of
a map or buy book there – typical of Guatemala, there are no free hand-out
maps or explanatory signs of the ruins. The structures and paths are
labeled, but that’s it.
Cell phones do NOT
work at Tikal as there are no stations nearby
Tikal Inn has a land
line but it only works sporadically
Believe all three lodges
have internet. Sometimes.