Tikal Trip Recommendations

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August 2006   (updated July 2007)

Steve & Deborah, s/v ARGO


(See www.svargo.com, 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.)


OVERVIEW:  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 zip line!


FLORES  -  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;  mesamayas@hotmail.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.

We used 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 person. 

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 original ticket.



Tikal Inn  Tel 7926-1917/50/53, 7926-0065,  front desk 7861-2446; they respond to email sent to: tikalinn3@yahoo.com;  not sure about hoteltikalinn@itelgua.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 choices are Jungle Lodge and the Jaguar Inn.  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 did.

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 museums 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.



  • 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.
  • Candles/matches, lantern – whatever you want for your room at night as there is no electricity.
  • Alarm clock – if you plan on doing a sunrise
  • Bug Spray
  • 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.

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