Aerial view of Flores Island in Guatemala

Things to do in  Flores

A lake town unlike any other

Sitting in the middle of Lake Petén Itzá in the wonderful and wild Maya Biosphere Reserve, the cobblestone streets and colorful buildings of Flores are one of Guatemala’s best-kept secrets—but only because they’re overshadowed by the reason most visitors come to Flores, the temples of Tikal. Long popular with visitors heading out to the nearby archaeological sites of Tikal, Yaxha, and Uaxactún, Flores is still a worthy destination in its own right, with a fascinating history, picture-postcard views, great drinking and dining, friendly street markets, and plenty of things to do along the lakeside.

Top 14 attractions in Flores

Tikal National Park (Parque Nacional Tikal)

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Once a powerful seat of the Mayan empire, the Tikal ruins are now the most famous archeological site in Guatemala and one of the most-visited sets of Mayan ruins in all of Latin America. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of temples, plazas, and pyramids, was first settled around 700 BC, and modern visitors still get swept away by their beauty and powerful aura.More

Yaxhá

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Yaxhá was founded circa 800 BC along the shores of Laguna Yaxhá, and was home to more than 40,000 people at its peak, around AD 250. Though overshadowed by Tikal, this ancient city is Guatemala’s third largest archaeological site. And since it’s less visited than its famous sibling, Yaxhá offers a peaceful, introspective experience—especially for birders and Maya aficionados.More

Petén Forest

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In the northeast region of Guatemala, Petén Forest is made up of dense swamp and jungle habitats connected via a chain of lakes, 40 percent of which is within the protected Maya Biosphere Reserve. The forest is home to dozens of Maya archaeological sites, and the highlight for most visitors is a trip to the impressive ruins of Tikal.More

Lake Peten Itza (Lago Petén Itzá)

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Guatemala’s second largest lake is a sparkling expanse at the heart of the hot, humid Petén Basin, and was one of the earliest cradles of Mesoamerican civilization. The lush rain forests at its fringe are home to some 27 archaeological sites. Use the ancient Mayan town of Flores—the last Mayan city to fall to the Spanish in 1697—as a base to explore the lake and the surrounding area.More

Ixpanpajul Natural Park (Parque Natural Ixpanpajul)

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Ixpanpajul Nature Park offers nature treks and activities within the lush rainforest just outside Petén. Ideal for family outings, the 1,112-acre (450-hectare) reserve has bridges and zip lines over the canopy, horseback rides, night safaris, birding treks, ATV rentals—and a chance to see some 200 species of trees, 150 birds, and 40 mammals, including three types of monkey.More

Uaxactún

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Founded centuries before Tikal, the ancient Mayan city of Uaxatún features the oldest arch in the Mayan world and may well be the birthplace of the Mayan calendar and writing system. Today, tiny modern houses sit alongside the ruins of pyramids and temples, which the Maya expertly positioned to accurately observe the seasonal positioning of the planets and stars.More
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Petencito Zoo

Petencito Zoo

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Set on the edge of Lake Petén Itzá (Lago Petén Itzá, this small zoo houses a collection of native Guatemalan animals, including ocelots, pumas, jaguars, and spider monkeys. Forested trails weave past the enclosures, which are spread across two islands connected by a bridge. Its shoreside position affords stunning views of the lake.More
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Pasión River (Rio La Pasión)

Pasión River (Rio La Pasión)

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The Pasión River (Río La Pasión) and its tributaries cover nearly 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) in Guatemala, forming a diverse ecological zone and main transportation source. The river traces the ancient trade route that the Maya used; today visitors use it to access many Maya archeological sites that lie near its shores.More

Estación Biológica las Guacamayas (EBG)

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Guatemala’s Estación Biológica las Guacamayas (EBG), named for the country’s endemic scarlet macaw, is an ecotourism-focused environmental research and conservation center. Its mission is to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Laguna del Tigre National Park in the Maya Biosphere Reserve of Petén. The name means Las Guacamayas Biological Station.More
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Actún Can Caves

Actún Can Caves

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Hidden in limestone bedrock beneath the sacred ruins of Petén are the cavernous Ak'tun Kan Cave, which is Mayan for “Cave of the Serpent.” Inside the serpentine subterranean complex is an underground waterfall and plenty of impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and unusually-shapedxa0rock formations.More
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Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya)

Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya)

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Within the 5.1 million-acre (2.1 million-hectare) Maya Biosphere Reserve, created by UNESCO in 1990 is Tikal National Park, El Zotz and Naachtún-Dos Lagunas Biotopes (Uaxatún), Yaxhá-Nakum-Naranjo National Park, and El Mirador National Monument—along with some 200 other Mayan ruins, mountains, rivers, cenotes, hiking trails, and lakes including Lake Petén Itza, gateway to the reserve.More
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Seibal (Ceibal)

Seibal (Ceibal)

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One of the best-preserved Mayan cities in Petén, the elevated ruins of El Ceibal peer out over the Pasión river. The site’s elegant ceremonial structures date to 900 BC, the earliest in the Mayan world, and remarkably detailed altars and stelae were carved after AD 800, when the rest of the empire had already collapsed.More
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Sayaxché

Sayaxché

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This small city on the southern shore of the Pasión River (Río La Pasión is a popular jumping-off point for travelers. Explore nearby Maya remains, including the ruins at Aguateca, Ceibal, and Dos Pilas, and go wildlife-viewing in the dense jungle, home to howler monkeys, iguanas, and other wildlife.More
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Aguateca Archaeological Site

Aguateca Archaeological Site

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Mayan archaeological site Aguateca sits atop a hill along the coast of the Petexbatún Lagoon in Guatemala’s Peten department. Hastily abandoned after an attack around 830AD, the city has a ghost town ambiance reminiscent of Pompei. Penned in by a defensive wall are some 700 structures including royal and elite residences and a grand plaza.More

All about Flores

When to visit

The best time to visit Flores is between November and March — during Guatemala's dry season, but before the heat of April and May and the beginning of the rainy season in June. While you can visit Flores anytime, the rainy season can be pretty humid and wet. This can be great for watching the world go by from a colorful hammock on Flores, but not so great if you plan on heading to Tikal or Yaxha.

Getting around

The best way to get around Flores Island is on foot. However, if you're heading across the causeway to the mainland neighborhoods of Santa Elena and San Benito (collectively known as Flores), you may want to take a taxi. It's also worth noting that buses can't easily navigate the island's narrow, cobbled streets, so if you're joining a tour, you'll usually be picked up by car or asked to meet your driver by the bridge.

Traveler tips

The Maya temples of Tikal may be the main attraction for travelers arriving in Flores, but the island settlement has its own Maya history hidden amongst the colorful buildings and bustling market stalls. Known initially as Nojpetén, Flores was the capital of the Itza Maya people. At its peak, the island had 21 temples, including an impressive stepped pyramid-like Chichen Itza. While evidence of the historic settlement is long gone, the layout of the streets is one of the few visible reminders of the island’s fascinating past.

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People Also Ask

Is it worth visiting Flores, Guatemala??

Yes, it is absolutely worth visiting Flores. While most visitors use the island as a jumping-off point to visit the temples of Tikal, the colorful island town has plenty of its own attractions, including waterfront markets, roof-top restaurants, and lakeside activities like swimming and kayaking that make it worthy of an extended stopover.

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How many days do you need in Flores, Guatemala?

While you could get away with just two days in Flores, you’d be better off spending three or four. That way, you can explore the island’s cobblestone streets and lakeside markets, a day at Tikal, and other Maya archaeological sites like Yaxha and Uaxactún.

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What is Flores, Guatemala, known for?

Flores is best known for its proximity to Tikal, with both buses and flights to Tikal arriving on the mainland part of town. However, the historic part of the town, which sits on an island on Lake Petén Itzá, dates back to the 15th century and is believed to be the second-oldest continually inhabited town in the Americas.

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How safe is Flores, Guatemala?

The island town of Flores in Petén, Guatemala, is very safe. Flores is actually one of the safest places in Guatemala for travelers. However, it’s still worth exercising caution and taking the usual precautions, especially when visiting the mainland suburbs of Santa Elena and San Benito.

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What can you do in Flores, Guatemala?

There are lots of things you can do in Flores, Guatemala, including relaxing, kayaking, shopping, swimming, boat tours, and eating. You can also take day trips to three major Maya sites, Tikal, Yaxha, and Uaxactún. Nearby Ixpanpajul Nature Park is also popular for zip lining, jungle canopy walking, and horseback riding.

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Is it safe to swim in Flores, Guatemala?

Yes, you can swim in Lake Petén Itzá; however, there are many boats around and few easy entry points to the lake from the island. On the island itself, Parque Concordia is your best bet, although you can take a boat or kayak over to Jorge’s Rope Swing or Playa Chechenal Peten.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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What are the top things to do in Flores?
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What are the top things to do near Flores?
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