A short 5-minutes ride from Flores the natural park Ixpanpajul is located. They offer several activities in the wild nature such as swinging through the forest on a Zip-Line from tree to tree. They call it Tarzan-Canopy-Tour and offer this activity also at night. As we found this out we wanted to try this before leaving Flores! It was an amazing feeling to jump into the darkness (just the platforms were illuminated) and to hear the wildlife of the jungle (screaming monkeys, but they sound like dinosaurs). Apart of this activity they also offer a walk over hanging bridges, horseriding and accomodation.
The activites are not cheap but for larger groups (we were 5 people) discount rates are given and included in the price is the pick-up service they offer from Flores to the park and back.
It was totally worth doing it and I would definitely recommend it!
Meander around the town and find enjoy the atmosphere. Because this is a small town, there is not much to do other than sit in a bar, wander around, and watch the sunsets. It is a fun place to watch people. There is a plaza and a church.
In Tikal National Park there is an area where you can go zip lining on your way into the park. It's definately worth it! I went up thinking you just do it once but we got 8 goes of it! It's an amazing feeling zipping along the top of the jungle!
Standing on the east end of the parque central is this simply designed church. It wasn’t open during our short visit and I haven’t been able to find any information about it on the Web but it is a nice example of small village churches that are common in Guatemala.
Every town and village in Guatemala has its central plaza and Flores is no different. The small plaza sits on one of the higher points of the town so you’ll have to hike a bit to get there or hire a tuk-tuk to drive you to its entrance. The plaza has a small gazebo, basketball/soccer court, benches, landscaped areas, and a couple of food stalls on one of the outer edges. At the east end of the plaza stands the local parish church.
It's a very small island, you can walk all the way around it about 30 minutes or so... and it's quite a nice hike. You'll find the boats to go around the lake... plenty of bars and restaurants... and some docks where you can jump and swim in the lake.
ARCAS is a non-profit refuge where animals, rescued from smuggling attempts, are reeducated before being reintroduced to their habitat if possible.
Since the very purpose of ARCAS is to acclimatize the animals to a human-free environment, you don't see animals during the visit. However, the visit is illuminating - if not uplifting.
During my visit, I talked a bit with some volunteers from London who had been working there for months.
ARCAS can be reached via a short boat ride from Flores. Your boatman will wait while you visit. The visit is free but a donation is expected.
As in all great little towns, the best activity in Flores is to simpy walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. You can visit the whole place in one afternoon. The outer loop street is more lively than the sleepy Parque Central.
I am only attaching one of my photos to this tip, and you can see several more in a travelogue below.
The Parque Central in Flores is on a hilltop. There are a few benches and a couple of food stalls. On the day I was there, the main activity was the assembling of a gigantic Christmas tree with the Gallo beer logo on top.
San Miguel is a tiny village across the lake from Flores. At the top of the hill, there is a mirador with a good view of the island-town. The mirador is close to an archeological site, but since it is not excavated, there is not much to see.
When you hire a boatman, you can see ARCAS and the view from San Miguel in about 2 hours.
A short walk on the causeway will bring you to Santa Elena. The busy market area is close by, on the right side of the main boulevard.
You won't go there to shop but to admire the storefront art, and absorb the colors, flavors and smells. The Santa Elena market is completely different from languorous Flores.
I am only attaching one photo to this tip, but I have created a travelogue with some more, which you will find below.
The Lago Peten Itza goes all the way from Flores to El Remate. The lake is crescent shaped, and would be about 18 miles long if straightened.
It is easy to hire a boat for an hour or two. You will enjoy beautiful sights, including ramshackle villages like San Miguel, and scattered thatched huts here and there.
As everywhere in El Peten, you will see plenty of unfinished houses where construction seems to have stalled. It looks like there was a big giveaway of cinderblocks five years ago, followed by tighter times.
Flores is more of a convenient place to stay while visiting Tikal than a tourist attraction in itself. Nevertheless, it's a really relaxing place (especially after coming from the bustling highlands). Due to it's small size, it is easy to walk around the whole peninsula in no time. Also, there aren't any traditional Mayans around harrassing you to buy their wares, which let's you relax too. Of course, this means you aren't getting the true Guatemalan experience! Although we had a really pleasant time in Flores, we are glad that we spent most of our time in the highlands because otherwise we wouldn't have experienced the true Guatemalan culture. I recommend that you do more in Guatemala than just see Tikal, becuase otherwise you haven't really seen the country!
The dirty marketplace of Santa Elena is filled with the produce indigenous to the area, as well as with cheap imports from China and elsewhere. Video with audio and still camera weren't enough to appreciate this place as one could easily amuse themselves with recording the nasty smells of the dirt paths meandering through the mercado. I liked looking at the exotic fruits and the peppers drying in the sun. It's a very safe place to be, really, as the Mayans don't really make much notice of tourist coming around. But, of any of the many touristed places in Guatemala, this busy place is as good as any to NOT see other tourists. We bargained for little, but had a pleasant time wandering around.
I can't recall the exact cost, but it was very reasonable, and we didn't bargain hard. About $10- for two hours, I think, but maybe as high as $25-. Walk to the side of the island opposite the causeway, and there are a number of boats moored in the mud ready to go. We took a boat with a sheltered canopy fearing that an open boat would be too much exposure in the sun. There are a number of possible routes in the water, but we chose to head for the opposite shore, and take a short hike up steps on a hill. From a treehouse on the hill, we could view back to the island pueblo of Flores. The boat was powered by an outboard motor.