Flores is a picturesque and quaint colonial town that is located on a tiny island on Lago Peten Itza in Guatemala‘s northern Peten region, and is connected to the mainland (and neighbouring town of Santa Elena) via a causeway bridge. Flores is a convenient and beautiful place to base yourself for a few days while exploring the nearby Mayan ruins like Tikal, Yaxha and others.
The landscape and climate in this region is completely different from the volcanoes and mountains that surround the areas around Antigua and Lake Atitlan and the moderate spring-like temperatures that it experiences year-round. By contrast, the Peten region is flat and Flores is surrounded by dense jungle. As a result, the weather is very hot and humid.
The town of Flores is a peaceful place with a relaxed, slow-paced and laid-back atmosphere where you can find quiet and narrow cobblestone streets, hidden alleyways, colourfully painted buildings, colonial architecture, a charming plaza and park with the town’s historic church, and a handful of cute cafes, restaurants and shops. There are also plenty of hotels and hostels scattered throughout town.
Most travelers stay in Flores because of its close proximity to the impressive Tikal ruins which are located only an hour and a half’s drive away, deep in the jungle. For that reason, Flores makes a perfect place to base yourself for visiting Tikal along with some of the other Mayan ruins in the area, like Yaxha. But the town itself is also worth exploring for a day or longer as it is such a beautiful and charming place and it only takes around 20 minutes to walk around the entire perimeter of the island!
I spent three days in Flores and loved wandering the quiet cobblestone streets, photographing the colourful buildings, enjoying the pleasant and peaceful atmosphere, eating delicious food, watching the sunsets over the lake in the evenings, and of course, exploring the incredible nearby ruins of Tikal. I did feel that three days was a bit too much time in Flores and I was starting to get a little bored by my last day in the town. If you only plan on visiting Tikal and spending some time exploring the town, then two days would be the perfect amount of time. Flores is a very small town and you can easily explore every street and alleyway in less than a day. Upon arriving in Flores, my first impressions of the town were that it was just so charming and adorable and it definitely impressed me! I felt very safe wandering the streets of Flores as a solo female traveler. Aside from one instance of cat-calling by a local man while walking across the causeway to the market in neighbouring Santa Elena, I had no issues there and felt comfortable.
Flores was my last stop on my two-week Guatemalan adventure. I had taken a shuttle from Panajachel on Lake Atitlan to Antigua and then transferred to another shuttle to the Guatemala City Airport where I took a one-hour flight with Avianca to Flores and arrived in Flores at around 8 pm. I could have also taken an overnight bus for 8-10 hours but the thought of doing that did not appeal to me at all and I was willing to pay the extra money for a comfortable and short flight instead. Upon arriving to the small one-room airport in Santa Elena (just across the bridge from Flores), I found a taxi to bring me to my hostel in Flores (read my review of Los Amigos Hostel by clicking here), which was only a five minute drive. Santa Elena is the larger town that can be found directly across from Flores after crossing the bridge to the mainland. This town has a more authentic and local feeling to it and you will not find many tourists here. The town has ATMs and banks, pharmacies and open-air markets with fresh produce and anything else you can think of to buy. I wandered across to this town to explore the local market, but found that I was only Caucasian female tourist around. I got cat-called by some local men in this part of town and received a lot of stares from the locals, who didn’t seem too friendly, so I didn’t feel completely safe there as a solo female and headed back to Flores instead. I also found Santa Elena to be noisy, chaotic and not very pretty. I would only recommend going there if you need to use the bank or ATM, get medical services, use the bus terminal or find a pharmacy. Other than that, there’s really no reason to explore there.
Flores is a pleasant and beautiful town to explore and stay and is deserving of a visit. I hope you enjoy reading my travel guide and find it helpful for your travels to this area of Guatemala!
- 1 Things to Do in Flores
- 2 Where to Eat in Flores
- 3 Where to Stay
- 4 Tourist Services in Flores
- 5 Getting There and Around
- 6 Pin It!
Things to Do in Flores
Most travelers stay in Flores as a base for exploring the nearby Mayan ruins of Tikal and others, but Flores is a charming town that is worth exploring deeper.
The town is pretty quiet and has a relaxed vibe. There are no major attractions or specific things to do in the town, but I enjoyed just exploring and photographing the streets.
Explore the Charming Colourful Streets
Flores is a peaceful and laid-back town where you will find narrow cobblestone streets lined with colonial-style buildings painted in a multitude of vibrant colours. It was such a charming town to wander around and explore and it was a photographer’s dream! Some of the streets were pretty steep to climb and the town was hilly in some areas, so I got a good leg work-out too! Flores is a small town and walking around the perimeter of the island takes only around 20 minutes but I suggest taking longer to dig deeper and explore more in this town.
The Malecon was a pretty, palm-tree lined street that encircled the outer perimeter of the island and had lovely views of the lake and surrounding jungle. A portion of this street was flooded from the lake along one side, as I was there in November and right after the rainy season had ended. There were small boats along the Malecon which could take you across the lake to some of the smaller villages on the other side of the mainland. It was a great place to go for a relaxing walk during the mornings or evenings.
I loved walking the quiet streets, photographing the buildings, finding cute cats to pet, and discovering small alleyways connecting various streets. The streets of Flores are definitely worth exploring.
Hike to the Lookout Tower in San Miguel
San Miguel is one of the small villages located on the mainland, across the lake from Flores. On my last day in Flores, myself along with two new friends from my hostel hopped on a local boat that we found docked along the Malecon and went to San Miguel to do a nice hike to a look-out tower that I had read about in this blog post.
San Miguel was a very quiet and laid-back village. It felt very local and authentic and we were the only tourists around.
Upon arriving to the town, our boat driver said he would wait until we were finished and then take us back to Flores.
It was a beautiful hike as we walked along a wide path through the peaceful jungle and we were surrounded by lush vegetation the entire way. The hike also passed through a rural residential area and it was interesting to see how the locals lived. There were some openings in the trees along the trail which offered beautiful views of the jungle.
We arrived to the wooden lookout tower/treehouse that was attached to a tall tree after about 10-15 minutes of hiking and climbing up a set of wooden steps along a steep hillside to the base of the tower. I then climbed more narrow steps up this somewhat rickety structure and arrived at the top to find gorgeous panoramic views of the expansive jungle treetops around us and overlooking the island of Flores. The landscapes were incredible and it was great to take the time to admire them.
Getting There (Pro Tip): The beginning of the hiking trail can be somewhat difficult to find if you don’t know where you’re going. I suggest downloading the maps.me phone app, as it has the entire trail mapped out and you can use the app without needing a Wi-Fi signal. When the boat drops you off in San Miguel you will be on the main street along the lake called 2a Calle. From there, walk north on 8a Avenida and follow the road until you reach the intersection, then turn left onto 4a Calle and take the next right on 7a Avenida. Continue walking along this street until the end, where the road will meet up with the hiking trail. On the maps.me app, the lookout tower is named “El Mirador.” The trail is a big loop but stick to the left for a shorter route to the tower.
Check out the Plaza and Church
Located in the centre of the island atop a small hill, you will find the town’s main plaza and historic church.
The small plaza is lined with local government buildings and there is a basketball court and small treed park in the centre. The white and simple church overlooks one side of the plaza and was lovely to photograph.
This area was generally pretty quiet although there was more people activity during church services and there were often children playing basketball on the court. It was a peaceful area to sit back on one of the benches and relax while observing the local life. Because the plaza was on a hill, there were some beautiful views of the surrounding town and lake!
Watch the Sunset Over the Lake
Flores is situated perfectly for watching gorgeous sunsets every night over the lake. You can sit on one of the benches positioned along the Malecon around the perimeter of the island or enjoy the sunset while eating dinner at San Telmo Restaurant which faces the lake.
The sunsets sure were beautiful in Flores and I enjoyed taking in this spectacular sight.
Tour the Mayan Ruins of Tikal
Tikal is one of the largest and most impressive archeological sites in the Mayan world. It is situated deep in the jungle about an hour and a half from Flores and is definitely a must-visit. Exploring Tikal was such an incredible experience and my favourite part of the tour was sitting on top of one of the tallest temples watching the sunrise over the jungle canopy with breathtaking views of the expansive jungle treetops and listening to the sound of the howler monkeys all around. It was magical and an amazing experience.
There are plenty of local travel agencies and tourism information places in Flores where you can book a tour to explore the ruins of Tikal. I recommend shopping around to find the best price. I booked my tour from a travel agency called Crasborn Travel and was very pleased with their excellent, professional and reliable service. I paid a total of Q90 for an English-speaking guide and round-trip transportation. You can choose tours at various times throughout the day including a sunrise tour, early morning tour, afternoon tour and sunset tour. The sunrise and sunset tours were more expensive (an additional Q100) because you are in the park before and after their official hours. In addition to the price of the tour which includes shuttle transportation and a guide, you have to pay an additional admission fee of Q150 at the gates entering the Tikal National Park.
Exploring the various ruins at Tikal was fascinating and I learned so much about the history and architecture of the buildings and also about the flora and fauna of the jungle and the animals.
Related Post: Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Guatemala
Where to Eat in Flores
Even though it is small, Flores still had a pretty good variety of restaurants with most of them having something available for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free eaters like myself.
Restaurante San Telmo
San Telmo was one of the most colourful and unique restaurants that I had the pleasure of eating at in Guatemala. The exterior was painted a vibrant hot pink colour as lush green plants and vines covered the entire wall that was facing towards the Malecon and the lake and the side of the restaurant facing the town had unique decor and items on the wall with beautiful jungle plants in front. The decor inside the restaurant was funky and colourful as well and there were plants everywhere. It was so adorable! The menu featured a wide variety of meals including lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
I ate a delicious salad and smoothie for dinner at San Telmo and loved the comfortable and cozy atmosphere there. There was seating inside the restaurant and also behind the restaurant along the Malecon, looking out to the lake. I really enjoyed watching the beautiful sunset from this spot!
Location – Calle Union between Callejon Tayazal and Calle 10 de Noviembre. They are open daily from 9 am to 10 pm. Check out their Facebook page here.
Cafe Yaxha was a really cute restaurant in Flores serving a wide variety of options on their menu including traditional Mayan specialties, breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and more including vegetarian options like curries, stir fry and a variety of delicious fruit smoothies.
The interior of the restaurant was beautifully decorated with detailed and colourful murals on all of the walls, funky decor and colourful Guatemalan blankets used as the tablecloths. The restaurant was spacious on the inside and there were a good amount of wood tables. It was a beautiful and authentic place where I enjoyed multiple meals. The vegetarian stir fry and the smoothies were so tasty.
Location – Calle 15 de Septiembre between Avenida Santa Ana and El Rosario (The restaurant also doubles as a hostel). Check out their website here. They are open daily from 10:30 am to 11 pm.
Cool Beans Cafe
Cool Beans Cafe was a small and adorable local cafe with a relaxed atmosphere, funky decor and a beautiful outdoor seating area.
Although it’s entrance was on Calle 15 de Septiembre, there was an area behind the cafe along the Malecon with outdoor seating and hammocks looking out to the lake and jungle, which was a beautiful place to chill and enjoy some food or a drink while enjoying views of the gorgeous scenery. I stopped here during one of my walks around town for a fresh bowl of fruit and loved the vibe of the place and the great views.
Location – Calle 15 de Septiembre between Avenida Flores and Avenida 15 de Marzo. Check out their page on TripAdvisor here. They are open from 7 am to 9:30 pm every day and closed on Sundays.
Where to Stay
Flores is a small town but there is still a great variety of accommodations to choose from, including hotels and hostels.
I stayed at Los Amigos Hostel during my time in Flores and this is where most backpackers and budget travelers tend to stay as well. I had read many positive reviews and it was highly recommended by travelers that I had met in Antigua and Lake Atitlan.
I absolutely loved this place! There was a gorgeous open-air central courtyard that felt like a jungle with lush vegetation everywhere where pretty much everyone hung out and socialized in the evenings. It was a very social hostel and was an easy place to meet others as a solo traveler. The hostel was well-equipped with tonnes of amenities like fast and reliable Wi-Fi, a restaurant (with lots of delicious food options) and bar next to the courtyard, a movie lounge, hammocks hidden among the tropical courtyard and lots of seating, lockers inside the dorms, deluxe dorms which feature air conditioning and a private ensuite washroom within the room, and hot showers. Aside from being slightly noisy in the evenings when I wanted to go to sleep early (ear plugs work great for this), the hostel was fantastic.
Location – Calle Central between Avenida Santa Ana and Avenida Barrios. You can visit their website by clicking here.
Tourist Services in Flores
ATMs and Banks:
There are no banks in Flores but there is one ATM located in an air-conditioned supermarket/convenience store with glass doors along Calle 30 de Junio across from Capitan Tortuga. I used this ATM to withdraw cash and had no problems. I don’t remember the name of the place, but you will likely find it.
If this ATM isn’t working or runs out of cash, you can find more ATMs and banks across the causeway in the neighbouring town of Santa Elena which is a quick tuk tuk or taxi ride away. There is an ATM in the supermarket at the Mundo Maya International Mall and also a few banks to use.
Hospitals and Emergencies:
The nearest hospital to the town of Flores is in the neighbouring town of San Benito called Hospital Regional de San Benito (dial +502-7932-1111).
For the police, dial 7926-1365.
You can find tourist information about transportation, attractions, things to see and do, tours, etc. at the INGUAT desk which has a location in the Mundo Maya International Airport in Santa Elena (arrivals area) and an office in Flores along Calle Centroamerica (open 8 am to 4 pm, weekdays).
Getting There and Around
Flores is accessible by plane, bus and shuttle from various areas around the country.
If you are short on time and have a little extra money in your budget, then I would highly recommend taking a flight from Guatemala City to Flores.
There are multiple flights leaving daily from Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport (with Avianca/TACA and TAG airlines) in both the morning and evening. TAG is a smaller airline that operates out of a separate terminal detached from the main airport (a taxi ride is necessary to get there) and the planes that they use are small propeller planes. If you are like me and are freaked out by small planes, then I would recommend booking a flight with Avianca/TACA airlines, which leave from the airport’s main terminal and use larger planes.
The flight from Guatemala City to Flores takes around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on whether or not there are delays or bad weather. The flight arrives to the Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores, which is actually located just a few kilometres outside of Flores in the neighbouring town of Santa Elena on the mainland. The airport is very small and basic and consists of only one large waiting room with chairs and just metal detectors for security checks. When my flight arrived in Flores, the plane dropped us off on the tarmac right in front of the entrance doors to the airport, which was interesting and felt a little strange! They have two daily flights on Avianca (morning and evening) from Guatemala City and some on smaller airlines like TAG and TACA.
To get to Flores from the airport in Santa Elena, there will be taxis waiting in the parking lot outside the terminal and the ride takes approximately 5-7 minutes for Q35 or so.
Bus & Shuttles:
If you’re on a tighter budget or are not on a time crunch, taking a bus to Flores might be a better option for you. You can book a first-class overnight bus from Guatemala City which will arrive at the bus terminal in Santa Elena, which is just two blocks from the causeway leading to Flores. The ride takes around 8-10 hours. There are three bus companies that make the journey between Guatemala City and Flores: Autobuses del Norte (ADN), Linea Dorada, and Fuente del Norte. You can also take a shuttle bus to Flores from various destinations around Guatemala.
I have no experience with taking the bus, so I recommend doing your own research on which bus company to book through and the safety situation of the buses along this journey.
Getting Around Flores:
Flores is such a tiny town and it is easy to get around on foot. If you do need a ride somewhere though, you should have no trouble finding one of the many three-wheeled tuk tuks zooming around the streets. There are no buses or other forms of transport in Flores. It is also an easy walk from Flores to Santa Elena but you can also take a tuk tuk there. There are also taxis available in Flores and Santa Elena.
Have you visited Flores? Did you find this guide helpful for planning your trip there?
Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading.