It seems like every blog post I write starts in the same way – with a long bus journey – and this one is no different. To get from Mexico to Guatemala, our last country before returning home to Honduras, we had to cross back into Belize first and change buses twice despite having paid for a direct shuttle. Apart from that, and the surprise exit fee from Mexico that left us penniless, the journey actually went quite smoothly and we arrived in Flores in the early evening.
Flores is a little island in Lake Petén Itza in the Petén region of Guatemala which was celebrating it’s anniversary while we were there meaning there was a feria on during our stay that involved a lot of parties, presentations and pageants. Flores is the most common base for tourists and travellers that want to go and visit the Mayan site of Tikal, which was on our agenda for our stay.
We decided to save Tikal for our second day and took the first day on Flores easy. The town is very cute, full of cobblestoned streets and colourful facades. In the afternoon we grabbed one of the local boats and got it to take us across the lake to a rope swing. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon, with a cold beer and a pack of cards, and provided a good deal of embarrassing moments to as we overestimated our strength and elegance! The view of the sunset was unparalleled too.
Day 2 meant off to Tikal. Tikal is famed for it’s sunrise tours but being 18 and lazy none of us really fancied getting up at 3am to get there in time so we opted for the less popular, much quieter sunset tour. The transport we bought from our hostel included a guide so we were led around the many impressive temples of Tikal before arriving in the Central Plaza in time to watch the sun set… behind a tree.
Despite the slightly disappointing end to the tour, Tikal was definitely my favourite of the ruins we have visited so far. With many of the buildings still standing and in good condition, and with a defined Central Plaza, it’s easy to imagine Tikal as the bustling city it was until it’s decline in the 9th Century. Tikal was a major economic and political centre during the Mayan era and features the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas, Temple IV.
To break what is becoming a habit, I’ll finish this post with a bus so I can dive right into the next one. Our next destination was supposed to be Semuc Champey but after some discussion we decided to skip it to give us the chance to fit in one more country – El Salvador! We were warned that to get from Flores to Antigua, where we decided to go next, night buses were the fastest options but having not been prepared for this, it meant a day hanging around in our hostel before embarking on the single most uncomfortable bus journey we’ve had. And before anyone says anything it wasn’t even a chicken bus! Anyway we eventually got to Guatemala City where it was a quick ride over to Antigua, getting us there bright and early to find breakfast and explore the city before we could crash out and catch up on some sleep.