When you arrive in Flores, you’re basically as far north in Guatemala as you can be. The journey there is no joke, especially if you’re coming from the southwestern parts of the country like Antigua. Most travelers only stay for a few days to visit Tikal before turning back around. But since I was at the end of my trip, I stuck around to lounge and do laundry before heading back south.
The town itself is on an island in the middle of a Lago Itza. Buses drop off back on the mainland, but shuttles come into Flores. The island is linked by a bridge and road. Arriving in the city at night after a 12-hour bus ride, I easily found my hostel, Los Amigos, and checked into my dorm. I’d get my bearings later. But first: sleep.
I woke up at my hostel, a veritable hippie garden where people lounged all afternoon on massive pillows and later spent the night drinking in their speakeasy. I was concerned about it being a party hostel, but I went to bed before midnight every night and never had any trouble. I also splurged on the A/C dorm, which I was pleased to have.
You can walk around the town in its entirety in a half hour, which is exactly what I did. The colorful homes reminded me of places like Murano, Cork, and Charleston. But tropical. The shops sold mostly tourist-priced souvenirs, but there were some great cafes and restaurants in town. I’d heard about white fish, a dish native to this lake, but local restaurants offered it for a higher price than this backpacker was willing to pay for. Instead, I had a delicious breakfast and coffee at Cool Beans. One night, it was steak, salad, and fries at Restaurant Peche’s. Cafe Yax-Ha and La Villa Del Chef also came recommended. Come nightfall, food stalls set up near the northwest side of the island.
While I spent most of my time relaxing and exploring the nearby sites, there’s also a local market across the lake. You can rent a paddleboard to get out on the water or venture out. Also across the lake is Mundo Maya International Mall, where you’ll find ATMs, larger stores, and even a movie theater if you’ve run out of things to do.
I only ventured to the far side of Flores once to purchase my overnight bus ticket back to Guatemala City. I’d heard that tickets were cheaper in Santa Elena at the station than if you bought them from one of the hostels or travel agents in town. So I grabbed my hat and scarf to cover myself, protecting from the sun and leering men. Along the way, I got turned around so I asked a woman with her daughter for directions. She didn’t speak English, so she flagged down a different woman to help me. The older lady didn’t speak much English either, but between hers and my limited Spanish, we communicated. I learned that she lived in Mirador, a village near Tikal, as she walked me to the station herself. When we got there, she kissed my cheek and shook my hand. I was so grateful for her kindness.
In my last day in Flores, I had an entire day to kill before my overnight bus. So I threw on my swimsuit and went on a “catamaran ride,” which turned out to be more of a party barge that I had all to myself. The floating dock was blasting Flo Rida’s greatest hits, driven by a Guatemalan man who couldn’t have been older than 21. With him came Quin, the cutest little pit bull mix I’ve ever seen. I took my seat and we made our way out of Flores and 15 minutes across the lake.
I arrived at Jorge’s house, home to the rope swing, and my Guatemalan friend left his pup with me. I paid Jorge’s wife, bought a beer, and found myself a hammock spot. The family lives here and allows tourists to visit and enjoy their property. I didn’t take advantage of the rope swing, but I mostly had the place to myself apart from the daughter and two Australians I’d met earlier on in my trip. I could think of no better way to spend my day than with a Brahma and a good book in hand.
If You Go
Rooms at Los Amigos start at Q80 for dorms, but there are also deluxe dorms and private rooms. The hostel also boasts a spa, restaurant, and movie room.
The catamaran cruise costs Q70 and lasts three hours, running from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. It’s an extra Q10 for the rope swing, which goes to the family that lives there. Bring extra cash for beer and snacks.
In addition to tours to Tikal and the catamaran cruise, you can book excursions to Maya villages at Mirador and Yaxha.