After a goodnight’s sleep at Los Amigos, we woke up and headed out to explore Flores for a few hours and grab breakfast. Flores is a small island so you can’t really get lost. You just have to watch out for tuk-tuk’s and trucks moving quickly over the cobblestone streets. Lindsay had an idea of a few breakfast places she found in her Lonely Planet guide-book so we headed out to locate those places. We wandered around the water a bit and then headed up a street to find breakfast.
We ate desayunos (breakfast) at La Galeria Del Zot’z, a cute little local cafe. I ordered the panqueques and yogurt con frutas and Lindsay had huevos ranchos. Both meals were delicious and cheap. After breakfast we headed back to Los Amigos for the last time to grab our stuff and head over the bridge to Santa Elena to grab the bus to Tikal. On the way to the bus we stopped at a small souvenir stall. A nice man who spoke a little English showed us his baby parrots he’s raising. I purchased a couple of postcards for my collection and a jaguar mask made by local artisans for $12.
We walked over the short bridge to Santa Elena and walked about another 3/4 of a mile down 6a Ave to the bus station. It was hot and humid out and we both were a sweaty mess by time we got to the station. We found the buses to Tikal on the right side of the station. A Spanish-speaking man brought us to the office and put us on the phone with a guy who spoke English. He came to the office a few minutes later and gave us our options. We knew we could get to Tikal pretty easily, but coming back from Tikal was going to be a bit harder because we needed to leave in the morning and make it over the border to Belmopan by 3:00pm. We hemmed and hawed over it for a bit because we knew we could travel to and from for cheaper, but it might take us a lot longer to get them and back over the border. The ride on the collectivo bus cost us $11 and we ended up with a private taxi from Tikal to the border for $47 each.
The bus ride to Tikal was actually fun. We traveled with about 8-10 other from all over the world, including two guys from Bozeman, Montana where Lindsay is from! Small world incidence #2 of the trip! The others on the bus were travelling for a tour and the tour guide, Samuel, gave us a good overview of Flores and Tikal and the Mayan culture and history. It was pretty cool and definitely made me more excited about exploring Tikal. At the height of the Mayan empire, there was over 120,000 people living in the area (including Mexico and Belize), while at the same time London only had about 50,000 and Paris had about 75,000 people. One of the biggest drivers of the end of the Mayan civilization was the lack of water and resources in the area.
The park fees can only be paid in Quetzals, which neither Lindsay or I knew. Thus, we had to stop and exchange money at a small shop on the side of the road. At first the woman wouldn’t take my American dollars because they were either wrinkled or slightly torn. I showed her all my bills and told her that’s all I had. Apparently, the banks in Guatemala are very particular about American dollars. Samuel, the tour guide, came over and helped us. Eventually she exchange $50 for me. It was a real pain in the ass and I highly recommend you take “good” American bills with you if you travel to Guatemala.
The park entrance fee is Q150 or about $20 USD. The park is very big. The park entrance is about 20 km from the hotels and the entrance to the sites. If you visit Tikal, be prepared to walk a lot. The bus dropped us off at the Tikal Inn just as it started to thunder and rain. I was hoping to do the sunset tour that started about 4pm, but decided against it due to the rain. 🙁 We checked in easily as Lindsay had made reservations via email ahead of time. It was a good thing that we made reservations because we learned later in the pool that a large group of students from Loyola College in New Orleans were in Tikal on an Ecology travel course. A jungle-view bungalow room cost us $67 USD each, which included dinner, breakfast, and a sunrise tour of Tikal.
The room was nice. Definitely more of a hotel feel. However, there is no electricity in the park and thus you could only get power and a hot shower between 7pm and 10pm. Keep that in mind if you wanted a hot shower at 3pm after a long day of traveling! We waited a bit and the rain stopped. Since the park didn’t close until 6pm, we decided to explore Tikal for a couple of hours. We grabbed our cameras and rain jackets and hit the trails. We ended up walking about 4.25 miles that afternoon exploring the various trails and ruins.
Walking around the jungle is unreal. I felt like I was in a movie. Everything was SO green! There was even mist hanging around the trails as we walked giving it a bit of an eerie feeling. After about 1.5 miles we approached our first ruins that was still under excavation. I plan to go in more depth about Tikal in a few days so stay tuned for that post! But in a nutshell, the place was amazing. I would go back there in a heartbeat!
After walking around for a couple of hours we headed back to the Inn just in time for the power and hot water to come on! The pool looked quite inviting since it was still about 80 degrees with 1000% humidity! There was no one in the pool we when got in, but after about 5 minutes about 30 Loyola college students jumped in. We chatted a bit with a couple of them and then hopped out to shower and eat dinner.
I had the fish with steam veggies and Lindsay had the steak. A woman named Michael joined us for dinner and it turned out she was from New Orleans too! I asked her about hundred questions about New Orleans because I am (well did now 🙂 ) traveling to New Orleans the first week of June for work. After dinner we both hit the sack early.
- Breakfast – $7 (Q48)
- Bus/taxi (including return trip to Belize border the next day) – $58
- Park Entrance Fee – $20 (Q150)
- Tikal Inn – $68
- Souvenirs – $12
- Total: $160