Go deep between Peten’s Forest to explore the biggest Mayan civilization from all times! Love challenges, camping, and the jungle? Get a week walking tour inside the jungle to be amazed by the El Mirador civilization. Traveling with kids or in short times? Don’t worry, you can still get a lot from the Mayan culture just on a one day trip to Tikal and still be surprised by the howling monkeys, last finish your day with a breathtaking sunset on top of Yahxa’s temple 216. Take the level of adventure as hard as you want!
So first let’s talk about the three most important Mayan Routes in Petén, Guatemala:
The Best Mayan Routes in Guatemala
Quick history tip! Tikal was one of the main cultural centers in the Maya civilization, around the 200 DC-850DC and is probably the most popular Mayan city in Guatemala.
The good part: Is one of the biggest Mayan civilizations, and you can really understand the Mayan culture from there, so its a Historical MUST. The Pyramids are really impressive, do recommend you to go up the pyramids and enjoy the view from the top.
The bad part: It gets kind of crowded, also depending on the season you are traveling, but is the most crowded Mayan park in Guatemala, so expect a lot of people getting in your pictures!
I do recommend, if you are staying at Flores, take the trip with your Hostel’s tour, its usually not that much more expensive than what a bus would charge you to take you from Flores to Tikal and they usually include a tour guide that will show you around and talk to you more about the history.
Geek tip! Also, very known for the famous 1977 Starwars scene that worked as a rebel base on the Yavin Moon! Its really only one second but if you go get up to the Temple IV and surprise your companions with this geeky tip!
So this park is less popular, but personally, it was my favorite. Mainly, because since there are fewer people here, the animals are around more freely, we saw a lot of the howling monkeys all over the place. And when you are going up the stairs of the pyramids you can see the monkeys really close to you.
Also, Yaxha is perfect for a sunset tour, make sure you are on top of the Temple 216 to see the sunset, in Guatemala, is normally around 18:00hrs. It is really magnificent because the Pyramid lays in front of the lake and you can see the sunset reflected in the water as a mirror, it is a gorgeous image to see!
The Howler Monkey sounds where recorded for the making of the Jurassic Park Movie. And indeed, when you are walking around Yaxha you can hear a lot of the monkeys howling everywhere, I felt like I was really walking through Jurassic Park!
You can only access here either by helicopter or by a jungle walk that will be around 90km from Flores Island. The amazing thing about this route is the Danta, which is the highest pyramid in Mesoamerica, even bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Some general recommendations:
- It’s sunny! so I recommend you to take your trips as early as possible, so you can take advantage of the cold cloudy mornings to walk around all you want and of course don’t forget sunscreen.
- Remember you will be walking around a lot, also you are allowed to go up the pyramids, which have small and irregular steps, so make sure you take good walking shoes, you don’t want to trip on those steps!
- There are a lot of Mosquitoes! so pack a good repellent, and some of the local guides at the park recommended avoiding the color black in your clothes, as it is supposed to attract mosquitos. I personally took my regular gym cloth to remain comfortable and fresh during the warm day.
- There are no ATMs at the parks so remember to take enough cash with you, both Tikal and Yahxa entrance is charged, there is some discount if you have a Guatemalan ID with you but you have to present it in order to get the discount.
- You can take your own food and drinks if you want to, so its advice to take some snacks if you are on the budget!
How to get there?
So if you are already excited and anxious to visit, let the transport not stop you. I came to Petén from Izabal in a bus, which was really lame to speak the truth, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you planned it better. For the way back, I book at “Fuentes del Norte” Buses. The good thing about them is they are offering Luxury and VIP class buses, which cost a bit more but offer a lot more comfortable sits and the bus makes fewer stops which helps to make the trip shorter. I took the night time bus that leaves around 11:00 pm and the sits were so comfortable I fell asleep immediately and when I woke up it was already the morning and we were already in the city.
If you are driving or picking times to travel, remember the peak hours in Guatemala city are around 6 to 9 am and 5 to 7 pm, so avoid driving inside the city at this times, if you are driving from the city I would recommend going out around 4:00 am to have a light travel. If you are taking a bus, take a night bus, you won’t feel the way, and there are buses leaving every day from the center of the city. I do not recommend you driving on your own at night, cause it can be a little dangerous if you have an accident or get strained alone in the way at the middle of the night, so always be careful.
Where to stay?
We stayed at “Los Amigos” Hostel, which was a recommendation why a couple of my friends, and it didn’t disappoint. They offer beds and private rooms, I sincerely recommend you to take a private room with air conditioner. The weather tends to be hot, so be expecting to spend most of your day below the sun, and up and down the ruins making a lot of exercises, so when you get to the night you will really enjoy having a nice cold bed to sleep in.
The Hostel is in Flores, so you still have to drive a couple of hours to get to the Parks, but they offer tours every day at very affordable prices.
Also, the food is really nice and they have happy hours in the bar, so you can get drinks at really good prices.
Where to eat?
The first time at Maple&Tocino restaurant, I ate waffles and chicken plate, which serves you a pretty large meal with fried chicken that combines perfectly with the sweat waffles with maple. The second time, I ate a shake, which was also pretty big and got a donut on top. Both delicious options if you are in for some sweats and wanna have a relaxed meal in front of the Peten Itza lake.
Wanna have some fancy night? Raices is a Nice restaurant beside the lake, which will give you a very nice romantic ambient you can accompany it with the nice steak, all at very affordable prices.
So this is are basically the main point around the Mayan Routes, if you like it and wish to spend more time in my beautiful country, don’t forget to check these other posts about Guatemala!