Nan sitting on stairs of wide mayan temple

Flores Guatemala Itinerary For a 3, 4, 5 Days Visit (2023)

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For many people, Flores in Guatemala is simply a pitstop on the way to reach the world-famous Mayan ruins of Tikal. Situated in the far north of Guatemala, Flores is a charming town nestled on a small island on Lago Petén Itzá.

Surrounded by the lush jungles, it has become the perfect gateway to explore the ancient Mayan civilization. This is what initially brought us to Flores but we were amazed by just how much we loved this picturesque town. From the colonial and Spanish architecture, the cobbled streets, to the phenomenal local cuisine, the culture of this little island won us over. And the fact that this town is so small that it could be walked in under 20 minutes made it all that much more charming.

From here, we embarked on multiple adventures: exploring the dense jungle, uncovering towering pyramids, hearing the frightening calls of howler monkeys, and watching the sunset from the top of a Mayan temple.

Excited to see what Flores in Guatemala has to offer?

Check out our 3, 4, or 5-day Flores Guatemala itinerary below!

How many days to stay in Flores?

Many people visit Flores on a day trip from Antigua in order to see Tikal. However, I would say this would be a great disservice to this incredible region.

Ideally, you should stay between 3-5 days in Flores.

If you stay 3 days, you will have your arrival day, then one full day to explore Tikal, and then your departure day. With 3 days, you have just enough time to see the primary UNESCO heritage site of Tikal, and a little bit of time to explore Flores.

Yaxha ruin Nan watching the next building

If you stay 4 days, you will have one additional day where you can visit Yaxha, one of the most mystical and fascinating ruins we’ve ever visited.

With 5 days, you can visit both ruins and still have additional time to discover Flores.

You may be asking yourself if you need to see both Mayan ruins on this trip. We saw both and we can assure you that both are unique and 100% worth visiting!

Flores Guatemala itinerary: 4 days

Day 1: Arrival at Flores and explore the town

On your first day in Flores, take some time to discover the town. The island is quite small and can be walked in 30-40 minutes, but you can easily spend countless hours exploring the colonial architecture, cute boutiques, and calm lake views.

You will notice that most of the buildings are painted in vibrant and lively colors. This follows long-standing indigenous traditions in Guatemala. There, the house colors not only represent a specific regional identity, but the light colors also have the added benefit of absorbing less heat. These houses make for a perfect spot to capture some nice photos

Los Amigos hostel pained in colors

We spent hours admiring these buildings and venturing down every alley. What is also amazing is that due to the small size of the town, you will always have a beautiful view of Lake Petén Itzá. In fact, much of the outer perimeter of the island is a pedestrian lake-front boardwalk.

From here, you can stop at one of the cafes or restaurants to enjoy the view. We would recommend ordering a fresh açai bowl and smoothie at Maracuya. After lunch, make sure to stop by the butterfly garden located within the restaurant!  

Maracuya meal on terrace
Nan holding a butterfly in the mariposa garden of Maracuya

With the remaining afternoon, you can try out canoeing or kayaking on Lake Petén. Kayaking is the perfect way to venture out onto the calm lake waters and discover the natural surroundings, lush rainforest, and wildlife. It also allows you to discover some of the harder-to-reach places. These include Isla Santa Barbara, El Mirador for a stunning high-point view, Jorge’s rope swing, and Chechenal ecological beach.

The rentals are usually for an entire day so you can spend hours relaxing and exploring the lake! We highly recommend booking with Los Amigos Hostel. We booked the Tikal and Yaxha tours with them and thoroughly enjoyed the service and experience with them!

Evening: Enjoy a lake-front dinner at Big Fish and then after that, go to Parque Central for the chance to catch one of the local town basketball matches or maybe a festival.

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Day 2: Explore Tikal ruins (full day)

On your second day, you will embark on the most exciting journey into the ancient civilization of the Mayas. But first, you have a big decision to make.

Do you want to see the sunrise, sunset, or simply the mid-afternoon at Tikal?

You will have the option of doing this tour as a sunrise trip, starting at 3 a.m., a sunset tour departing at noon, or an afternoon tour starting anywhere between 4:30 a.m.-10 a.m. We ended up doing the sunset tour in both Tikal and Yaxha as we do not like waking up too early in the morning. We are also more fascinated by the ambiance created by the rays of sunlight during sunset.

Now that decision aside, let’s dive into what you will experience in Tikal.

Ryan at main temple of Tikal

Located deep in the rainforest of northern Guatemala, Tikal was the largest city in the Mayan period, dating back to 900 BC, and was comprised of over 3000 buildings, holding a population of about 90,000 people.

As we walked through the thick jungle, surrounded by the cacophony of sounds of nature, we stumbled upon Temple IV, standing 213 feet high, a looming presence of Mayan architectural marvel. As we walked through the dense forest, the frightening roars of howler monkeys hidden high up in the canopy echoed all around us.

For those of you who have watched Jurassic Park, they sound remarkably similar to velociraptors. This only made the ancient cultural immersion even deeper.

At Tikal, you will discover countless temples, 6 of which are considered major pyramids. You can actually climb to the top of many of these structures and the aura of divination is palpable.

Tikal temple through the forest

As we climbed to the top, we were told how the Mayan astrologers stood atop these temples to track the movement of the planets and stars, allowing them to have extremely accurate calculations to fine-tune their complex calendar.

As we stood atop the temple, gazing across the limitless expanse of rainforest and seeing the tops of so many temples/altars peaking above the tree line, we couldn’t help but feel the sheer power and mastery of the Mayan people 3000 years ago.

It was from here that the Mayan king, standing high closest to god, adorned in animal skins and over 15lbs of Jade and ornaments, would make his speeches, which could be heard throughout the entire plaza due to the ingenious acoustics of the buildings.

It was here that we sat watching the sunset, taking in all the magic of this ancient civilization that ended up mysteriously and abruptly vanishing.

Tikal sunset view from a top the temple

Tikal for us was such a magical experience. We have visited other Mayan ruins before but none of them compared. Chichen Itza in Mexico, although equally a Mayan ruin, felt too touristic and artificial. In contrast, the temples of Tikal are surrounded by dense jungle, a rich diverse ecosystem of wild animals, and mounds of yet un-excavated ruins.

We later learned that so many of the mounds that we saw while walking through the forest were in fact ancient structures buried under the soil. The government however decided not to excavate it all in order to preserve the nature and biosphere around it. This is what added to the fascination of this site. You felt like the first explorers uncovering the first remains of this ancient civilization.

Ancient mayan temple during our Flores Guatemala itinerary

This tour to Tikal lasts close to 7 hours and you will return at around 7 pm (if you are taking the sunset tour).

Evening: Enjoy an amazing dinner at Bistro Puertas del Cielo. What makes this restaurant unique is that there are no set menus. The chef will come to your table, sit down to chat with you and learn about what you like to eat.

He will then customize a menu based on your tastes and with the local ingredients available. Every meal is an absolute surprise! It was so good that we went two nights in a row!

Day 3: Explore Yaxhá ruins (full day)

The next day, you can return to the jungle to explore another remarkable ancient Mayan ruin called Yaxha. If you are wondering if it is worth visiting two Mayan ruins, I would say it is definitely worth it!

➡️ Yaxha and Tikal each present a very unique experience.

Tikal is a UNESCO world heritage site, with majestic and grand temples, but the area is more touristic.

Yaxha on the other hand, feels more remote, with smaller temples but most of them you can actually explore and climb up. In Yaxha, you feel more immersed in the jungle, where the ruins were left the way they were found.

We explored Yaxha first and then went to Tikal second, and absolutely loved our experience there.

Ruins in Yaxha side buildings
Ryan on stairs of the yaxha temple

The Yaxha ruins are one of the largest Mayan archeological sites in Guatemala and span over an area of 250 square kilometres. It was believed that over 40,000 once lived there and served as both a political and spiritual centre. Of the over 500 buildings, there are around 14 of them have been uncovered and restored.

While walking through the dense forest, you will notice multiple residential and ceremonial complexes. There were ball courts that once hosted games, houses which once resided the people, and altars used for offerings and sacrifices.

One grass mound was particularly high, but as we circled around, we were fascinated to see that it was in fact a half-uncovered pyramid. From the front, we could climb up the stone-carved steps to reach the peak. From atop, it begs you to wonder how such a remarkable structure could’ve been built back then.

Nan sitting on stairs of wide mayan temple

To add to this immersive experience, our guide even found a tarantula and allowed us to hold it in our hands. Normally I am terrified of spiders, but somehow, I felt okay having it in my palm. Maybe the Mayan gods were protecting me.

Nan holding a Tarantula in her hands during Flores Guatemala itinerary

As the evening approached, we headed towards Temple 216, the highest temple of this complex. Sitting atop, you get a 360-degree unobstructed view of the dense rainforest as well as the Lago Yaxhá that cuts through the vegetation.

As we waited for the sun to set, the sounds of calling birds and howling monkeys echoed all around us. Seeing the multiple temples peaking above the tree line across the horizon, there was a true sense of prominence. Hidden beneath the dense forest once existed a flourishing and powerful ancient civilization, and you felt a part of it.

View of the lake from a top the temple in Yaxha during sunset
Flores Guatemala itinerary in yaxha watching sunset from temple

After the sunset, you make your way back towards the exit. But along the way, you have the chance to see the temples once last time. In the stillness and darkness of night, the site is surrounded by a mystical feeling. It’s as if you traveled back to 600 BC, back when the city of Yaxha flourished, and the residents had simply gone home for the night to sleep.

You can almost feel like you were there. 

Evening: Enjoy Dinner and the sunset from a rooftop terrace such as at Sky Bar.

Day 4: Departure Day

On your departure day, the activity you do will depend on what time your flight is at. Most people will be taking a flight to return to Guatemala City.

There will not be enough time to embark on one of the day tours, such as the Xunantunich Maya ruins or the Crater Azul, so you could relax in town or take a short boat trip to Jorge’s rope swing.

It is a waterfront restaurant with food, hammocks, and benches to lounge around on. But what draws people there is the 3 rope swings that you can swing off of like Tarzan and plunge into the water.

Sounds fun? Make sure not to hurt yourself though since this is your departure day.

To get there, you will need to hire a local boat to take you across the lake. This should take around 20 minutes and cost around 25Q each way.

This post is part of our series about Guatemala. If you want to learn more about Guatemala, planning your trip, and some of the best experiences there, check out the guides below:

If you have only 3 days in Flores Guatemala

If you have 1 less day in your itinerary, then you may need to choose between visiting Tikal or Yaxha. Since both are full-day tours, they each generally require an entire day to do.

It is theoretically possible to do Tikal as a sunrise tour on the final day and return by around noon, and then depart for your flight in the afternoon. This is a bit risky though if ever there are any delays.

Still want to make sure to squeeze in both Mayan sites? Then your itinerary would look like this:

Day 1: Arrival and explore Flores. You can also go kayaking

Day 2: Sunset tour at Yaxha (they do not have a sunrise tour)

Day 3: Sunrise tour at Tikal, return by noon, and then depart for your flight

If you have extra time in Flores

If you have extra time in Flores, there is an abundance of activities that you can join in.

Below is a list of some of the main things you could do

(Note: I would highly recommend doing some of these tours with Los Amigos Hostel as they provide excellent service and are far more affordable than many other options):

  • El Mirador Trek
    If you have a lot of extra time, like 5-6 days, and want to embark on a grand adventure, then El Mirador trek is for you. El Mirador is one of the oldest Mayan Cities and has the biggest pyramid by volume in the world. What makes this site special is that it is so remote and deep in the jungle. It takes 2 days walk to reach the temple, one day to explore the site, and then 2 days to return.
    🗓️ If this interests you, check out these two options: tour of El Mirador or this 5-day inclusive camping tour!
  • Uaxactun ruins
    If you are still interested in seeing even more Mayan ruins, then Uaxactun can be a great option. It is located further up north past Tikal deep within the rainforest and was once the founding site of much of the terminology used to describe the Mayan world.
    🗓️ Check out this Uaxactun ruins tour from Flores!
  • Xunantunich Mayan ruins right at the Belize border
    Right at the border of Belize and Guatemala, approximately 2 hours from Flores, is another incredible Maya ruin called Xunantunich. Xunantunich is the tallest Mayan site in Belize and was once an important centre of trade due to its location beside the Belize River. This can make for an impressive stop if you are heading towards Belize.
    If you will be heading to San Ignacio on the Belize border, you can also join this tour to Xunantunich!
  • Visit Ixpanpajul Nature Park
    Ixpanpajul Nature Park is located just outside Flores and provides a perfect day trip full of jungle trekking, ziplining, climbing suspension bridges, and admiring the Mayan biosphere. From high up top the structures, you will get a birds-eye view of the remarkable forest canopy and the animals that live there. Visit the official Ixpanpanjul website for more information!
  • Crater Azul
    Spend a day swimming in beautiful turquoise pools and springs on the river La Pasión. This tour brings you to a crater with crystalline waters where you can enjoy the fresh natural springs as well as the surrounding wildlife. Check out this tour here to Crater Azul with Los Amigos Hostel. I would go with them since all the other tour options for Crater Azul are far more expensive!  

Where to stay in Flores?

During your Flores Guatemala trip, we would highly recommend staying on the island of Flores rather than the mainland municipality.

The mainland portion is far busier and according to our guide, less safe. The island of Flores is quite small and makes for a far more convenient and comfortable stay.

Map of Flores island and Flores mainland

We have also included one luxury accommodation that is not on Flores island, but instead located on a secluded bay nearby.

Los Amigos hostel pained in colors
Bolontiku drone view of the site

For more highly recommended hotels in Flores, check out below:

Recommended restaurants

During our 4 day Flores Guatemala trip, we had the chance to try out several restaurants. For such a small town isolated in the rainforest, we were pleasantly surprised by just how delicious the food was.

There was also a surprising variety of options. We had just finished traveling through Belize and craved some healthy food. Fortunately, Flores had several healthy options like Smoothie and Acai bowls, such as at Maracuya.

For a very unique dining experience, try out Bistro Puertas del Cielo. The cuisine is Italian in nature but what makes it unique is that there are no menus. Instead, the chef comes to speak with you and learn more about the things you like to eat. He and his team will then tailor a meal based on your taste preference as well as the available ingredients.

Steak at Bistro Puertas del Cielo restaurant in Flores guatemala
Fresh pasta At Bistro Puertas del Cielo in Flores

The food was so delicious that we went two nights in a row. Finally, we really enjoyed chatting with the chef and learning about his life experiences as well as travel.

For delicious local Guatemala food, we would recommend Big Fish for seafood or Restaurant Al Comal.

Budget for Flores trip

Flores was very affordable. On average, we spent around 50$ per night on accommodation, around 30-40$ per meal for two (including alcohol), and there were no transport costs due to it being completely walkable.

The biggest expense was the two tours going to Tikal and Yaxha. On average, they each cost around 165Q for the tour, 150Q for the entrance ticket to Tikal, and 100Q for the early bird or late bird entrance ticket (per person).

This totals around 70 CAD or 50 USD for the Tikal tour per person. The price to Yaxha is similar.

Check out this post to learn more about how much we spent on our Guatemala trip, including Flores, Antigua, and Lake Atitlan.

How to get to Flores?

Flores is located in the Northern part of Guatemala.

The nearest airport is Aeropuerto Internacional Mundo Maya, a short 7-minute drive from the island of Flores.

You will likely be arriving from Flores whether from the capital city of Guatemala City or like us, across the border from Belize city.

There are several daily flights that connect both Belize City and Guatemala City to Mundo Maya airport.

There are also daily bus departures from Guatemala City, however, this takes around 8-10 hours. Some travelers opt to make a stop for a few days at Semuc Champey along the way to Flores.

If you’re coming from Belize City, there is a bus that brings you across the border and directly to Flores. This bus takes around 6 hours. Two good options would be with Geckko Trails Explorers or with Belize Caving Expeditions.

Where to go after Flores?

After visiting Flores, you will whether be going to Guatemala City and potentially Antigua after that, or head west toward Belize.

If you’re heading back to Guatemala City, we would highly recommend taking a trip to the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, located 2 hours away. From there, you can do the Acatenango volcano hike to see live volcanic eruptions.

If you have more time, then head over to Lake Atitlan to enjoy one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the world. Make sure to check out our guide on how to get to Lake Atitlan.

Recap: Flores Guatemala itinerary for 3 to 5 days

Flores was an absolute surprise for us. We headed there as a mandatory stepping stone to see the incredible site of Tikal but ended up falling in love with the charm of the town.

Yaxha, a very much lesser-known site, turned out to be one of our favourite historical sites ever.

Guatemala is so full of rich culture and ancient history that you can easily spend weeks here.

Whether you are just stopping in Flores for a few days or potentially embarking on a multi-day trek, you are sure to fall in love with this quaint town!

We hope this 3 to 5-day Flores Guatemala itinerary was helpful!