Guatemala's North


Global Mark : 13.25

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 4 4 2 2 1 5 1 2 10.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
21 100% 86%(18) 100% 10 to 20 16.00

Description :
A one street village by a blue lake

Comments : This place is a good alternative to Flores on the way to Tikal and it offers a few attractions on its own

What to do ? Get up to a Mirador for a view of the lake and say 'waow' / Swim at a few spots / Buy wood-carving / Relax on a hammock / Eat crocodile meat / Spot monkeys and other species at the Biotopo / Tour the natural ruins of Ixlu (2km away, left just before road to Belize, 20mn walk on the trails) / Once there, check the tiny INGUAT office at the intersection, the map and the stalea / Walk to the other lagoon (Laguna Salpeten) and the ruinas / Play football with the kids / Enjoy the sunset by the lagoon / Watch the stars...

What you may not like ? Having little to see in the village beside the hotels, hospedaje, restaurants and tienda along the road / The cost of accomodation (Q20 minimum) and what you sometimes get for that price / The limited swimming area / Finding a crocodile in your swimming area / The hot sun / The barking dogs at night / Encountering a malaria or dengue carrying mosquito / The cost to reach Tikal : you won't save much ! / The cockroaches

How long ? One day for the place, one day for Tikal and one day to relax !

Where to stay ? Plenty of choices with two categories beside the expensive hotels : the 'natural' places, often on the hill (which means good panorama), with very open 'bungalows' to share (which means no privacy and maybe safety issue) and the hospedaje offering basic rooms. From the South toward Tikal :

bullet Hospedaje Sal Itza, 'natural' on a hill / 15 for hammock, 25 for bed / Good setting and nice view but bungalows in bamboo or cement open and rather basic.
bullet Posada Los Angeles, concrete house / 30 per bed / Basic but correct rooms by the road. 
bullet El Mirador del Duende, 'natural' on a hill / 20 for hammock, 35 for a bed / Go there for the nice setting, the original white Mayan style bungalows and the backpackers atmosphere / What you may not like : the prices for what you get (very basic), the open bungalows, the busyness (hence safety issues), the cockroaches & the attitude of some member of the staff
bullet Pat Sak Luk Hotel, 'natural' on a hill / 25 per bed / About the same as the above but a little more run down and basic. It is however cheaper and less busy. 
bullet Hospedaje Peten Maya / 25 per bed / Basic rooms w. mid-sized wall which means little privacy. 
bullet The Mayan Princess / 25 per bed / Go there for the western atmosphere with music and movies / What you may not like : the small rooms w. thin wall partitions (means noise if full) and the cockroaches.
bulletJungle Cafe, 'natural' on a hill a bit away from the road / 15 for hammock, 20 for bed / Go there for the good prices, good setting and good view / What you may not like : it is rather run down. 
bullet Posada Ixchel / 35 per bed / Go there for the nicest, cleanest and biggest rooms in this price category and the green setting a bit away from the road / What you may not like : the dog !
bullet La Casa de Bruno's Place / 25 per bed / Go there for the nice & clean rooms in a tiny garden w. hammocks / What you may not like : the dog from the above !
bullet La Casa De Don Juan / 20 per person / Cheap but only half-size walls, hot as under the roof and obligation to share if busy.
bullet Filin Posada, behind the above / 20 per person / Same as the above but a bit more off the road
bullet Hotel Sun Breeze, lake's side, off the road in a tiny garden but unfortunately not by the lake / 35(1), 50(2) or 75(3) / Expensive for this kind of basic empty room
bullet La Casa de Don Douglas, on the road to the Biotopo / 25 per person / Basic and run-down
bullet Casa Roja, 'natural', 1km on the way to the Biotopo, sign a bit hidden, when the road curves a bit / 25 per bed / Double kayak Q20 per hour / Go there for the nice & clean setting, the relative isolation and the jungle noise / What you may not like : you will have to share the open room if busy and it is a small walk to the village.
bullet Casa de Dona Tonita, just after the above / 30 per person / Family atmosphere and lake view from the balcony but rather basic rooms in wood. 

Where to eat ? Quite a few restaurants caters for westerners palates. It is not too cheap however with the basic Pollo fritto at Q20 min. Crocodile meat is sometimes available for around Q45. As in Flores, Restaurant The Mayan Princess is popular with backpackers : good dishes at Q29. An even better choice may be opposite El Establo 'Garlic & Horses' : no horse meat but great dishes reasonably priced. The nice owner was also planning barbecue by the water (Q10) and Indian & Arabic food on low table (Q15). There are also a few basic comedores, popular with the police force, but rather plain. One is by the road to the Biotopo (it serves the usual huevos + frijoles + coffee for Q10). Comedor Susan is by the Restaurant Peten Maya and The Mayan Princess and serves meals for Q10-15. 

A Biotopo Tour ? Biotopo Cerro Cahui is located 2.5km away on the north side of the lake. The way is pleasant and the tropical rainforest even more. How you will like it will however depend of what animals you manage to spot along the 6km loop track and whether or not you are coming back from Tikal. The westerners I met while going up had seen nothing except the view from the two miradors. Going late afternoon, I however spotted a snake, the tail of a fox, dozens of spider monkeys high in the trees and of course plenty of birds. The ruins however will be definitively disappointing. Altogether, it is a pleasant 2-3 hours walk (avoid at noon as it climbs a bit) but the Q20 entrance fee is a bit high (local people pay Q10). Ask to see the few snake's jars at the ticket desk. Check also the latest safety issues as serious robberies took place there previously... 

Other tours ? Most places offer a jungle or lago tour, by foot, horses (Q75 for 4 hours) or kayak. The best place for the latest is at Mon Ami Restaurant, 1.5km on the way to the Biotopo : it cost only Q10 per hour and the French Biologist should accompany you on the 3 hours journey toward toucans, turtles & parrots. He is also doing a morning jungle tour around the Biotopo (not inside) for Q45 incl. a sandwich. 

 << Discover the lake

Leaving ?
It is possible to buy bus ticket here, but, except for Belize City at 5:30 ($8, 5 hours), it is better to do it in Flores. Buses back to there pass at 5:30, 7, 8, 9:30, 13 & 14 (Q5, 45mn). 

The trip to Tikal : SSS / L&R / Q15 / 30mn
The idea was to reach Tikal as early as possible in order to experience the atmosphere of the just-after sunrise. Minibuses are therefore leaving El Remate at around 5:30. 
I was by the side of the road at 5:15 and waited 2mn until a minibus showed up. - "How much ?" - "Q30 return" - "I am interested by one way only, so Q15". This was agreed. The girl inside had agreed for Q40 with a return to Flores. We picked up another girl and then left, stopping along the way for local passengers (who would pay Q10 only). This was therefore foreigner price with local comfort ! 
17km before the temple, we stopped. This is where you have now to pay for your Q50 entrance ticket. And the office opens at 6am only ! I complained to one of the staff : "So you wake up early to arrive for the opening but have to wait 15mn away from the park. Why not sell the ticket there ?" Obviously, to avoid people sneaking in. The only answer I got however was that people sleeping at the park were able to enter it as early as 5am... Lovely segregation !
Fortunately, the ticket office opened at 5:50 and, being one of the first bus in the line, we reached Tikal at 6:05. Not so bad...

The trip back to Santa Elena (Flores) : SSS / L&R / Q5 / 45mn
This 5:30 bus which showed at 5:45 is busy as it delivers the students (who pay half prices) to their schools. 
If you are eager to catch the 6:30 bus to Guatemala and do not mind standing in the alley, you could get off half an hour later at the intersection. Otherwise, admire the military base & airport sights on the right...


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