Guatemala's North


Global Mark : 11.50

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 3 3 4 3 2 3 2 2 11.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
1 100% 0% 100% 12 12.00

Description :
A relaxed river town surrounded by Maya ruins hidden in the jungle.

Comments : If you have some time ahead, explore : there are more than 20 archeological sites in the area ! Otherwise, spend a night and head for Tikal !

What to do ? Relax from your trip, on the shore of the river / Explore ruins / Walk jungle / Spot wildlife / Make beautiful river trips

What you may not like ? Having little to see in town / The slightly higher cost for food & water / The sticky weather / The mosquitoes / The cost for the boat

How long ? A few minutes for the town, half a day for Ceibal (by boat), a few days for the other ruins. 

Where to stay ? Quite a few places to stay with basically two options : very basic or nice. Whatever, make sure you get a fan. 

  • Hotel Guayacan (9268777), by the river / Nice rooms w. shower in the main bldg cost Q125. Opp. the streets, basic but big & clean rooms are a bit pricey at 40(1) or 60(2). One offers a river view / Go there for the nice terrace overlooking the river, the kitchen and the clean atmosphere in the main bldg. 
  • Hospedaje Mayapan, turn left from the above / Q15 per person / The rooms are acceptably big & clean but the lightning is a bit dim and the walls in bamboo lack privacy.
  • Hospedaje Sayaxche, turn right from the Hotel / Q15 per person / The downstairs rooms are depressing but the upstairs' ones are bright, clean & big. Two rooms (Q30 but maybe discount if alone) offer a great view toward the river. Unfortunately, the curtails are tiny and the local residents can be a bit noisy (or peeping) on the outside terrace...
  • Hotel Petex Batun (9286165), continue toward N-E, by the river / Q100 w. shower & cable TV / Go there for the nice clean rooms at good price if two. The upstairs rooms with the view are of course the best.
  • Hotel Posada Segura, near the above (street before on the left) / 25(1) or 40(2), w. shower 75, w. cable TV & view 100 / Go there to follow the other backpackers as this place is recommended by a major guide book. Truly, the more exp. rooms are nice but the cheapest are small, basic and not too clean. 

Where to eat ? A few comedores and restaurants. A cheap one (Q12 meat, Q15 fish), popular with locals, is Comedor Esmeralda, opp. Hospedaje Sayaxche. A better but slightly more expensive one (Q20 meat, Q25 for two big fishes) is Restaurant La Playa, by the Texaco Station. 

Bank ? You can change TC at Banora, near the river. It however closes early at 4pm. 

Water ? The cheapest place for water was Tienda Los Gemelitos, near Bank Corpobanco : Q0.75 or even the usual Q0.50 after some discussion. Other places charge Q1. 

Visiting the ruins of Ceibal ? It is advisable to visit them before Tikal but the setting in the jungle is also nice and there are some good carvings. The easiest way is upstream on the river but it cost $30 for the boat (bargain !) for the whole adventure (free entrance). Allow half a day. It is much cheaper by road but it involves a 8km walk through the jungle from the main road (take any transport heading South) and would therefore require a day (and lot's of water). Renting a bike would be a good option is you can find one...

Other ruins ? The lago de Petexbatun's shores offer lot's of wildlife and Maya ruins, incl. Aguateca (boat plus 20mn walk, good carving, view and atmosphere) and original Dos Pilas (boat to Rancho El Caribe plus 12km walk). Ask in town for more info. 

Leaving ? The only bus to Coban leaves at around 4am (Q40, 8 hours). After that, you can take a pick-up (or bus at 7 & 13) to Raxruja (Q20, 2 hours) and change bus there (last bus to Coban reported at 1pm). There is also one bus to Guatemala City at 4:30pm. For Flores, buses at 6, 6:30, 11 & 18 plus regular pick-ups and micro-buses. All cost Q10 and takes 2 hours. To Bethel (Mexican Border), you will have to take one of the three daily bus coming from Flores, at the junction north of Sayaxche. 

The trip to Santa Elena (Flores) : SS / L&R / Q10 / 2 hrs
The trip started by a river crossing : Q1 per person but 5 persons are required and it may take some time to get them. A bit annoying when you spot your bus leaving on the opposite side...
The 6:30 bus showed up at 6:25 on Sayaxche side (taking it in Sayaxche would probably make you save Q1, a great way to start the day no ?) and departed at 6:45. This was the ugliest dirtiest and oldest bus spotted so far, without -sacrilege !- the smallest religious icon. But I don't think this is the reason why we were stopped at 7:05 by policemen in bullet-proof jacket : all vehicles were being filtered. 
The road was basically flat and rather boring so if you did not get enough sleep... We arrived within 2 hours.

See also the trip from Raxruja