Flores is the gateway to Tikal, one of Guatemala if not Central Americas best known Mayan ruins. A night bus away from Antigua, Flores is an island branched off from the mainland and developed for the tourist trade only recently. Only a few streets wide and filled with hostels and restaurants, although it lacking the charm of other places it served as the perfect base to explore the surrounding areas.
Booked into hostel los amigos it was all about going to Tikal. We booked onto the sunset tour as we had heard a lot of good things about it and I mean who doesn't love a good sunset.
Setting off at noon and crammed in the back of a minibus (after a few weeks in Central America you realise personal space is a luxury) it was a more than a little bit hot. The tour was given by a local who's father had actually moved to the area to join the archeological team who discovered the site. As you can imagine he was very knowledgable, answering all our questions and then some. Incase you were wondering like me, yes they did human sacrifices there, but the Aztecs were more famous for it. And yes apocalypto, the film directed by Mel Gibson, was based on Tikal.
Walking through the jungle in the afternoon heat we were shown different temples and pyramids growing ever bigger in size. Even more interesting were the hills covered in trees. These were actually un-excavated pyramids which added to the charm and authenticity of the tour. If the Mayan ruins weren't enough we were also joined by a spider monkey and her baby as well as a family of howler monkeys.
The best was saved for last though with the biggest temple of Tikal. Climbing up to the top was a bit of an effort but more than worth it. From here they actually filmed a scene from Star Wars (youtube it) with views over the jungle canopy, Mayan City and even, on a good day Belize. All in pure silence with nothing but the howls of the monkeys and other jungle creatures, the sun set covered the treetops and temple in a golden hue. It really was special and returning in the dark with only flashlights rounded off a perfect day.
Interestingly, our guide checked that we were all there at the end because on a previous tour a woman was left behind. They didn't realise until they were back in Flores and as a result she had to spend the entire night in the jungle, on her own and with nothing but what she brought with her. Apparently she was found the next day unsurprisingly shook up and more than a little upset. Only in Latin America.
The following day looking for something more relaxed to do we read about a rope swing across the bay from Flores. We booked transport there and when we arrived by boat it turned out to be a little restaurant and bar called Jorges. Jorge, with a lot of entrepreneurial spirit had built a diving board and a few rope swings into the nearby hill. The day was spent plunging into the warm waters from different swings and boards, followed by lunch and a few drinks. The perfect way to relax.
Next up its Lanquin, the gateway to Semuc Champey.