Getting Around Petén – Guatemala – Visit All Famous Maya Ruins

The third and last chapter of this article will guide you deep in the pre-classic period of the Mayan history. We leave México now and cross the border to Guatemala. In the second chapter we watched the Maya sites in Chiapas.
The last station was Palenque. And here in Palenque I begin.

Flores and the Lago Petén in Guatemala

Map of Flores,Tikal, Yaxha, El Mirador, Guatemala
Map of Flores, Tikal, Yaxha, El Mirador, Getting around Guatemala

From Palenque it’s a one day travel to Flores. I recommend urgently that you ask a travel agency in Palenque to organize this trip for you!
Otherwise you might need 2 days more to arrive in Flores… These one-way-tours are usually well organized.
A mexican bus will bring you from Palenque to the border and a Guatemalan bus will pick you up there and bring you to Flores in Guatemala.

The distance is not that far but it will take this amount time. This has two reasons:
Before you reach Guatemala you will have to cross the Rio Usumacinta.  There is no bridge and the distance between the two border villages has to be covered by boat.
Not enough, the Guatemalan village is 40 minutes river up from the Mexican village.


And not the last on this trip. Once you reached the Guatemalan side you are entering the Petén.

Petén is the name of a Guatemalan state and the name of this landscape in the lowlands of Guatemala. You will travel on a dirt road for hours. But finally you will arrive in the amazing city of Flores.

Did you realize ? We are back on the Yucatán peninsula at it’s southern edge.

Flores is an old colonial town in the Petén area. It is just a small location on an island in the lake “Lago Petén”, but it is prepared for tourists.

Connected by a Bridge, the city has a couple of hotels, restaurants and shops that invite for a longer stay. I recommend you to have a look at the Café Yaxha and check out if they offer guided tours to the surrounding sites there. Otherwise there are a couple of travel agencies in Flores that will bring you to the desired locations.


Temple I - Tikal
Temple I – Tikal

This is the best known Maya site in the Petén area. One hour driving distance away from Flores, you should visit this amazing pre-classical city first. For my visit I simply took a public bus from Flores/Santa Elena to get there.

>>> Read more about Tikal


Yaxha - Pyramid with bird nests
Yaxha – Pyramid with bird nests

Yax-Ha is not that famous, but a very interesting site with several pyramids, temples and other buildings. It is located between two lakes and presents an astonishing amount of sub-tropical nature. For a trip to Yaxha you best ask in the already mentioned Café Yaxha first.

>>> Read more about Yax-Há

El Mirador – the highest Maya pyramid

El Mirador - through the jungle
El Mirador – through the jungle

El Mirador is a Maya city with many superlatives. It was the biggest Maya city in the ancient times. The highest pyramids of the Maya world have been detected there.

It is hidden in the jungles of the Petén and cannot be reached by car. You should ask one of the tourist offices in Flores. They organize trips to El Mirador.

It’s a two day walk to get there. After a stay of one day that you can use to check around and visit the archaeological site of El Mirador you have to walk back. The whole trip takes 5 days as you can see but during the trip you will feel like Indiana Jones!

Here in the Petén ends our round trip through the Yucatán peninsula and the Maya world. There is a lot more to see. Feel free to stop at other places and visit other sites as well.

>>> Read more about El Mirador

Return to the Riviera Maya

Beach at the Riviera Maya
Beach at the Riviera Maya

From Flores you could go back to the Riviera Maya. The easiest route is by bus straight to Belize City and from there back north to Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Cancun. The distance from Flores to Playa del Carmen can be done in one day using public buses. It took me 18 hours when I traveled back to spend some final days at the Caribbean beaches.

If you have further questions or are interested in more details then please check my earlier articles.  I wrote there about the sites that I covered in this post. And feel free to leave a comment!

>>> The Top 5 – Maya sites at the Riviera Maya

Christian Schoen

Christian Schoen is a globetrotter, travel writer and author of the very successful travel guide "The Maya Sites - Hidden Treasures of the Rain Forest". He loves to visit temples, pyramids and any kind of ancient ruins. The SLR in his hand, he can be met on adventurous hiking tours in tropical jungle landscapes - sometimes - or just somewhere in his neighbourhood, the Black Forest Mountains in Germany.

2 Responses

  1. Jess says:

    I’d love to visit the historic/archaeological sites there! I studied Mayan archaeology a bit in school, and even attempted to learn the language, but I’ve never made it to Central America in person.

    • crischo says:

      That’s cool. To speak the language of the Maya is an advantage if you travel there. I hope you can make it one day. It’s an impressive experience to stand in front of one of these giant pyramids and to realize that the people who had build this didn’t have any machines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.