Tikal National Park is quite possible the most famous place in Guatemala and most people depart from Flores to Tikal. The ancient Mayan city is the biggest and most impressive in Central America, spanning over 100 square km of sub tropical rain-forest The island town of Flores is where most people base themselves for their Tikal trip. Getting from Flores to Tikal requires a 70 km drive around the east of Lake Peten Itza, then north to Tikal National Park, a 90 minute journey.
Options For Getting from Flores to Tikal
There are more travel agents than restaurants in Flores, it would seem, all selling Tikal shuttle services. Shuttles fun from 3.30am to 1.30 pm and you can opt for a guided or unguided tour in English or Spanish.
The 3.30am mini bus gets you there in the dark to catch the sunrise.
The 4am shuttle, the one we took, gets you to the park for 6am, the official opening time.
Entrance to the park is Q150 ($20 USD) collected at the gate of the park. If you arrive before 6am there is an extra Q100 “bribe” to get in early.
Children under 12 years old are free.
Afternoon tours leave at 1:30 pm although I did notice some leaving at 12:30 pm.
The park closes at 6 pm so last buses leave at 6:30 pm back to Flores.
As with most things in Central America the cost of the buses and tours is flexible depending on your bargaining skills. Shop around, walk away if you have to, see if the price drops.
Not all tours are equal, there are some hefty complaints making the rounds on travel websites about rip-offs.
We paid Q100 per adult for bus and tour guide. Our 9 year-old paid full fare, our 7 year-old was free.
Our Tikal Tour Experience
We had a great day at Tikal, everything went to plan and our guide was excellent. Our bus was waiting for us outside our hotel at 4.30 am. It was the usual tourist mini bus with no leg room for people over 5 foot but we all had a seat. The journey was hassle free but the road was extremely pot holed in places. Speed bumps were everywhere, including on the highways.
The bus dropped us inside the park at a little cafe to grab some coffee before the tour started.
Our guide was brilliant, he knew his stuff and spoke faultless English. He covered all of the main areas with us and explained each one in detail. He taught our two children how to call to the forest animals and answered every question. He left us at 10.30pm, giving us free time to explore further.
Our group was due to return to Flores at 12:30 pm from the cafe. We arrived early for a quick breakfast. The sunrise bus was about to leave, they had spare seats so we didn’t have to wait. There is flexibility with return times, just talk to your guide or driver.
Transport and tours to Tikal from Flores are frequent and easy to arrange. You only have to book the day before and, as most tours are similar, bargain for the best price. Research the tour agency to make sure it fits your needs.
Don’t forget your guide book!