Tikal National Park is quite possible the most famous place in Guatemala and the majority 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 run from 3.30 am to 1.30 pm and you can opt for a guided or unguided tour in English or Spanish.
The other option is a private car and driver which would work out more expensive but more comfortable. It depends on your group size and comfort levels.
I didn’t find any usable public buses from Flores to Tikal but I imagine there are. It would be a lot of hassle and quite possibly wouldn’t save you much in the long run.
Flores to Tikal by Shuttle Bus
There are numerous shuttle buses that run all day but most will focus on getting there for sunrise and park opening or to see sunset and leaving as the park closes.
The two most popular shuttles in the morning are the 3.30 am mini bus shuttle which gets you there in the dark to catch the sunrise or the 4 am shuttle. This was the one we took and had us at Tikal National Park for 6 am, the official opening time.
Entrance to the park is Q150 ($20 USD) collected at the gate of the park. If you arrive before 6 am there is an extra Q100 fee to get in early.
Children under 12 years old are free to enter the park.
Afternoon tours leave at 1:30 pm although I did notice some leaving at 12:30 pm. 1-2 hours in a cramped mini bus in the middle of the hot day doesn’t sound like my idea of nice though. Still either bus gets you there and both stay for sunset so its really up to how much you want to spend in the park.
The park closes at 5 pm so last buses leave at 5:30 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 ($13.50) 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 10.30 am, 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.
Don’t forget your guide book!
Transport and tours to Tikal from Flores are frequent and easy to arrange but you can arrange and pay for a reputable tour in advance if your time is limited. Even if you have limited time you only have to book a few days before and, as most tours are similar, bargain for the best price. Research the tour agency to make sure it fits your needs.