A lot of people decide to go backpacking through Central America on the cheap. Most of Central America is definitely more than affordable so it’s immediately attractive to those who have a big desire to get out there and see the world but don’t have the world sized budget to match. Guatemala is almost always on the back packers bucket list as it’s a magical country with mountains, jungles and ancient ruins as well as warm and friendly people. The name Guatemala actually comes from a native Nahuatl word, Cuauhtēmallān, meaning “place of many trees” and for sure there is jungle in Guatemala!
In the midst of the jungle and near to the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal, is the charming colonial town of Flores. Flores is actually on an island and is like an oasis in the Petin Itza lake.
Flores is a backpackers dream as there are several great places to stay on the cheap including hostels. Los Amigos is a pretty well known Hostel with a lot of amenities people love like a charming court yard, hammocks, good restaurant, bright colours and a friendly atmosphere.
You don’t have to stay in a hostel and if you want to live a little larger, you can opt for one of the hotels on the island. There are many family run and boutique hotels and the top prices are $50 to $55 a night. We stayed at the Hotel Isla de Flores and were absolutely charmed with the roof top pool and view of the island.
You can travel the whole island on foot in 20 to 30 minutes but more likely you’ll get caught up in browsing the colorful tiendas or stores selling handmade artisan crafts typical of Guatemala.
The island is dominated by the church on the hill which really seems like the crowning jewel in the colonial architecture of this island that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Of course the best way to get around on the island is on foot, – but if foot steps are not high on your priority list for the day you’ll love getting a ride in a Tuk Tuk (a kind of auto rickshaw). The drivers are friendly and these rides are super cheap – about 5 Quetzales or roughly 75 cents.
We enjoyed the food on the island, especially the typical Guatemalan breakfasts which are hearty and tasty.
There are many charming waterfront restaurants to go to as for lunch or dinner and you can chill with some lunch and beers and watch the backpackers dive off the island dock or you can join them and have your restaurant experience in the twilight when the real charm comes alive.
At night the town has a tonne of charm and its own brand of night life. The families are all out visiting on each other’s door steps, sipping their evening drinks by the lake or just jamming. Music is all around and laughter and conversation are everywhere.
Your stay in Flores won’t be complete without a tour around the lake. There’s a thatched roof catamaran styled boat that has a Mayan charm that leaves twice a day from the main dock on the west side. We took the 6pm tour and saw the most beautiful sunset and enjoyed listening to our guide narrate the main points of the island history and character.
We were on Flores for four days and four nights, our intention was for two but when we saw what charm it had and how affordable great dining and great lodging was we decided to stay as longer. I would go back here again in a heartbeat and would be happy to spend several weeks here….perhaps at one of their Spanish Immersion schools? Who knows what the future will bring.