TAG Airlines begins a new flight from Mérida to Flores, Guatemala, starting Monday.
For travelers on the Peninsula, the new flight will open up easy travel to Flores and Guatemala’s Petén region.
Land travel to the Petén from Yucatán has long been popular, especially among young backpackers, but the trip is extremely long and requires transit through Belize.
With this new flight, it has never been easier to visit Flores from Mérida. Here are five reasons you should make it your next destination.
1. Colorful vibes
The Island of Flores sits in lake Petén Itzá and is one of Central America’s most popular tourist areas.
The town is exceptionally colorful and jampacked with interesting architecture, mazelike narrow streets, and a large number of hotels and restaurants.
Despite being located on a lake, the island of Flores throws off some fairly intense Caribbean vibes and is extremely fun to explore on foot.
2. Intriguing history
During antiquity, Flores was known by the Maya as Nojpetén, which translates to “great island.”
The island was a hub for the Itzá people who would migrate north into Yucatán and settle many of the region’s greatest ancient cities, including Chichén Itzá and Edzná. After the fall of their great cities, it is believed that the Itzá returned to their ancestral home on what today is the Island of Flores.
The Spanish attempted to take over the island in the 16th century but were repelled despite the presence at the battle of the famous conquistador Hernán Cortés. The island was, however, eventually conquered by Europeans in the late 17th century, who then pillaged the city’s great temples to build their own.
3. Archaeological sites
Northern Guatemala is jam-packed with Mayan archaeological sites, including the world-famous Tikal. This is a must-see for any enthusiast of Mesoamerican archaeology and is comparable in size with other great Mayan cities like Calakmul and Caracol.
But Tikal is far from being the only archaeological site worth visiting. Organized tours can also be found to other ancient cities such as Yaxhá and Uaxactún. But if you are feeling adventurous, there are several off-the-beaten-path archaeological sites like Motul de San José, which are almost never visited by tourists.
4. The Wildlife
Despite being Guatemala’s largest department — or state — the Petén is also the least densely populated. As a result, the area is a haven for wildlife, especially in its far north in what is known as the Mirador Basin.
The entire region is a birder’s paradise, with large amounts of toucans, ocellated turkeys, toucanets, and trogons.
Large mammals endemic to the region include the mighty jaguar, along with tapirs, wild boars, and deer.
5. Something for everyone at every budget
Because Flores is popular with tourists of all kinds, there are plenty of accommodations and restaurants to meet just about any budget.
The same is also true of food. If you are looking for a quick and inexpensive bite, you may want to try some traditional Guatemalan tamales, which are quite a bit larger than Yucatán’s vaporcitos.
Excellent restaurants offering up international cuisine are extremely easy to find. But if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you may want to try some sereque, a large rodent known in Guatemala as agutí.
Can I, in all honesty, recommend this dish? Well, no, I can’t. But if you are the type of person who would like to say to their friends, “I got so hungry I ate a rodent in Central America,” this is your chance.
There are, of course, many more reasons to explore this amazing corner of Central America, from the local culture and music to its art scene. So get exploring.