Archive for the ‘Petén’ Category

Traveling on a Dime: Petén

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Traveling on a Dime: Petén
Petén is Guatemala’s Northern-most province and it is full of wonders left behind by our Mayan ancestors, and rich with Nature’s splendor.
This province is home to Guatemala’s one of the only two international airports and getting here by plane makes the trip much easier and insipid too. You can choose this alternative to make thing easier, but if you want to experience and be immerse in local culture, you have to travel Elí’s way, and it also could save you some money.
If you are near Guatemala City, you have to take one of those luxury buses running the route to Petén and they usually go for Q200 one way.
An alternative to save money is to travel to Coban, in the province of Alta Verapaz. There are chicken buses running this route and you can board one for Q40. From Coban you can get on one of those minivans used as rural buses to Chisec or Raxruha, which will cost you about Q20. From Raxruha you take another one of those minivans to Sayaxche, which is another Q20. And from Sayaxche you just have to pay a small fee of Q2 to have one of the local’s boats cross you the river and you can board another of those buses waiting close to the shoreline. These buses take you all the way to Santa Elena for Q20, same bus terminal where all the luxury buses from Guatemala City arrived on.
Yes, this trip will take you about 12 hours, but you’ll be immersed in local culture/food, something you don’t get to see seated on those luxury buses.
From the bus terminal in Santa Elena you can walk for 15 minutes to the Island City of Flores (taxis charged you Q20 for this short ride), a short 10 street blocks away.
There are hundreds of hotels on the Island of Flores, all prices ranging from $200 to Q40.
I usually stay at one of these inexpensive hotels because Elí only needs a clean bed and a shower. It will be a waste to spend too much time on the hotel, having so many things and places to go in on the island and around it.
On my last trip I stayed at a hotel for Q60, and it had an amazing view and I was next to the Malecon, six steps from the lakeshores.

Actun Kan
The Actun Kan cave system is located a short 25 minutes walk from the Island of Flores, you can take a taxi or a tuc tuc for Q10. Walking is my choice. The entrance fee is Q25. Just make sure you don’t venture too deep into the caves without a guide or someone who knows them well enough. I had to bring out a group of 12-14 Mexicans who were exploring the caves and were disoriented and couldn’t find their way out. And bring enough batteries!

Tikal is a must stop for those of you visiting Petén. You can get a private bus running this route for about Q100 for a round trip, or you can do Elí’s way. There are small buses used by locals which run the same route for Q40 and they run every 30 minutes, so if you like a place along the way, you can get off the bus and spend time exploring. A must stop is El Remate, a small village on the shores of the lake with crystal-clear waters. Then you get on another of those buses heading to Tikal. Entry fee to Tikal is Q25 for us nationals and Q150 for foreign tourists.

Back to the Island of Flores
Food options are abundant on this island and you won’t have trouble finding the food style you like. But if you are on this island and you don’t try the Tepezcuintle, Lowland Paca, it is the equivalent of going to a tour of Napa Valley and not trying one of their exquisite Cabernet Sauvignons (!).

Drinks with a view
There are dozens of restaurants right on the lake shores, but the best ones face the sunset. There is a Bar on a third floor terrace, one of my favorites for a beer. Another great one, and with very affordable prices is on the lake shore, their drinks are delicious and you can get a great Tequila Sunrise for Q25, margaritas are Q9 and very delicious.

And to top it off
As I’ve said, there are hundreds of food options but for me, there is nothing better than buying a to-go plate of street food from the street grills next to the entrance to the island. You can buy a meal here for Q30, which includes guacamole, longaniza, a piece of grilled meat, black beans, salsa and tortillas. You have to go to the supermarket across the bridge and buy a bottle of red wine Q40 and have your meal seated on the malecon (lake retention wall), shoes off and facing the sunset. Anything better is a sin!

With transportation, food and drinks, if you are money-wise, you can have an amazing three days experience for about Q1,000, $130-$140


Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Main Acropolis

Main Acropolis

Tikal, The Place of the Voices, as known by the few left Itza speakers.

This is one of the greatest monuments Human Civilization has ever produce.
I would easily put this place as one of the 100 must see before you kick the bucket.
Those Mayan temples towering over the jungle canopy would leave you breathless!
What a great saga is recorded on each of these stones.

What!? I really hate when modern history uses the word “Discovery” in cases like this.
Apparently for History literature, indigenous people, don’t count, they aren’t, well, real people.
The indigenous people of the Peten always had knowledge of this ruins, in fact, they led many expeditions to show them to Western explorers. And of course, it is one of these explorers, Modesto Mendez, who is credited with the “discovery” of the ruins.



Eli is always a nice guy, I was guiding this handsome couple whom were visiting us all the way from Canada:

Always watch out for those unexpected rains or hailstones!

Tikal is one of the last easy access places where you can still find wild life. You’ll love the large bands of Coati. One of these bands, maybe up to 70 strong, cross in front of me, there were maybe 6-8 females, each of them with at least 6 young, plus the males and of course my camera is in my backpack.
Our cousins Howlers and Spiders are everywhere, keep and eye open for them.

Island of Flores

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The Island of Flores Petén

If there would be a Sin City in Guatemala, the City Island of Flores fits the bill.
The Island island is not big at all: you can walk its longest side in less than 15 minutes, but somehow, this small island has one of the most bars and restaurants per capita I’ve ever seen.
There is no drinking regulations, you can drink everywhere: the malecon, the bridge, the streets, or at a rooftop with minimal safety barriers.
You can even drink your beer next a group of police officers with all liberty.
The food quality in the island is great and you have many choices. And this is one of the last places in Guatemala where you can find exotic meats at a restaurant.
There are plenty of accommodations, from all price ranges. You can find hotels that go for $200 per night or those at Q25 per night ($3.5).
Eating at Las Mesitas.
Las Mesitas (small tables) are set on the side walk at the Malecon
Here you can find cheap snacks and local soft drinks. A great place for those night cravings after a day of touring the island. Get some “Tostadas” here, they are 3 for Q10 and they are very tasty.

Flores Peten

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

I’m spending the night at this beautiful hotel, Posada Don Jose, in the City Island of Flores.
So peaceful and beautiful here, you would wish you didn’t have to leave.
I heard about a restaurant that serves exotic meats -Tepesquintle among others- l will try to find it and I will have a verdict for
you all tomorrow.


Gastronomy from Petén

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Las Mesitas Festival Gastronomico

Las Mesitas Festival Gastronomico

Allow me to show you something that got me very excited today!
I found a small note on a gastronomic festival in Petén, Guatemala’s largest province and with the largest remaining forests.

I’ll sum it up for you

In the spring of 1525, Hernan Cortes (one of the Conquistadors) army en route to Honduras crossed the Petén region, where they were fed by the surrounding jungle; they ate Zapotes. In Tayazal, capitol city of the Itza they were invited by King Canek to a banquet where they ate palmito soup, coshan asado, empanadas de siquinche, tamales, bollitos de chaya, caldo de chayuco, tortillas de ramon mixed with majunches, deer meat, tepezquintle, armadillo, iguana, pizote, mapache, wild boar and different birds meat and local fish and of course frijoles (beans) to finish the meal with a local tobacco cigar.
In 1847, as a result of a war in the Yucatan Peninsula, there was a migration to the Petén lands from the Yucatan, and this came to influence Petén’s gastronomy: Stomach (cow’s) bouillon, gallina en col, gandinga, estofado, salpicon, escabeche de costilla de cerdo (pig’s rib), tepezcuintle en pibil (barbecue), atole de macal, biscotela, longaniza, etc.

This 7 December, in the towns of Flores, and San Francisco, Petén, there is a gastronomic festival called Las Mesitas, where you can find all kinds of these regional dishes and drinks.

From Guatemala’s news paper Prensa Libre.

The only thing I have to regret is not having known about this gastronomic festival last December I was in Petén.
For sure I will not miss this one. Who’s coming!?

Bicycle Riding in Peten, Machaquila to Naj Tunich

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

I previously showed a gallery of the Naj Tunich cave system. Well, let me tell you the ride to the caves was nothing easy. It was one of the most demanding ones I’ve ever ridden.
The distance is not great, barely 20 miles each way. You ride through remnants of the jungles once covered this province. There is no shade 99.99% of the ride and temperatures did not go below 90f all day. The first mile or so the terrain is not so demanding, and there are a couple of small tiendas were you can stop to get some beverages. After that there is no single soul for about 10 miles until you arrive at Sabaneta, a small village where you can get some more refreshments. After this village, the real challenge begins!
Ride Elevations
Ten miles of steep uphills, riding under 90+ degrees heat with no shade and not one single time during the ride to the caves I saw a single vehicle! The last two miles are to proof ones determination!
Don’t you love cycling!?

Bicycle Riding in Peten

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Here is a small photo gallery of he ride:


Highway Food

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Here is a sample of what you can get on the roads to Petén. By chance we stopped at this restaurant on the side of the road; we were so impressed by the breakfast, we had to come back to try more of their food offerings.


And for dinner: Pinchos mixtos, camaron, res and cerdo.


These at Villa Habibi, no more than four kilometers from downtown Poptùn, Petèn, on your right.
Oh, the cheff happenes to be from the state where I lived for 17 years; Massachusetts… what are the odds!?

A piece of Paradise

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Balneario (a swimmming place)Las Pozas is located 5 miles from Dolores, Petèn; on a very car friendly dirt road.
When you arrived at the Balneario, you are greeted by the owner, who is very friendly and courteous.
He got a very beautiful set up; there is beautiful soccer field to entertain guests, showers and well maintained WC, stone grills and some impressive, massive granite table tops. And if you travel during weekdays, you might have the entire place to yourself.
And if you are lucky enough; you might have arrived when earlier a neighbor hunted and killed a Tepesquintle, a very large rodent, and you get invited to have it for lunch.
The river is one of the wonders this beautiful land has to offer,turquoise waters, might feel to cold at first but after you’ve dove into the water you’ll love it.
These waters are great for snorkeling, of course I brought my equipment and dove down to explore the rock formations. You’ll be amzed if you dare doing the same. The water has formed sevaral pools, perfect for swimming and shapped some very impressive crevasses.

Naj Tunich

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Naj Tunich, house of stones in a local mayan language,  is a cave system 39 kilometers from Poptùn, Petèn.
The cave contains several Mayan burial sites, some of them with elaborate stone constructions. When archaeologist arrived at the cave, all burials sites had been looted. The cave is known to have extensive mayan writing on its walls. Most of the Mayan writing on the cave was damaged beyond restoration around 9 years ago, when someone entered the cave and vandalized the glyphs and drawings with some type of black paint.

Luckily, photographs of the writing and drawings were available, and around seven years ago, a small team of artists created some replicas, now on an exhibit on a separate cave a short 10 minutes walk from Naj Tunich.


Monday, March 3rd, 2014

There is no rest for Elí. After hiking two volcanoes this past weekend, Elí is en route to the jungles of Peten. I will keep posting as I go. Stay tuned.


Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

I know, the images are not of the best quality -I’m saving images from my old camera- but I wanted to show you some of the food available in Petén, one of my favorite destinations here in Guatemala. That’s a churrasco, Peten style and the other photo: something unique to Petén, please forgive me; I’ve forgotten the name of the fish, but it is a unique fish to Lake Peten Itza and the Island of Flores is the best place to get it prepared perfectly. Bon Appétit.
Peten Meal
Peten Meal