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Yaxha

We had originally wanted to visit Yaxha and La Blanca together as a full day tour, but as the low season was in full swing it was a struggle to get numbers together for a tour. Plus, it also turned out that the archeologists working on La Blanca weren’t due back until September. So a half day trip to Yaxha it was.

The site itself is located within the cultural triangle national park along with 2 other sites, Naranjo and Nakum. Entry fees to the park include access to all 3 sites, however they are not a stroll apart and you would have to camp inside the park if you wanted to see all of them on your trip.

The national park is located an hour and a half from Flores along a good paved road until you arrive at the park which has an unpaved entrance road.

Although this site was one of the smallest we visited, it still offered impressive views across the park from various temples.

Yaxha: Grupo Maler

You really have to observe your surroundings as you walk through Yaxha as a lot of the site has been left unexcavated or partially excavated on purpose. Once you start to identify all the hidden structures you get a feel for just how big a site it had once been.

Yaxha: Unearthed Structure

A nice thing about Yaxha is that it has a very laid back feel to it and you are able to climb nearly all the structures, allowing you to walk around without feeling you are held back from immersing yourself.

Yaxha: Acropolis Norte

We were especially lucky during our visit to be sharing the site with only 2 other tourists, leaving us to only come across the odd bored looking guard on our walk.

Yaxha: Calzada del lago

We decided to visit Yaxha in the afternoon, as the site only requires a few hours to view, but the real bonus is you can sit on temple 216 and watch the sunset over the lagoon.

Yaxha: Sunset from Temple 216

One thing we did realise during this visit was that for us, we had now seen enough Mayan sites for the time being and that it was time to see more of modern Mayan culture, so we decided to head towards Antigua.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Tikal

Tikal is located about an hour and a half away from Flores and can be easily reached with a shuttle bus, tickets can be bought from any of the agencies or hotels and are around 60 quetzales for a return ticket.

The only thing to check is that you have a late return as there are 2 companies that run services and one has returns at lunchtime whereas the other allows you to come back at 5pm.

We took the 5am shuttle and arrived at 6.30am at the entrance to Tikal. There are several places to eat around the entrance but they are obviously more costly than outside the park. As you will need at least 8 hours to see the site it is wise to bring lunch. Drinks can be bought at several points within the park and are not too expensive.

View of the West Plaza:

Tikal: West Plaza

In terms of size, Tikal is the most impressive we have seen. Still set amongst the jungle you really have no idea of the sheer size of the place until you have spent the day walking it. As every group of structures is hidden from the next until you reach the end of the path it is hard to imagine what is around the next corner.

Temple 5:

Tikal: Temple 5

We had the added luck of being there during the low season which meant we saw very few people and were able to climb the temples without having to compete with tours.

View from the North Acropolis:

Tikal:Temple 2 from North Acropolis

Most of the site is accessible either directly or via wooden ladders attached to the sides of buildings, allowing tourists to experience the temples even when the steps have long since deteriorated.

View of the Gran Plaza:

Tikal: Gran Plaza

The most impressive temples for us were the Jaguar temple and temple 4 due to their views, with temple 4 offering a panoramic view of the whole site.

View of Tikal:

Tikal: View from Temple 4

As well as the ruins of Tikal the park itself is host to numerous jungle animals from wild turkeys to screeching monkeys jumping from branch to branch above your head.

Wild Turkey:

Tikal: Wild Turkey

Spider monkey:

Tikal: Spider Monkey

A pizote (like a brown raccoon):

Tikal: Pizote

Howler monkey:

Tikal: Howler Monkey

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Flores

Flores was our first stop in Guatemala, it is a convenient location to use as a jump off point for many of the surrounding Mayan sites and national parks, as well as being a very tranquil setting amongst what can be quite a bustling country.

Flores on the lake

Flores is also a very appealing location due to its picturesque setting in lake Peten Itza. The small island streaked with quaint cobbled streets and scattered with colourful buildings, makes you feel like you are somewhere else in the world.

Flores streets

The lake itself is clean and warm and with numerous small piers it makes for a perfect location to cool off in the afternoon sun. There is a large variety of fish in the lake along with turtles, we were lucky enough to see a baby turtle come up for air as we were relaxing on the pier one afternoon. However, as luck would have it we didn’t have the camera with us!

Flores Eastern Pier

Flores is very much catered towards tourism, with numerous accommodations, restaurants, tour agencies and souvenir shops. However, one downside we found was a lack of hostels with cooking facilities meaning we had to eat out for every meal.

Flores colourful buildings

Although cheaper than Belize, having to eat out does add a certain strain to the budget, even when we found a nice and inexpensive place to stay at Café Arqueológico Yaxha, which encompasses rooms, a restaurant and a tour service.

The cafe is run by a German architect called Dieter who is very passionate about Mayan ruins, their restorations and preservation and is more than happy to share his knowledge and organise tours.

During our stay in Flores we had planned to visit El Mirador through a 5 day hike but as it was low season it was hard to organise a group for the days we wanted. In order to make costs affordable we needed another 4 people to join us on our dates as the price ranges were from $450 per person with only the 2 of us, down to $250 per person for groups of 6 or more.

So instead we settled for a day at Tikal and a day in Yaxha, with the other couple of days spent relaxing by the lake and working out where to go next.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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