GUATEMALA – TIKAL
“And you are really not afraid to travel alone?” “I don’t think I would ever feel like traveling alone.” “And can you explain to me who the fuck is taking all these pictures of you all the time if you travel alone?” The truth is I was never actually alone even though I went travelling on my own. It’s always like that. The travel environment is probably the friendliest environment in the world. When people travel, they are more open than ever and simply want to meet new people. You just arrive into hostel and you have friends in five minutes. You quickly feel like part of the family. You all have at least one common interest. Travelling. Just that gives hours of conversation, and usually you quickly realise that your new friend has much more to offer than just his travel stories. Backpackers hotspots are full of incredibly interesting people who can inspire you every day. Then there is one more feature that all of us share. I don’t think you will ever meet a backpacker who is racist or xenophobic in any other sense. We all know that it is the diversity of each person, nation and culture that makes the world so amazing and exciting to explore, not something to be scarred of.
Then there is obviously also Couchsurfing (read more about Couchsurfing here), which I love so much. A wonderful way how to get yourself not only some company but also a personal travel guide and advisor. This way you’ll experience the place from a completely different perspective. The local one. To give up your travelling dreams just because you have no one to go with is just silly. In most cases, to go on your own is better and much more stress free. If your travel buddy is not your real soulmate it’s not gonna work and you’ll spend most of your journey just arguing about what you’re gonna do. On the other hand, while travelling solo, you meet someone, you travel with him for a while, and when you’re starting getting fed up, or the ideas about the next steps of your journey are different, you just peacefully say goodbye and you find someone else. This way you’ll also get lots of great friends based all over the world and will improve the language a lot.
I knew that after leaving Semuc Champey Felix will travel back south to Guatemala city. I was heading north so after spotting a group of tourists standing under one of the waterfalls I joined them to ask whether anyone is planning on going to Flores (my next destination) on the next day morning. Few of them had exactly the same plan as me so we exchanged numbers and met up at he bus stop the following morning.
Flores is a cute little town situated on an island in the middle of Lago de Petén Itza. It’s packed with various types of hotels, hostels and guest houses, and there is some restaurant, bar, travel agency, or souvenir shop on each corner. Tourism is obviously the number one source of income over here and the reason is clear, Flores is the main departure hub for anyone visiting Tikal, the ancient Mayan city and probably the most popular tourist attraction in the whole Guatemala. However Tikal is not the only attraction Flores has to offer. For some great tips on how to keep yourself entertained over here read this article by Beyond the Ordinary.
Flores still keeps it’s charm even though being so touristy. Usually I’m a bit disgusted by places packed with tourists but it didn’t really bother me over there. If there is one hostel that really stands up among all the places to stay offered on this island, then it’s the Los Amigos and to be honest it is one of the most amazing hostels I’ve ever visited. The interior of Los Amigos will amaze you right at the entrance and the atmosphere in their indore chill garden is just always great. It’s also the main backpacker hotspon on the island, where the party continues every day until late morning and the best place to find people to hang out with. If you want to stay here, it’s always necessary to book your bed at least a few days ahead, because Los Amigos is always full, even in the rainy season, when bookings in advance is usually absolutely useles. Due to its popularity, however, Los Amigos is quite overpriced. A bed in a shared dormitory will cost you something abot 90Q (12EUR), which is the same price you will pay for a nice private room with bathroom, for example, in El Mirador Del Lago. You can just pop in to Los Amigos during the day to chill and to party at night. So while all the others were getting cooked alive sleeping in room with ten other people and queueing for the bathroom, I was enjoying hour long showers and I was dancing naked in front of my private fan, which I did’t have to share with anyone, what a pleasure.
To get the most of your visit of Tikal, I definitely recommend taking the Sunrise or Sunset tour. They take place outside of the opening hours, which means you will escape all the crowds of tourists and to watch the sunrise or sunset from the top of one of the pyramids is really a magical experience. The easiest way is just to book your guided tour directly at the reception of the place you are staying at and they will organise everything for you. To enter the site you will pay 150Q (17EUR) plus another 100Q(14EUR) if you decide to take the sunset or sunrise tour.
The Mayans settled in this location about 700 years before Christ. Over the next 600 years they gradually built this large city, which continued to be the cultural, economic and religious center for over a thousand years. In 1848, the Tikal was re-discovered and little by little transformed into the form in which we can admire today.
For sure you have already heard about the mysterious disappearance of the incredibly developed Mayan culture or even the theory they were all taken away by aliens (lol). The explanation is, in fact, quite simple. For centuries, the Mayans overly abused the natural resources of the surrounding lands, which has gradually led to the depletion of these resources and the degradation of agricultural land. The people began to suffer from hunger followed by spread of fatal diseases … this led to the extinction of a large part of the population. People started revolting and deposing their rulers who were formerly considered as gods… gradually the cities collapsed. The rest of the Mayan population, in smaller groups, went to different parts of the country to find new places suitable for life and nowadays there are still Mayan communities living in various parts of Guatemala and Mexico. One of the biggest Indigenous (Mayan) communities in Guatemala is located around the Lake Atitlan (more about the Lago Atitlan here).