Guatemala’s largest and northernmost department, is a world into
itself, with more than 2,000 archeological sites left by the enigmatic
Maya, and huge expanses of pristine tropical forest. The Maya Biosphere
Reserve, which contains the largest tropical forest in Central America,
encompasses five national parks and three wildlife reserves, or
biotopes, in the Peten. The Biosphere’s forest and wetlands are
home to 333 species of birds and 54 mammals. Visitors will see lots
of spider and howler nibkeysm toucans, parrots, and many other tropical
animals as they explore the region’s archaeological sites and parks.
Flights to Peten take about an hour from Guatemala City. Roads to
the area are quite good, and Flores can be reached in about seven
hours by car from the capital.
departmental capital of Peten, sits on a small island once occupied
by the Maya-Itza, in Guatemala’s second largest lake of Peten-Itza.
The lake covers 99 square kilometers, and many of Peten’s inhabitants
live in small towns around its shores.
of these towns is Santa Elena, connected to Flores by a causeway.
A land of
lush vegetation, gorgeous waterfalls, enormous caves, abundant wildlife,
fascinating traditions and friendly people. Las Verapaces has something
to offer every traveler. At its upper elevations, a light rain,
known as chipi.chipi, frequently falls, nourishing the mosses, ferns,
orchids and bromeliads that grow in the area`s cloud forest reserves.
The Verapaces consist of Guatemala’s Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz
departments. In the 16th century. Father Bartolome de las Casas
set out to peacefully conquer the region’s inhabitants, after Spanish
military campaigns had failed. To commemorate his successful efforts,
the region was named Verapaz, which means “true peace” in Spanish.
In the 19th century, the Verapaces became an important center for
coffee production in Guatemala, when a number of German immigrants
settled around Coban. The Verapaces are home to Guatemala’s national
bird, the Resplendent Quetzal, and its national flower, the Monja
Blanca orchid. Visitors can choose from eight convenient routes
designed for weekend visit, or make up their own itinerary for exploring
famous attraction in the Peten is Tikal, a beautiful Maya City set
in the lush tropical forest of a national park covering 550 square
kilometers. Toucans, monkeys, coatis, Ocellated Turkeys and many
other tropical animals are commonly seen by visitors to the park,
Temple 4, the tallest structure in the Maya World, towers 65 meters
above the plazas of Tikal, and can be seen above the forest canopy
from far away. More than 3,000 structures have been discovered in
the 16 square kilometers of Tikal`s center, including temples, palaces,
ballcourst and even a sauna. Human settlement at Tikal dates from
at least 600 BC. But is golden age occurred during the six hundred
years of the Classic period, from 300 to 900 AD. The heart of the
city was the Great Plaza, where Temple ( “Temple of the Giant Jaguar”),
Temple 2 and numerous stelae are found.
Just 23 kilometers
from Tikal, is a small, forested ruin a beautiful observatory, temples
and palaces, and many other structures organized into eight groups.
The temples and observatory of Group E are arranged to mark points
where the sun rises on the summer and winter solstices. A large
temple in Group A offers fine views of the surrounding countryside.
About 600 people live near the ruins, and children in the community
make some beautiful dolls from tusa, or corn husks.
hour from Flores, just off the road leading to Belize, are found
Lake Yaxha and the Yaxha and Topoxte archaeological sites. Yaxha
is a lake surrounded by forest teeming with bird life. Boat tours
are available to visit the islands of Topoxte, Paxte and Cantè in
the lake, and to explore swamps at the lake`s far end, where crocodiles,
Jabiru storks and Roseate Spoonbills are frequently seen. Topoxte
is the only restored, Post-Classic site in the Peten, with columns
and other architectural features similar to those found at Yucatan
sites such as Chichen-Itza and Mayapan.
may start their exploration of Peten`s forest right on Lake Peten-Itza,
at the Biotopo Cerro Cahui, a wildlife reserve covering 650 hectares
found just 3 kilometers from the town of Remate. Two trails wind
through the reserve, and the names of several trees are identified
by small signs. On the longer, 6.6 km trail, visitors climb to a
lookout point with a keys relaxing high in the trees.
El Mirador National Park
the very northern part of the Peten near the Mexican border, El
Mirador National Park contains 416 square kilometers with primary
forest and the Mirador, Kakbe, Muralla and Tintal archaeological
sites. El Mirador was a huge, pre-Classic city covering more than
16 square kilometers.
Punta de Chimino
a peninsula of Lake Petexbatùn. Punta de Chimino was a heavily-fortified
Maya city with three walls and defensive trenches. The city with
three walls and defensive trenches. The city underwent a burst of
construction from 830 to 850, at the end of the Classic era, when
several building and stelae were erected. Sometime between 900 and
950 AD, the city was abandoned for unknown reasons.