The Temple of the Giant Jaguar rises from the Great Plaza of Tikal in Guatemala.… (Romulo Rejon, Getty Images )
If you go
THE BEST WAY TO GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA
From LAX, LACSA and Delta offer nonstop flights to Guatemala City, and Aeromexico, United, TACA, American and COPA offer connecting service (change of plane). Restricted round-trip fares begin at $639, including taxes and fees.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international calling code), 502 (the country code for Guatemala) and the number.
WHERE TO STAY
Flores is an island in Lake Petén Itzá and prettier than neighboring Santa Elena on the mainland. Most hotels are in the budget category. Get one with air conditioning.
Hotel Casona de la Isla, Calle 30 de Junio, Flores; 7867-5163, http://www.hotelesdepeten.com. I stayed at this friendly place with a pool, Jacuzzi, restaurant and air conditioning. About $60 for a double.
Hotel Petén Espléndido, 1a Calle 5-01 Zona 1, Santa Elena-Flores; 2360-8140, http://www.petenesplendido.com. One of the more luxurious options with a pool, room service, air conditioning and views of Lake Petén Itzá. Doubles from about $128 a night.
Hotels can easily arrange minivan rides to Tikal starting as early as 4:30 a.m. and ending at 10:30 a.m. for about $8. Return trips run from about 1 p.m. through 6 p.m.
There are three hotels inside Tikal National Park: the Jaguar Inn, the Tikal Inn and the Jungle Lodge, http://www.tikalpark.com/tikalhotels.htm. They are remote and fill up quickly, but you are the first in the park and can enjoy the wildlife all night.
WHERE TO EAT
A steady stream of gringos means Flores has lots of pizzerias, Mexican food and burger joints. I had heard great things about La Luna on Calle 30 de Junio but it was closed when I arrived so I opted for Capitán Tortuga just down the street. Great views, average fare (pizzas, tacos, burritos). Bill's Place is a good for a local Gallo beer. I sat on the porch watching a parade of locals on motorbikes endlessly circle the island. The Bee Gees/reggae soundtrack was an added treat.
TO LEARN MORE
For information on Tikal and the surrounding area go to http://www.tikalpark.com/travel.htm and http://www.tikalinformation.com.