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Top Guatemala

The Petén

The rugged, densely forested northeastern appendage of Guatemala, the Petén borders both Belize and Mexico. Although the Petén was once home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants during the reign of the Maya, is sparsely populated now, and its people live off of basic agriculture, logging and tourism. A vast region, the Petén makes up roughly one-third of Guatemala’s total landmass.

The Petén is primarily of interest to nature lovers and history buffs. The timeless rain forests are home to thousands of species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, and the plant life is abundant to say the least. Some of the more interesting ecosystems are protected, but unfortunately the Petén is in danger of losing much of its biodiversity to logging and development.

The Petén’s greatest attraction is, without a doubt, the ruins of the mighty Mayan city of Tikal. One of the most important Mayan sites, Tikal is a sprawling complex containing hundreds of structures, including some of the most spectacular temples in the Americas. In the remote northern part of the Petén, the site of El Mirador is even more impressive, but very difficult to reach. Other important Mayan sites in the Petén include Uaxactun, Yaxha, Seibal and Piedras Negras.

Most visitors to the Petén will use the picturesque town of Flores as their base of operations.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
02 Oct 2009

Things to do in The Petén

Sunset Tour of Tikal

106629. The main reason to take this tour is to get to stay in the park up until sunset, so don't expect to be overloaded by information from your guide. Beginning at either the car park or the site of ...
Hiking, Cultural Tour, Ruin
Flores, Guatemala


135620The best place to go bird watching is Biotopo Cerro Cahui. It’s best go early in the morning when the birds start flying around. La Casa de Don David offers bird watching tours with knowledgeable ...
El Remate, Guatemala


135619The turnoff for the road heading to Belize is known as “El Cruce.” Just 200km off the road are the ruins of Ixlu on the shores of Laguna Salpeten. There are small mounds, trails and a few stones ...
El Remate, Guatemala

Biotopo Cerro Cahui

135618Two kilometers west of El Remate and along the shore of Lake Peten Itza, Biotopo Cerro Cahui is a rainforest reserve spanning over six hundred hectares. It is one of the most accessible wildlife ...
El Remate, Guatemala

Naj Tunich Caves

135587The caves of Naj Tunich, thirty five kilometers east of Poptun, are unique for their Mayan murals showing religious ceremonies, ball games and erotic scenes, which are not found anywhere else in the ...
Other Activity
Poptun, Guatemala

The Ruins

135232Uaxactun\'s importance as a ceremonial and astronomical site is reflected in its ruins. The most impressive set of ruins is called Group E and is a 15 minute walk south of the airstrip. The ...
Uaxactun, Guatemala

Museum Tikal / Museum Cerámico

135196Situated right behind the park ticket stand, the entrance of Museum Cerámico is flanked by beautiful orchids and thick plants. It has more exhibits of valuable items discovered in the temple’s ...

Northern Complexes

135194These complexes are found one kilometer away from the Gran Plaza via the isolated Maudslay Causeway; all of them are late-Classic twin pyramid complexes that are erected to honor the end of a katun. ...

Templo IV & Complejo N

135192The largest pyramid at Tikal, Templo IV is the second tallest surviving Mayan structure, reaching a height of 65m. The only taller Mayan pyramid is located at the ruins of El Mirador. Famed for the ...

El Mundo Perdido (The Lost World)

135191This sizable complex consists of 38 structures oriented in a traditional Mayan pattern serving as an astronomy observatory. The ancient Mayans observed solstices, equinoxes and planetary cycles with ...

Plaza de los Siete Templos

135190Next to the Acrópolis del Sur is the complex comprised of seven little temples built in a row. Although the temples were assembled during the late Classic period, there are other structures in the ...
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