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Flores Overview

The twin cities of Flores (Population: 23,000) and Santa Elena (Population: 29,000) are the most common launching point for excursions into Guatemala’s Petén region. Flores itself is the smaller city on an island in Lago Petén Itzá: Santa Elena is larger and on the shore. The two are linked by a causeway. Both town are often collectively referred to as Flores, although the airport is in Santa Elena.

The town of Flores is one of Guatemala’s oldest. It was originally the site of a small Mayan settlement called Nojpeten, which meant “Big Island.” Spanish reports describe the island as early as 1525. Because the island was so remote and well-protected by its location on a lake, Nojpeten was the last Mayan holdout to fall to the Spanish in 1697.  The city of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios y San Pablo de los Iztaes was founded on its ruins. The city was renamed in 1831 to honor Guatemalan president Cirilo Flores.

Flores is the closest city to the ruins of Tikal, the most important tourist attraction in the region.

/Elevation 110 meters Flores is on a small island on Lake Petén Itza, connected to Santa Elena and San Benito by a causeway. The three cities are often referred to collectively as Flores. It was named in honor of Cirilo Flores, one of the first pro-independence leaders in Guatemala. Flores is a good starting point for your trip around Petén. The city itself is beautiful with colonial, red-roofed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets and many restaurants and hotels. The cathedral houses one of Black Christs that stretches across Central America. Small, the town is a quiet and peaceful place, and probably the safest place in Petén. You can walk around the whole town in 15 minutes. Santa Elena is modern and requires a little more caution, but the city offers a more authentic Guatemala experience with traffic, litter and street food. Flores has a large selection of hotels for all budgets with view of the lake, and many delicious restaurants. Santa Elena is where the banks, supermarkets and buses are. The main economy is agriculture (corn, red beans, oranges, chilis and wood) and handicraft (baskets, brooms and leather products).

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...
28 Sep 2009

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