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Guatemala (#07): Peten

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Published on Aug 26, 2011

The Island of Flores is located on Lake Peten Itza and dates from 9th century. It was formerly called Tayasal. In the 15th century, Pedro de Alvarado arrived on the Island while on a trip to Honduras. He gave King Canek a Spanish horse, which the Mayas treated almost like a god. After several failed attempts to convert the natives to Christianity, the Spaniards destroyed Tayasal in 16th century and it was then abandoned until the 18th century.

The Island is named after Cirilo Flores, one of the first Guatemaltecos to call for independence from the Colonial powers. The Island of Flores is quiet small, but it is hosting lots of restaurants, hotels, guesthouses, handicraft and souvenir stores, Internet caffee's, etc. The city of Flores is geared towards the tourists that are visiting the ruins of Tikal. This splendid Mayan site is 65km (40 miles) away from Flores and reachable by bus or car in 45 -- 60 minutes.

The charming streets and alleys of Flores deserve to be visited. Flores is built over the old city of Tayasal and in the center the plaza and some stelaes remain. You can walk the city and at sunset enjoy a drink or an appetizer in one of the restaurants along the lake.

None of the Mayan structures survived the arrival of the conquistadors who built their main plaza, church and government building on the top of the hill in the center of the island. A causeway connects Flores to the mainland town of Santa Elena, where the banks and main shops are located. Accessible from Flores is the Cerro Cahuí Biosphere -- a 600-hectare (1482-acre) nature reserve that contains cedar, sapodilla, indigo and mahogany trees, orchids and ferns as well as fauna such as white-tailed deer, armadillos, spider monkeys, hawks, parrots and toucans.

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