Our Guatemala trip was coming to an end—and I was already finding that I wanted more time with this beautiful country and the unique people. After spending a few days in Tikal (and completing my first-ever ziplining adventure), we stopped back on the small island of Flores in the middle of Lake Peten Itza.
Flores was fascinating to me because you could easily walk from one side of the island to the other within ten minutes, but its tiny alleyways and flowing ivy hid delicious bars, fun restaurants, and plenty of places to sample some of the coffee that Guatemala is famous for. Since we had almost two days there, we took our time and went restaurant and bar hopping. We stopped for pizza at one place, beer at another, and finally stopped for ice cream.
I was also struck by how distance Flores seemed from everything else in Guatemala. Between these hippy-like buildings where signs were both in English and Spanish, so feeling surrounded by the lake itself, it was impossible not to feel like you were in another world altogether—especially after days in the jungle. It reminded of myths of the ancient Mayans and how removed they seemed hundreds of years ago.
Much of the time we spent people watching. Swimmers strutting their lean and muscular bodies jumped into the lake for their daily swim, while children played in the cold water, splashing their parents. It reminded me of the time I spent back at my family’s lake house as a kid and the hours of fun we had simply being in the water. Catamarans glided past with fishermen pulling nets onto their ships. We had the option to join them if we wanted for a cheap price, but we found that we simply enjoyed watching them pass.
Daniel and I walked out to a dock behind one of the restaurants we had patronized and looked out into the water. I was tempted to rent a canoe or kayak and see if I could paddle to the stately-looking houses across the lake. They stood tall and colorful, bright beacons with white porches.
Posing on the dock and taking pictures, we let off some steam from our past few days in Tikal. It was so easy to be overtaken by the power of the jungle and overwhelmed by what was hiding deep inside it. The open air, the lake, and the small cluster of houses was a welcome relief and surprisingly relaxing. Over time, the more we walked, the more faces we recognized—reminding us how really small this island was.
Ducking onto some almost-missed streets, we couldn’t help but be reminded of some areas in Europe. The colonial-looking houses reminded me in some ways of another island city—my beloved Venice. Wandering through, you could see the changes that the local people had made, including painting the exteriors purple, blue, or yellow pastels. It was a reminder that these were all settlements not that long ago, but that the locals were taking their country back, little by little.
Flores was the perfect stop before heading to Guatemala City, where we would be hopping on a flight back home. Again, I wished for more time in this fabulous country, a place that had taken me by surprise and that I wasn’t expecting to love as much as I did. With flights booked to Japan and Cambodia, there was no way we could spend more time there. However, I know I would for sure go back in a heartbeat.
Have you ever loved a certain country more than you thought you would?