Monday, January 20, 2014

Mexico-Guatemala border crossing from Palenque to Flores

Rio Usamacinta, Frontera Corozal, Mexico-Guatemala Border
From Palenque, Mexico and its Mayan ruins, there is a border crossing into Guatemala to visit Tikal National Park for more Mayan ruins. You can easily book a trip from Palenque to Flores, Guatemala, the jump-off point for Tikal.  We left early in the morning on a van from Palenque to Frontera Corozal, a border town of Mexico. It's an exhausting five hour trip to reach the banks of the Rio Usamacinta.

Rio Usamacinta, Frontera Corozal, Mexico-Guatemala Border
As we arrived, only then did we realize we were the only ones on the van crossing the border. We were told to get our passports stamped at Mexican Immigration while the rest of those in the van were touring the nearby archeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak. The port for the border and the ruins is the same but the boats go in different directions.

Rio Usamacinta, Frontera Corozal, Mexico-Guatemala Border
We boarded a pump boat for the 30-minute ride along the Rio Usamacinta to get to the Guatemalan side. It was the first time I crossed a border by river boat. I was surprised that Guatemalan Immigration was not at the river bank but outside Bethel. We had to wait quite a while before a coaster took us to the Immigration outpost in Bethel.

Bethel, Guatemala Immigration
Philippine passport holders with US visas do not a need a visa to Guatemala. But I almost thought I would get denied entry since I did not have a Guatemalan visa and it was obvious they haven't seen any Filipino cross the border from there which was literally the back door. They had to confirm if I could enter. Finally, I got my passport stamp.

From the outpost, it was a two hour dusty and bumpy coaster ride through the hinterlands of northern Guatemala. Then it was another two hours on paved roads before we finally made it to Flores, the capital of El Peten, the largest and northernmost department of Guatemala. The trip from Palenque to Flores was a total of 10 hours.

Flores, Guatemala
Flores, Guatemala
The town proper of Flores is an island on Lago Petén Itzá, which you can reach by crossing a bridge. Travelers visit Flores because of its proximity to Tikal, the most visited Mayan ruins in Guatemala. But the town is quite charming with its cobblestone streets and colonial buildings.

Catedral Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios y San Pablo Itzá, Flores, Guatemala
Flores, Guatemala
The island is quiet and its quite easy to explore the entire town by foot. After finding a hostel, we explored Flores. The quaint character of the town was very pleasing. There are some interesting restaurants. The town's small church is actually a cathedral, the Catedral Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios y San Pablo Itzá. If you just want to enjoy the scenery, you can sit down at one of the lakeside hangouts and enjoy the cool breeze or even take a dip.

We booked our day-trip to Tikal and an overnight bus ride to Antigua Guatemala which we would catch after our visit to Tikal. We called it a night early since we had a long the next day.

Previous post: Pre-Hispanic City of Palenque, Mexico and Cascadas de Agua Azul
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