Easy-going FLORES is a delightfully sedate place with an old-fashioned atmosphere, quite unlike the rest of the region's towns. A cluster of cobbled streets and aging houses built around a twin-domed church, it sits beautifully on a small island in Lago de Petén Itzá, connected to the mainland by a short causeway. The modern emphasis lies across the water in the twin towns of SANTA ELENA and SAN BENITO, both of which are ugly, chaotic and sprawling places, dusty in the dry season and mud-bound during the rains. Santa Elena, opposite Flores at the other end of the causeway, is strung out between the airport and the market, and takes in several hotels, stores, banks and bus terminals. San Benito, further west, has even less going for it. The three towns are often lumped together under the single name of Flores.
The lake is a natural choice for settlement, and its shores were heavily populated in Maya times.
Today, despite the steady flow of tourists passing through for Tikal, the town retains an enjoyably genteel air, with residents greeting one another courteously as they meet in the streets. Though it has little to detain you in itself – a leisurely thirty-minute stroll around the cobbled streets and lanes is enough to become entirely familiar with the place – Flores does offer enjoyable surroundings and an excellent selection of hotels, restaurants and tour operators.