The rugged, densely forested northeastern appendage of Guatemala, the Petén borders both Belize and Mexico. Although the Petén was once home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants during the reign of the Maya, is sparsely populated now, and its people live off of basic agriculture, logging and tourism. A vast region, the Petén makes up roughly one-third of Guatemala’s total landmass.
The Petén is primarily of interest to nature lovers and history buffs. The timeless rain forests are home to thousands of species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, and the plant life is abundant to say the least. Some of the more interesting ecosystems are protected, but unfortunately the Petén is in danger of losing much of its biodiversity to logging and development.
The Petén’s greatest attraction is, without a doubt, the ruins of the mighty Mayan city of Tikal. One of the most important Mayan sites, Tikal is a sprawling complex containing hundreds of structures, including some of the most spectacular temples in the Americas. In the remote northern part of the Petén, the site of El Mirador is even more impressive, but very difficult to reach. Other important Mayan sites in the Petén include Uaxactun, Yaxha, Seibal and Piedras Negras.
Most visitors to the Petén will use the picturesque town of Flores as their base of operations.