The small town of Poptún is unremarkable in and of itself, but there are a number of good recreational opportunities in the vicinity. Travelers coming from Guatemala City often break up their journey with a stay in Poptún’s landmark Finca Ixobel.
In the vicinity of Poptún are numerous caves, jungle rivers, and forests easily explored with help from area lodges.
Halfway between Río Dulce and Flores, Poptún has always been a favorite stopping point, particularly before the road to Flores was paved and travelers needed to split up the grueling journey on a rutted dirt road.
Nestled in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, the area is unlike the rest of Petén in that it is cooler by virtue of its altitude at more than 600 meters (2,000 feet) and features a largely pine-forested, karst landscape.
There are many relatively unexplored Mayan sites here as well as some small expanses of tropical forest, which have survived the expansion of the agricultural frontier to which most of southern Peteén has succumbed.
A military base once operated in this area, but it has been closed down since the 1996 peace accords, as elsewhere in Guatemala.
Accommodations and Food
There is at least one good place to stay in Poptún proper, though you are probably better off staying at one of the local, highly recommended jungle lodges. Should you get stuck in town, Hotel Posada de los Castellanos (tel. 7927-7222, corner of 4a Calle and 7a Avenida, $10 d) is your best bet with basic, clean rooms with fan and private hot-water bath. For eating, La Fonda Ixobel has tasty baked goods and snacks.
Getting to Poptún
The Poptún area is accessible via several buses and minivans leaving Flores daily at half-hour intervals during daylight hours. Línea Dorada (tel. 7926-1788, www.tikalmayanworld.com, $15–30 one-way) has buses from Guatemala City (10 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily), stopping in Río Dulce and Poptún along the way. Buses arrive and depart on Playa Sur in Flores.
Buses heading north from Guatemala City via Río Dulce also come this way and stop at Finca Ixobel, Poptún, and Machaquilá.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com