Anyone who visits Peten in Northern Guatemala has places such as Flores, Tikal, El Mirador and maybe even Yaxhe on their list. Even though they are all well worth a visit, there is a piece of nature paradise – untouched – and well hidden in the northwestern corner of Guatemala: Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre.
About Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre
Parque nacional Laguna del Tigre or La Laguna del Tigre National Park is the largest national park in Guatemala and part of the Maya Biosphere Nature Reserve. It is also the largest protected swamp area in Central-America. The park is one of the best places to see crocodiles, scarlet macau, jaguars and lots of birdlife.
there are two downsides however: there is no organized tourism (except the Guacamaya Biological Research center tour packages) and the area is well-known for its narcos, since it’s close to the Mexican border. In fact 572 kilogram of cocaine was intercepted in the park just a few days before our visit. All of this makes it really hard for individual travelers to visit this gem, making it off charts for most people.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is during dry season. Mainly because it will be very hard to reach the park during wet season. The dry season runs from December to June.
How to get to Laguna del Tigre National Park?
To get to Laguna del Tigre National Park from Flores, you will need to take a chicken bus from Mercado Viejo to Pasa Caballos. There is only 1 bus per day (not on Sunday) and it leaves at 1.30pm. The bus back to Flores leaves at 4 am from Pasa Caballos. The bus ride takes about 4 hours and is quite rough. Cost of a single trip is 22 GTQ/ person.
Pasa Caballos is the gateway to the national park and where the trouble of getting around starts. There are two ways of getting into the park:
Take a boat / lancha
Most fun way and fastest way to get into the park is via the Rio San Pedro. The problem is that there is no organized boat rides into the park. We were lucky enough to find local people who offered us a boat ride to el campamiento.
Hike into the park
Longest way to get into the park. From Pasa Caballos it takes about 2 hours to reach the Guacamaya center, but if you have not booked in advance, you won’t find anyone there and need to hike to the ‘campsite’ of the park. This is an extra hour and a half. Don’t expect much of this camp as it is just a workers place, but they are happy to offer you a place to pitch your tent for free.
What to do in Laguna del Tigre National Park?
The national park is best-known for its birdwatching as there are over 300 species living in the park, including the scarlet macaw (guacamaya).
Rio San Pedro and Rio Sapluc is one of the best places to spot crocodiles (Morelet crocodile). But since there is no tourism here, it is a challenge to get this organized. More information about how to go on a crocodile tour can be read below.
Visit archaeological site El Peru
The region Peten is scattered with Mayan sites of which Tikal, El Mirador and Yaxche are some of the most famous ones. However, even deep in this remote part there is a Mayan site that is only rarely visited. El Peru is believed to be the rival of Tikal and is mainly still not dugged up. Trails to the site leave from the camping areas.
Hike through the jungle
The best way to see wildlife is by hiking through the jungle. There not that many trails in the park, but the ones that are there are well worth exploring. We also recommend going on a night hike to increase your chances of spotting a jaguar.
Planning your trip
Camping spots / places to stay
Guacamaya Biological Center has dormitories and jungle lodges, but they are included in 2 or 3 day tour packages, which could get expensive for the budget traveler. Besides these, there are two camp areas in the national park. El Area del Campar is a camping spot close to the shore of Rio San Pedro with no facilities. (Use Maps app to find the exact location)
From here there is a 25 minute hiking trail leading to Guardiano Sitio El Peru. This is the base camp for workers of El Peru. They will let you pitch their tents on one of the wooden platforms at no charge. There are also showers and toilets. From here it is a two hour walk to El Peru.
There is no extensive network of hiking trails in the park, but enough to explore a day or two. From Pasa Caballos there is road leading to Guacamaya Biological center. From here all hikes are ‘connected’.
- 1 kilometer loop from Guacamaya Biological Center (Mirador over Rio San Pedro)
- 4 kilometer loop from Guacamaya Biological center
- Trail leading from Guacamayas to Guardianio Sitio El Peru (1 ½ hours)
- Trail from Area de Campar to Guardinio Sitio El Peru (25 mins)
- Guardinio Sitio El Peru to Waka El Peru Archaeological site (2 hours)
- Guardinio Sitio El Peru to Laguna El Peru (2 hours)
From the Guardinio Sitio El Peru, the trail north leads to the archaeological site. 20 minutes before reaching the site, there is a junction leading to Laguna El Peru, a wetland area where you can see crocodiles.
Boat trip / Crocodile tour
For an individual boat trip you will need the help of local people. However, most of them don’t own a boat. We suggest contacting Carlos Cuz Coc, a local of Paso Caballos who works as a tour guide for Paso Caballos as well. He can help you make plans of your visit. Contact information below.
Local contact information for visiting the national park
When visiting the national park, we met Carlos Cuz Coc, a tour guide of Guacamayas who lives in Paso Caballos and want to set up adventure tourism in this part of Guatemala. He can help you with boat transport to one of the camping areas, wildlife tours (crocodile tours) and accommodation in Paso Caballos.
His Whatsapp number is: 4085 1614