Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya)
Within the 5.1 million-acre (2.1 million-hectare) Maya Biosphere Reserve, created by UNESCO in 1990 is Tikal National Park, El Zotz and Naachtún-Dos Lagunas Biotopes (Uaxatún), Yaxhá-Nakum-Naranjo National Park, and El Mirador National Monument—along with some 200 other Mayan ruins, mountains, rivers, cenotes, hiking trails, and lakes including Lake Petén Itza, gateway to the reserve.
The reserve is part of a protected area stretching from central Mexico, through northern Guatemala and Belize. The Maya city-studded forests are home to thousands of rare and beautiful species, including jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, spider monkeys, tapirs, deer, scarlet macaws, and much more. Most guided day trips leave from Flores and offer close encounters with the forest. Birders especially will appreciate bird-watching hotspots such as Ixpanpajul Nature Park, Tikal or Yaxha, with a chance to spot more than 400 different bird species, including the famous Resplendent Quetzal.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Maya Biosphere Reserve is perfect for nature-lovers, history buffs, and families.
- An entrance fee is required.
- Be prepared to hike a lot, so bring plenty of water, insect-repellent and sun protection.
- Small cafes serve snacks and drinks and other amenities.
- Bring mosquito repellant.
- Those with serious medical conditions should perhaps choose a less strenuous and remote nature experience.
- The reserve is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Maya Biosphere Reserve is located north of Flores. Taxis can easily be arranged from Flores or Santa Elena; buses depart from the airport. If renting a car, travel time is approximately two hours.
When to Get There
Maya Biosphere Reserve is open every day from morning until afternoon. The Petén lowlands are typically hot and humid year-round, and relatively cooler during the peak tourist season, from November through February, when you may need a light jacket. Rainy season, from May through October, is steamy and brings more mosquitos.
The Mirador Basin
Within the Maya Biosphere Reserve is the Mirador Basin, an expanse of rainforest known as the cradle of Maya civilization. Marked by numerous Maya archaeological sites, both excavated and unexcavated, the area is teeming with flora and fauna. As the earliest known Maya kingdom, the capital city of El Mirador contains some of the world’s largest pyramids and long-distance causeways, which were some of the first roads of this kind ever built.