Poptun is a village in Guatemala's northern Petén region.
Poptun is located on the main highway halfway between Flores and Rio Dulce; roughly 1h30m - 2h from either direction. As there is only one main road, most of the transportation options below will travel between Flores & Rio Dulce & be willing to drop you off as they pass Poptun. This is also a great opportunity for those comfortable with hitching a ride.
- Public Coaches - There are a few companies that have busses that operate from Santa Elena to Guatemala City (ADN, Linea Dorada and Fuente Del Norte.) These busses also stop in Rio Dulce and will drop you off in Poptun if you ask. Although not the cheapest option (40Q as of September 2016) they are reasonably priced, relatively quick and comfortable. You can get the sames busses when leaving Poptun and head north to Santa Elena or south to Rio Dulce/Guatemala City.
- Chicken Busses - For those on a tighter budget or wanting a little bit more adventure at the expense of comfort, you can try a local Chicken Bus. Although often referred to as Chicken Busses they aren't the same as the well known converted school busses found further south. Instead they are more akin to Collectivos (mini-vans) and can also be called microbusses. These are cheaper (30Q as of September 2016) and a little slower as they will stop often to drop off and pick up passengers along the way. There is no timetable for these busses so ask around and you'll be pointed in the right direction.
- Shuttles - There are a number of Tour agencies on Flores island that run shuttles to various locations including Rio Dulce and they will be able to drop you off in Poptun along the way.
- Taxi - This is by far the most expensive way of getting to Poptun, though you may find a reasonable rate if you're splitting the fare between a group or find a driver already making the trip south.
- Plane - There is a small, private airfield for chartered flights landing in Poptun. It is located very near the center of town.
From Rio Dulce
- Public Coaches - There are a few companies that have busses that operate from Santa Elena to Guatemala City and stop in Rio Dulce. You can take one of these busses from Rio Dulce (around 40Q as of September 2016) and get them to drop you off in Poptun. This is the most reliable and comfortable way to get to Poptun and they run throughout the day and most of the night. You can get the sames busses when leaving Poptun and head north to Santa Elena (Flores) or south to Rio Dulce/Guatemala City. Companies include ADN, Linea Dorada and Fuente Del Norte.
- Shuttles - Tour agencies in Rio Dulce offer shuttles to Flores for those wishing to visit Tikal and will be happy to drop you off on their way. However, they may be less reluctant to negotiate on the price for a shorter trip, especially during the high season if they're confident of filling the seat for the full price. Don't be afraid to negotiate on the price!
- Taxi - This is by far the most expensive way of getting to Poptun, though you may find a reasonable rate if you're splitting the fare between four of you. You may be lucky enough to find a taxi driver who lives further north and will give you a much reduced rate if he is heading in that direction anyway.
- Plane - There is a small airfield and private planes can be chartered from various locations to land in Poptun.
From Guatemala City (Antigua)
- Public Coaches - There are a few companies that have busses that operate from Santa Elena to Guatemala City and stop in Rio Dulce. You can take one of these busses from Guatemala City and get them to drop you off in Poptun. Although not the cheapest option it is the most reliable and comfortable way of getting to Poptun and they run throughout the day with the option to take a late bus that runs through the night. You can get the sames busses when leaving Poptun and head north to Santa Elena (Flores). Companies include ADN, Linea Dorada and Fuente Del Norte.
- Chicken Busses - Although a little more complicated it IS possible to get to Poptun using only second class public transport AKA Chicken Busses and Microbusses (collectivos). Head over to Centro Norte bus terminal which is located at a shopping mall (to get here take a taxi or the Trans Urbano busses (3Q). From here you can take a bus to El Rancho, they are often the busses heading to Coban. Once you're at El Rancho take a microbus to Rio Hondo. From Rio Hondo you may find another microbus heading direct to Rio Dulce, if not take one heading to Puerto Barrios making sure to mention that you're heading to Rio Dulce. They will drop you off at an intersection where you can get on your final microbus to Rio Dulce. In total this journey should cost between 70Q-80Q.
- Plane - The cheapest option by flight is to fly from Guatemala City to Flores and then make your way from Flores (See Above). A more expensive option is to charter a private plane to Poptun itself.
- Antigua - From Antigua make your way to Guatemala City via Chicken bus, shuttle or taxi and follow one of the above steps. It's important to note that a number of tour agencies in Antigua will offer you a shuttle service but make sure that IS what they are providing. This is because some agencies will take you in a shuttle to Guatemala City and from there you will be taking one of the 1st class public coaches mentioned above, over-charging you and making a healthy profit for themselves.
Tuk-tuks are easily found and cost Q5-20 for most trips within Poptun. Taxis are available, though less common and more costly. If no passing tuk-tuk is able to be spotted from the road, most local tiendas or neighbors would be willing to call their favorite driver for you. Poptun is small and safe enough to walk/bike most places in daylight.
- Naj Tunich Cave - Cave walls hold nearly 100 original texts and murals from the Maya Classic period and is widely considered one of the largest (3km) and most significant caves in Mayan history. Due to vandalism, the original paintings have been closed off to the public. Replicas have been carefully created in a nearby cave to allow closer viewing. Guided tour including lunch, entrance & transportation can be booked through Finca Ixobel. Getting there requires some walking, bring good shoes and a flashlight.
- Balneario Las Pozas (Las Pozas Riverpools) - Located 6 km from Poptun on the banks of the Machaquila River, the natural pools are popular among locals though relatively unknown by travelers. The turquoise waters are surrounded by flora & wildlife such as the madre cocoa flower, howler monkeys & fish. Swimmers can jump from the rope swing or hike up to the lookout point for great views. There are restrooms, a restaurant, a camping area with grills and tables, zipline, a volleyball net and soccer field. Entrance fee is Q10 & parking is Q10. Transportion can also be arranged through Finca Ixobel.
Most needs can be found in town though imported goods are uncommon. The center of Poptun is populated with many grocers and tiendas typical of Guatemala for purchases of common produce/meats, household/toiletry essentials and second hand clothes. There is a Dispensaria Familiar, a larger grocer chain found throughout Guatemala, that is well stocked, organized and accepts credit cards. Tiendas also show up along the highway and on residential roads for drinks, snacks and basics.
- Hotel Ecologico Finca Ixobel
An eco-friendly hostel and campground located in the foothills of the Mayan mountains less than 5 kilometers south of the town of Poptún. The Finca offers clean accommodation starting at $5-7 USD per night, from camping and dorm rooms to private suites and treehouses. All rooms have a terrace, hammock, linens and mosquito nets. Most showers are powered by solar or recycled energy. There is a large restaurant that has both indoor and outdoor seating with free WIFI throughout. The kitchen uses fruits and vegetables grown on-site & offers standard American fare along with local and international dishes.
With over 400 acres of land, there are three caves on site as well as a natural lagoon for swimming, self guided tours, children's playground, horses for riding and other farm animals, garden, campfire and a bar area with darts and table tennis. Daily tours to nearby riverpools, caves, waterfalls, museums and sailing are on offer at reasonable rates. Credit cards are accepted. The Finca is pet, backpacker and family friendly. Contact: (502) 5410-4307 (502) 5514-9161 or [email protected]
Take a first class bus (Fuente Del Norte, Linea Dorado, ADN) north to Santa Elena or south to Rio Dulce. Time north and south is about 2 hours each way and travels on a relatively good road. Alternatively, you can take a second class microbus/collectivo which is a little cheaper, less comfortable and more difficult to schedule due to unposted stop times.