This is the birthplace and centre of the ancient Mayan civilization of Central America, which reached its height of architectural, scientific and artistic achievement between 300-900 AD. Although covering a third of the country Peten has less than 3% of the population, and is a huge expanse of swamps, winding rivers, savannah and tropical rainforest. Scattered with spectacular Mayan ruins, mostly long overgrown by the jungle, the area has been undisturbed for so long that it has become extraordinarily rich in wildlife. However, the forests are now threatened by slash and burn, logging and oil exploration. Around 40% of Peten is protected, but effective enforcement of the Biosphere Reserve is becoming an issue.
The regional capital, Flores, is an unusual island-city on the south-western side of Lake Peten Itza, and is attached to the mainland by a long causeway. Its airport, where many visitors arrive, is just 2km away. El Remate is to the east of Lake Peten Itza, half-way along the road connecting Flores to Tikal.