Exploring the Ancient City of Tikal

We stayed two nights in Flores, Guatemala with the sole purpose of visiting Tikal, Guatemala’s most famous Mayan site. We arrived in the early evening after a long shuttle ride from Lanquin (Semuc Champey) to the tiny island of Flores – connected by a small bridge to the larger town of Santa Elena. We checked into our hostel and went out to catch the sunset over the lake and grab dinner.

We didn’t want to spend too much money and opted to do the transportation only option to the Tikal through a tour company. The company charged us 80Q which turned out to be a rip-off as it should have only been 60Q. The next morning, everyone  else in our van was doing a guided tour and we thought we’d ask how much it would be to join along since the others in the van had paid only 100Q for transportation and a guide. We talked the guide into giving us the tour for an extra 25Q each, straight into his pocket. In the end, we were glad we went with the group. We saw so much wildlife we would have otherwise missed and he explained some of the history of the ruins while also giving us plenty of free time.

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The main temple which you are no longer allowed to climb

We learned that the majority of temples within the Tikal National Park park are still uncovered. Supposedly, Guatemala receives a lot of international funding to conserve it’s forests and even though all of Tikal is secondary growth, it is protected. As a result, only about one temple every ten to twenty years is uncovered.

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A temple covered in earth and trees

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A ruin being slowly uncovered and restored

Our guide led us through the main complexes of Tikal and showed us the three temples you can still climb. The main temple was closed to climbing after two tourists fell and one died (the same happened at Chichen Itza in Mexico.) The tallest temple now has a wooden staircase to climb around back which is much safer.

Tikal is unique in that much of the area is still covered in rain forest and from the view at the top of the temples you can only see the peaks of other temples over the trees.

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View from the top of one of the temples looking across Tikal Park

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After four hours with the guide we had two hours on our own. We veered off the main path and came across more ruins and not another sole insight. The entire site was surprisingly pretty empty compared to the overcrowded Chichen Itza. This made it very easy to get some nice photos and just made the whole experience more enjoyable in general as we weren’t harassed by people trying to sell us things.

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Paths through the forest leading to more ruins

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Temple V

Wildlife of Tikal

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A baby crocodile in a swamp

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A fox on the path

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A spider monkey swinging through the trees with her baby

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A green parrot in the trees

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A Tucan eating berries (smaller breed then we saw in Argentina)

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A coati sniffing around the garbage

 Our guide even lured out a tarantula for us to photograph!

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For more photos of Tikal, check out our Flickr Album.

2 thoughts on “Exploring the Ancient City of Tikal

  1. Anna Jean Msllinson says:

    Amazing! It sounds ideal — some time with the guide, then on your own. It’s a comfort in a way to see how the jungle obliterates human structures but I’m glad some are uncovered and studied. And the wild life! You really are seeing the world!

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