All Mayan ruins are interesting and nice to look at in their own way. And we’ve seen quite a few of them in Mexico – Tulum, Teotihuacan in Mexico City, Palenque, Chichen Itza…
But Tikal in Guatemala surprised us the most and felt authentic compared to others. Tikal National Park covers huge area of 500km2 and ruins are hidden in the jungle. It’s so vast, that not all of them are exposed yet. Throughout the visit, we heard screaming monkeys and birds around us. No souvenir shops and yelling vendors because they are not allowed inside Tikal.
Visitors usually stay in the nearby town of Flores. There are many agencies offering sunrise or sunset tours to Tikal. Thanks to our Airbnb host, who is also a guide in Tikal, we opted for a sunset tour. Sunrise may be nice as well, but since ruins are in the jungle, they are usually covered in the morning fog.
We left Flores around noon. During the one hour ride, our guide Marlon told us about Mayan civilization and their connection from Teotihuacan in Mexico to Tikal in Guatemala. He also pointed out several hills along the way which are still covered Mayan ruins. There are thousands of ruins in Peten area, where Flores belongs.
After we passed the entrance to the ruins, Marlon showed us a map of the area and several trails. It would have been difficult to cover everything by ourselves and we were glad we had a guide. We chose “Jaguar trail” and hoped to see one. Chances were very low. Marlon is a Tikal guide for 14 years and only saw jaguar 2 times.
Jaguar has been quickly forgotten anyway, Marlon showed us several toucans and spider monkeys in the trees, tarantula(!) and also, an animal called coati. We’ve never seen one before. There were many of them playing on the covered ruins and running around us.
As we walked through the jungle, Marlon pointed out several details on the ruins we would have missed without him. Ancient carvings, hidden sculptures and changes in architecture over the years.
Tikal area really is huge. We covered most of it in a few hours and climbed the Temple II so we can see the sunset right behind the most famous ruin, Temple I.
Tips for visiting Mayan ruins Tikal in Guatemala
- Do research and haggle in Flores for the best price of the tour: sunrise & sunset tour usually don’t include the entrance fee
- Entrance fee in September 2016 was 150 quetzales/person (20 USD), fee for sunrise and sunset is 250 quetzales (33 USD)
- For 150 quetzales, you can still see the sunset until 18:00, after that you need more expensive ticket
- Bring lots of water – we spent 6 hours in Tikal and there is no drinking water in the jungle
- Dress appropriately – any closed toe shoes are fine. If I knew before what Tikal is like, I wouldn’t wear skirt
- Sunscreen and rain poncho are good idea to bring – it is extremely hot and rain can come quickly and unexpectedly
- If you want a great English speaking guide for Tikal and/or looking for accommodation, see Marlon’s website for more info
Interested how to get to Flores from Mexico? Read our post Crossing border from Mexico to Guatemala
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This is so cool! I went a couple years ago, but didn’t see any wildlife and my pictures were mediocre at best haha. Yours are wonderful and it looks like a lot of fun and makes me want to go back!
We were very lucky to see all the wildlife. Having a guide makes a huge difference in the jungle.
It was great seeing your photos and reading about your visit to Tikal! I visited these ruins last November and absolutely loved them. Sitting on top of Temple IV with views overlooking the jungle canopy and listening to the howler monkeys was definitely my favourite experience.
I liked the sound of the jungle as well. Much better than ruins with hundreds of talking tourists around.