This is the one. Surrounded by more than 220 square miles worth of jungle, this ecological reserve hides the biggest archaelogical site available to tourism in all of Central America.
Tikal´s architecture indicates that this city was founded in IV BC. It is believed that it reached its peak economically, politically but mostly military in the Classic Period, from 200 AD to 900. Tikal was so powerful during this time that it is there´s evidence to affirm they even had communication and commerce with the city of Teotihuacan, Central Mexico, which is 800 miles Northwest of Tikal.
Getting to Tikal was quite the adventure, you can read all about it here.
The name Tikal has two meanings, depending on the variation of the Mayan tongue you interpret it: In the water dam or The place of voices
This is a friendly map, in reality to get from one ruin to another was quite the hike.
A lot of people recommended me coming here. More than 20 different people from different countries i met on my way down told me Tikal was one of the best ruins the´ve ever seen. And some of these people were hardcore travelers that have been all over the world.
I usually don´t like to rely on guide books issued for tourists or popular travel blogs because they usually have the goal of making money by selling or getting readers; that means that they reccommend popular destinations and several tourist traps.
I call Tourist trap a place where you get surrounded by tourists so much that you are not able to socialize with locals, get to know the real essence of the place and/or prices are 5 times normal because everyone there is not from there.
Anyway, this ruin left me speechles. It is so big it took me about 4 hours in a fast walking pace. I knew it was going to rain and I had to leave early in order to get to Flores, my next destination, while there was still light in the sky. In order to get from one building to the other you had to walk between 5 or 30 minutes depending on the place you were hiking. I had left my backpack in the entrance (I payed 5 Quetzal to the guy in the parking lot. Yeah, bold move) so I only had my camera with me. It was very easy to practically jog between buildings and even so I was there from 12 to 4 pm.
There is a sunset and a sunrise tour but it costs twice as what I payed so that was a no go for me. The entry cost is around 22 USD. That is quite expensive compared to all the other sites I had been to in Belize but I didn´t care, Tikal promised and delivered a great experience.
The photo above shows how an unexcavated building looks like. Pretty much every mount in Tikal has a hidden building below the grass and trees that grew over the years above it.
The thing I liked the most about coming here was that it was virtually empty. I didn´t see a lot of cars or buses on the parking lot and being as enormous as it is the few people that were there scattered all around. There are 5 main roads to enter the ruins so I got to hike on my own all the time except for two or three times I ran into people going the other way than me.
Being the crazy person I am, I didn´t want to miss anything so I covered every path available. That allowed me to see every building but also gave me the oportunity to run into a deer, a peacock and see howling monkeys and spider monkeys. I only have photos of the spider monkeys because the deer got scared as soon as I moved and the peacock was outside the trail between the trees. I never got a clear shot of the howling monkeys but here you go, I have a clear photo of a spider monkey eating.
I know, I really need a better lens with a decent zoom but the camera istelf was 500 USD and a proper lens is about 1,000 USD so if you want better pictures upvote this so I can buy a better lens hehe.
One of the characteristics every Mayan site I have visited share with each other is the fact that the moment you enter the ruin/building/reserve you feel a calming vibe, almost magical. All other noises dissappear and you get immersed in nature noises. It is very relaxing and if you listen closely, you can almost hear your body reconnecting with nature.
The one thing I enjoy the most is that this ruins are not very popular worldwide (compared with Machu Pichu in Perú or Chichen Itzá in México for example) and therefore don´t have many visitors, this means that you can interact better with the monuments and buildings because they are not very damaged, yet. So, you can climb almost every building in every Mayan site in Central America and Tikal is no exception.
Some buildings are completely restored. Others are displayed kind of destroyed. A guide I met told me that when you see a building like this, it means that ilegal raiders tried to open the building and destroyed it in order to get treasures from inside (Masks, pottery, stelaes etc).
This is the view from the tallest buiding in Tikal. Do you see the 3 buildings coming on top of the tree tops? Well, that is the same view the Mayans had 1,500 years ago. No words can describe this landscape.
You can imagine how mad I got when I saw this. For those who cannot read it, it says “Please do not scratch the wall”. Obviously, us humans like to go against the rules and ruin every beautifl thing we run into.
Some of the buildings have inner chambers that you can walk through but there is no light at all. Being so empty this means that if you go inside and something happens to you, you are on your own. But hey, it would be very dissappointing to not have at least one photo of that, right?
Long story short. If you ever come to Guatemala or happen to go to Southern Mexico or Western Belize, you MUST come to Tikal, you will not be dissappointed, at all.
I know It was some of the best decisions I´ve made. I was hesitant on going because of all the hitchhiking it would take and all the money spent but in the end I was very happy I came.
I hope you liked this little tour I tried to give you, If you have any insights or recommendations I´m all ears in the comment section!