"Tikal - a Jungle Jewel" Top 5 Page for this destination Parque Nacional Tikal by Bwana_Brown
Parque Nacional Tikal Travel Guide: 314 reviews and 1,008 photos
My wife and I timed a 3-week February, 2006 vacation in Belize to coincide with the worst of the Canadian winter weather, enabling us to travel to various parts of that very interesting and hospitable country! One of the many places we stayed was west of San Ignacio and only 6 miles from the Guatemalan border. After having earlier read the pages of VT-member 'Windsorgirl' on her adventures in Tikal National Park, I too was determined to use this opportunity for a short hop over the border to sample these Mayan ruins for myself! As a warm up, we had taken a short walk from our accommodations in Belize to the temple of Xunantunich, a small outpost of the large Tikal empire (see my 'Xunantunich' page in Belize for the details).
Tikal was designated in 1979 as one of the three World Heritage Sites in Guatemala, and is located in the dense jungles of the remote northeastern area of the country (see my 'General' tips for a map). This part of the Yucatan Peninsula is mostly lowlands and saw these Mayans rise from their beginnings in ~500-100 BC to powerful states by 250 AD. In typical Mayan fashion, Tikal is situated on high ground which actually marks the watershed divide between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the southeast. As the population density in the Yucatan rose into the millions and heavy deforestation and internal conflicts took place, the culture declined after about 900 AD (in perspective with 'Western' history, shortly after the time period when Charlemagne in present-day France was consolidating Western Europe from Slavic and Moorish invasions). However, the Coastal Lowland Mayan descendents of this region were the last of all the Mayan peoples to surrender to the invading Spaniards, not formally giving up the battle until 1697. By the way, in January 2008 I watched a documentary on very much older Mayan ruins even further northeast in Guatemala from Tikal, near where the Mexican/Belize borders meet (in the still being excavated in Rio Azul National Park - shown on the map in my first 'General' tip). Digs there revealed an even older period of Mayan temples, dating from before 500 BC, that were larger than Tikal and just as sophisticated! The new discoveries have set the accepted Mayan 'history' timeline on its head.
Although Guatemala has had it's share of bad press in the not too distant past, the two of us took off on our own without pre-arranged transport or accommodations and managed to survive quite nicely. We really enjoyed our little trip to these amazing structures and have also received excellent reports from other travellers about their experiences elsewhere in Guatemala. Tikal certainly met our expectations - definitely one of the highlights of our entire vacation and certainly more impressive than the Chichen Itza and Tulum ruins in Mexico that we toured during our 2003 'Cancun' trip.
- Pros:Fantastic location, fantastic history
- In a nutshell:You know it is remote when they shut the power off at night!
Our first order of business in Tikal was to head into the array of Mayan ruins to get the lay of the land while we still... more travel advice
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Latest: Dec 5, 2013