"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 and Cons
  • Pros:Fantastic location, fantastic history
  • In a nutshell:You know it is remote when they shut the power off at night!
  • Last visit to Parque Nacional Tikal: Feb 2006
  • Intro Updated Jan 13, 2008
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Reviews (28)

Comments (36)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jan 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Interesting tips and insights on the Mayan ruins. Maybe if they had had some more time (before their civilization collapsed) they might have discovered that arches can support much more weight than straight roof supports. (Not an obvious concept at all.)

  • icunme's Profile Photo
    Nov 12, 2009 at 6:20 AM

    Liked reading notes re feeding animals. We do think we are doing them a favor but we just interrupt the food chain - more harm than good. Grazie, Carol

  • traveldave's Profile Photo
    Feb 27, 2008 at 6:24 AM

    A great place for a side trip from Belize. The ruins are fantastic. I leave next week for Central America (Honduras), but I won't be visiting any Mayan ruins, although there are some in the country.

  • betako3's Profile Photo
    Feb 15, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    I'm a bad case of Arachnophobia myself and that pic of the Wolf spider in the bathroom really set my pulse racing! Apart from that - it seems a truly wonderful place.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2008 at 1:07 PM

    Glenn awesome page about this National Park. I really like those fluffy Coatimundis, and I must admit that the Gallo beers don't look too bad either. ;-)

  • Luchonda's Profile Photo
    Jan 18, 2008 at 4:41 PM

    Hi, good evening. Yr report on the "lost world" is so inviting. I have to go once. greetz

  • easterntrekker's Profile Photo
    Oct 18, 2007 at 5:44 PM

    Thanks for visiting my Tikal pages. We enjoyed that area of the country so much. Definately agree it was better than some og the other Mayan ruins we've seen in Mexico!

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jul 25, 2007 at 5:44 AM

    You've done such a thorough job on this page. I've really enjoyed reading your tips and soaking up the atmosphere of Tikal through your writing and photos.

  • magor65's Profile Photo
    Apr 17, 2007 at 2:47 AM

    The temples of Tikal look really impressive. I've always been dreaming of seeing Chichen Itza in Mexico, but after reading your tips I think I might skip that in favour of Tikal.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Dec 9, 2006 at 3:25 PM

    Cool pics! I really want to get here soon!

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