"Ruins in the jungle" Top 5 Page for this destination Parque Nacional Tikal by toonsarah

Parque Nacional Tikal Travel Guide: 314 reviews and 1,008 photos

View from Temple IV (Temples I-III & S Acropolis)

Having spent our first week in Guatemala in the south west, in the highland areas around Antigua and Lake Atitlàn, we flew north to see Tikal, one of the greatest sites of the ancient Mayan World. It contains the the tallest pre-Columbian structure now standing in the Americas, Temple IV, and many others besides, all scattered across a wide area, and many still hidden by jungle growth and the accumulation of centuries of earth.

Those that have been excavated and (in some cases) restored tower above the tree tops, giving rise to the nickname that was quoted to us several times by locals: the “New York of Guatemala”. Well, New York it isn’t, but it is all the more amazing for that. To consider that these massive structures were built so long ago (between the late 7th and early 9th centuries), and without the use of technology, is truly awesome.

Like Antigua, this has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and forms a protected National Park. Admission is necessarily tightly controlled, to protect the monuments, and tickets sold on a day permit basis. Most tourists, like ourselves, spend only a day or two here, but the site is so extensive that anyone with more than a passing interest in Mayan history would need at least a little longer to explore it properly, and a serious scholar could be kept happy for weeks!

In our one day in the park we covered an amazing 6.5 miles, according to our excellent guide Miguel (amazing because I was still not 100% recovered from last year’s broken foot and had done very little walking) – and yet we still didn’t see anything like all the monuments and pyramids.

We did however see all the main sights – the tallest and most impressive of the temples (I – VI), a number of other pyramids, several palaces, the Grand Plaza, the Central Acropolis complex, the so-called El Mundo Perdido (The Lost World) and the Plaza of Seven Temples, as well as the park’s two small museums.

I was thrilled that despite my still-weak foot I managed to climb one of the pyramids (Temple IV), while Chris climbed all that he could! Do try to get up one at least (Temple IV, despite being the tallest, is also the easiest) as it’s only really from up here that you get a true sense of the scale and wonder of Tikal.

My “Things to Do” tips are presented in the order in which we visited the ruins, so you can follow our tour as we walk around the complex ...

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:Allow at least a whole day for this amazing place
  • Last visit to Parque Nacional Tikal: Nov 2010
  • Intro Updated Dec 24, 2011
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Reviews (24)

Comments (6)

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Feb 6, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    Tikal is wonderful with all those ancient ruins surrounded by jungle! I stayed in Flores and not by the ruins. I wish I had stayed by the ruins, but beeing all alone doesn't sound too fun!

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Hello, Sarah! It's always interesting to read about your journeys and to see the wonderful photographs you have taken.... Well done!

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo
    Jan 7, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Great to hear your foot held up, Sarah & that lunch must have tasted great after the exertion. Enjoyed walking through the ruins w/ you. Seems they should have a multi-day pass but I guess the price is low enough. Agree about signs in museums!

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jan 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Ah, sweet memories :-) I see you could climb the Star Wars temple, so good to hear that it worked with your foot!! And good to see that they have wooden stairs now; we climbed the temple without these... Oh my, the howler monkeys!

  • Jan 6, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    i think we all run out of steam by the time we get to the main plaza, i was exhausted in that sun and all that temple climbing! esp since we got to the park at 6am sharp for sunrise! its a magical place is it not? loved your page!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Hi Sarah, this is another fine new page with detailed, authoritative and well-written tips! Good that you saw so much in one day and even managed to climb the highest one.


“I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust (Joni Mitchell, "Amelia")”

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