Where are the pyramids? Lush tree canopies sheltered us from the sun, and fascinating sounds filled the air. The atmosphere was unlike the archaeological ruins we’ve seen in Mexico, the Tikal ruins of Guatemala are set in the heart of a rainforest.
According to guide books, archaeologists have identified more than 3,000 structures in Tikal and the ancient city probably covered as much as 65 sq. km, which makes it one of the largest Maya cities ever uncovered. Imagine this huge chunk of history hidden away in the middle of a vast jungle. The ruins are located in different complexes and due to size of the whole area, and the distances from one temple to another, we allotted approximately 5 hours to see most of the ancient city.
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Gran Plaza, Temple I (Temple of the Great Jaguar) and Temple II (Temple of the Masks)
The Gran Plaza was our welcome to the ruins. This main complex is home of two of the most popular pyramids, Temple I (Temple of the Great Jaguar) and Temple II (Temple of the Masks). These structures seem to face each other in a fierce argument of which one is more impressive. If you ask me, both of them are equally stunning pyramids.
It is prohibited to go up the more popular Temple of Great Jaguar (this is the pyramid in the souvenirs), however, it is possible to admire its beauty from the top of Temple II. The Temple of Masks, named because of the masks on its facade, gives a stunning panoramic view of the Gran Plaza and its nearby temples. It’s beautiful up there.
Temple IV (Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent)
The tallest structure in Tikal stands tall at 64m. Temple IV also known as Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent offers an astonishing view of the lush rainforest that covers the rest of the ancient city. From here, you can see three other temples tower above the tree tops – at the left are Temples I and II, and at the right is Temple III. It is one of the most astounding views I have seen in this trip.
This temple is also the viewpoint for sunrise tours to Tikal. Apart from the more expensive entry fee, we skipped the sunrise tour due to the hazy weather.
Temple V, located south of the Central Acropolis, is probably the most impressive of all the pyramids. It is the second largest pyramid and stands 57 metres (187 ft) high. Unlike Temple IV, it is possible to see the full structure of Temple V so I really felt tiny next to it. Unfortunately it is not permitted to climb up this temple. That would be pretty awesome!
Wildlife in Tikal
Apart from the glorious history hidden in the rainforest of Tikal, this jungle is home to a variety of animals. Upon our time in the jungle, we saw a deer, a few coati, and different birds such as woodpeckers, and toucans. The other people from our group even saw some spider monkeys. We definitely heard monkeys but unfortunately didn’t see any.
Details: Visiting Tikal, Guatemala
The Entrance fee to the Archaeological Ruins of Tikal is Q150 (excluding the museums). Tours and transport to Tikal are best arranged from either the town of Flores or El Remate. We arranged return transport to Tikal from El Remate for Q50. From Flores, the price for transportation ranges from Q60 to Q100. Tours (excluding entrance fee) are around Q150.
A charming tourist town which lies next to a scenic lake, Flores is a place you shouldn’t miss. An hour or two of walking takes you to most of the interesting parts of this island, which includes a small square, an old church and some colourful shops and restaurants by the lakeside. We spent a relaxing few days in Flores and even did a short boat trip to its nearby towns.
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Midway between Flores and Tikal is the small town of El Remate. The town is very close to the main road so it’s not quite as interesting as the island of Flores. However, its beautiful lakeside and serene environment makes for a decent place to stay for a few nights.
Have you been to Tikal or any other ancient ruins in GUatemala? What did you think of the place? Let us know.