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Travel Guide Central America Guatemala Tikal

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Introduction

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Tikal is the largest ruined ancient Mayan city, located near Flores in northern Guatemala. This city rests in lowland rain forests and several large animals are known to wonder the ruins, including jaguars and cougars. At its height Tikal was one of the most populous and important cultural centers in the Mayan world. The area was originally settled in the 4th century BC and slowly grew in power.

The city reached its height during the classical period, 200 AD to 900 AD. At that time this city was one of the largest in the world and dominated the Mesoamerican landscape. It is believed that the inhabitants of the city used very complex farming methods in order to preserve the soil. Another amazing fact is that Tikal has no natural water source meaning there are no rivers, streams or springs nearby. The city got all of its water from storing rain water in large underground basins. From the 6th to 7th century is the period called the Tikal hiatus. During this time all construction stopped and no inscriptions were made. This was due to the invasion from the city-state of Caracol in present day Belize. The hiatus continued until the ascension of the King Jasaw Chan K'awiil I who returned Takil back to its position of priority in the Mayan world. Towards the end of the classical period the Tikal was starting to be abandoned and there is evidence that several palaces may have been burned on purpose.

Like most major sites the city of Tikal was never completely lost. Rumours of it existences continued throughout Central America. The first explores to rediscover Tikal were Modesto Méndez and Ambrosio Tut who visited it in 1848. Due to its remoteness only the most adventurous of explorers dared to go all the way to Tikal in the 19th century. Even to this day only a small fraction of Tikal has been excavated.

The name Tikal comes from Itza Mayan and means “place of voice.” No one knows what the city was called during ancient times and name Tikal was first used shortly after it was rediscovered in the 1840s. It is believed that Tikal had between 100,00 to 200,000 citizens depending on the century. Today Tikal is a major tourist sight and on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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Famous Temples

Tikal Ruins

Tikal Ruins

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  • Temple I (Temple of ah Cacao)
  • Temple II (Moon Temple)
  • Temple III
  • Temple IV – The largest temple
  • Temple V – The only temple with no tomb
  • Temple VI (Temple of Inscriptions)
  • Lost World Pyramid – is a 30 metre high pyramid with stairways on 3 sides

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Opening Hours

The park and visitor center is open everyday from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

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Cost

Adult tickets are Q150 (US$20). Children under 12 are free. There are no ATMs in Tikal, so be sure to bring enough cash to cover expenses.

Tickets purchased after 3:00pm are no longer valid the next day.

Also if you are a citizen you can get into Tikal for free on Sundays. This not only gives you two different times of day (and thus two different experiences) but also two chances to have good weather for photography.

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Getting There

The closest large towns to Tikal are Flores, Santa Elena and El Remate. The best way to get to Tikal is to take a bus to Flores and Santa Elena. There is an airport in Flores (FRS) that has daily flights to Guatemala City and international flights to Belize and Cancun, Mexico.

By Car

It is possible to rent a car with a driver to take travellers to and from Tikal.

By Bus

There are several minibuses that run from the nearby towns to Tikal, just pick one up in the bus station.

Tour companies have minibuses that will pick you up from your hotel in Flores and cost GTQ100 return, (including a 4h guided tour) or GTQ70 without the guided tour. Travel time is about 75min. Minivans also leave from the bus terminal in Santa Elena starting at 06:00 with the first return trip at 12:30, but are not recommended since they cost the same but involve a long walk to the terminal (GTQ70 return without a guide).

If you come from Belize, you may be lucky enough to find a collectivo at the border going to Tikal for GTQ100 a person (travel time 100min). Alternately you can walk to the Melchor bus station which is within sight from the border and take a bus heading to Flores, get off at Ixlu, walk across the intersection, and catch another bus heading to Tikal.

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Eat

The Visitor's Center offers food and drink during park opening hours but is rather expensive. The Jungle Lodge offers dinners, and some travellers report that it is better than the Tikal Inn. There are several comedores (food stalls) on the road leading from the ruins entrance to Flores.

The Jaguar Inn is cheaper than the visitors centre and a little more expensive than Tikal Comedor, they used to have high quality local meals, but now they have been removed from their menu, meals now are very average and service is really slow. That being said don´t buy bus tickets there, they charge GTQ500 for a ticket to Uaxactun whereas if you buy it from the ticket booth they charge GTQ25 (USD3.50) for park entry and GTQ15 (USD2) for the bus.

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Drink

There are all sorts of drinks (cans and bottles of soda, juice, and water) available at kiosks in the visitor centre reasonably priced considering that they could charge much more (a cold 600mL bottle of Coke was GTQ6, only GTQ1 more than paid in town). A 1.5 litre bottle of water from the Jaguar Inn costs GTQ10. If you're buying orange juice at the Jaguar Inn buy the bottled stuff (GTQ6 - Jugo De La Granja), I´m sure it is the same as the stuff in a glass but half the price.

Around the Grand Plaza small covered shops offer water. These close pretty early so plan ahead and carry some extra water in the afternoon.

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Sleep

Many people prefer to stay in the park and wake up with the jungle to the sounds of birds and nature rather than the rickshaws of Flores, and staying there is one of the best ways to be in the park for sunrise. Unfortunately the park options are not the cheapest, and demand often exceeds supply. Many stay in Flores and take an early shuttle bus to the park or arrange with San Juan Agency for an 03:00 pickup from hotels and hostels in Flores island to arrive before the sunrise. There are also several cheap lodges lakeside in El Remate, where your hotel can arrange a shuttle pick up for you.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Hostal Hermano Pedro Tikal.guesthouse-
Las GardeniasEl Remate Floreshotel-

There is limited lodging within walking distance to the park. Make sure to book rooms far in advance. There is plenty of additional lodging in the nearby towns like Flores.

ndez and Ambrosio Tut who visited it in 1848. Due to its remoteness only the most adventurous of explorers dared to go all the way to Tikal in the 19th century. Even to this day only a small fraction of Tikal has been excavated.

The name Tikal comes from Itza Mayan and means “place of voice.” No one knows what the city was called during ancient times and name Tikal was first used shortly after it was rediscovered in the 1840s. It is believed that Tikal had between 100,00 to 200,000 citizens depending on the century. Today Tikal is a major tourist sight and on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Top

edit

Famous Temples

Tikal Ruins

Tikal Ruins

© All Rights Reserved Seaurchins

  • Temple I (Temple of ah Cacao)
  • Temple II (Moon Temple)
  • Temple III
  • Temple IV – The largest temple
  • Temple V – The only temple with no tomb
  • Temple VI (Temple of Inscriptions)
  • Lost World Pyramid – is a 30 metre high pyramid with stairways on 3 sides

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Opening Hours

The park and visitor center is open everyday from 6 am to 6 pm.

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Cost

  • Entrance Ticket: 150 GTQ
  • Guides: 8 to 20 USD

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Getting There

The closest large towns to Tikal are Flores, Santa Elena and El Remate. The best way to get to Tikal is to take a bus to Flores and Santa Elena. There is an airport in Flores (FRS) that has daily flights to Guatemala City and international flights to Belize and Cancun, Mexico.

By Car

It is possible to rent a car with a driver to take travellers to and from Tikal.

By Bus

There are several minibuses that run from the nearby towns to Tikal, just pick one up in the bus station.

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Sleep

TPIDPropertyAddressTypeLatitudeLongitude
35159Hostal Hermano Pedro Tikal.guesthouse17.0436552870000-89.6813964844000
35161Las GardeniasEl Remate Floreshotel17.3244204433000-89.6154785156000

There is limited lodging within walking distance to the park. Make sure to book rooms far in advance. There is plenty of additional lodging in the nearby towns like Flores.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 17.225000
  • Longitude: -89.613333

Accommodation in Tikal

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This is version 16. Last edited at 8:11 on May 15, 17 by Utrecht. 17 articles link to this page.

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