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Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now Northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is huge and there are a lot of things to do at Tikal while you are here.
The magnificent Temple I is 47 meters (154 feet) high, dedicated to Lord Jasaw Chan K'awil who died in the year 734 AD. Also known as the Temple of the Great Jaguar, the impressive structure had its pyramid added approximately 10 years following the death of the king. Although Temple I is closed to the public, archaeologists have discovered a temple at the top of the temple with three rooms and a corbel arch.
Believed to have been erected in the year 700, the adjacent Temple II, known as the Temple of the Mask, was constructed on the orders of Kasaw Chan K'awil. Deciphering the hieroglyphics in the structure, it is believed that Lord K'awil had the temple built for his wife, Lady 12 Macaw, although no tomb or human remains have been discovered inside. Lady 12 Macaw's pyramid reaches 38 meters (125 feet) to the sky overhead and is precisely oriented towards the rising sun, giving visitors an unparalleled view of the rest of the city and the surrounding jungle.
Slightly further out from the Grand Plaza is the Temple of the Double Headed Serpent. Officially known as Temple IV, the tallest pyramid in the city measures an astonishing 70 meters (230) feet high, constructed in 740 by Yik'in Chan Kawil, the son of Lord Jasaw Chan K'awil.
The fourth enormous structure in Tikal is known as the Temple of the Jaguar Priest or Temple III. Measuring a majestic 55 meters (180 feet) tall, Temple II is believed to be the final resting place of Lord Chi'taam, the last man to rule Tikal. The interior of Temple III still exhibits elaborate carvings but the temple is closed off to the public because the roof has sustained heavy damage.
The last of the large pyramids in Tikal is known as Temple V. Built around 750 AD, the structure stands 57 meters (187 feet) high and is a known mortuary site, but archaeologists have yet to identify whose remains lie inside. Temple VI, known as the Temple of the Inscriptions, is just 12 meters (39 feet) tall but contains more than 186 hieroglyphs describing the city's history.
How to Get Tickets?
Foreigners have to pay a little bit more than the locals. You can get your tickets at the entrance. As of today, you can't purchase tickets online. Your tickets are valid from 6am to 6pm, but if you purchase the sunrise tickets you can enter the park before 6am.
How To Get Around?
Once you get to the park area, you need to park your car and start hiking. It is the best way to enjoy the park while listening to the wildlife and admiring the beautiful surroundings.
What Should I Wear?
Wear a good pair of shoes since you will be hiking for hours. Bring sunscreen as it gets hot after the sunrise. Insect repellant is also recommended since you'll be hiking in the forest.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Tikal is before the sun rises.The sunrise is beautiful and it's more convenient to explore the area early in the morning before it gets hot.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, it's easy to get around and this website provides all the information you need. However, if you really want to find out about the ruins, it's worth paying a local guide. Another option is to look up the relevant pages in your guidebook before you go. You'll get more out of the tour if you know what you're looking at.
How To Get There?
Flores is the nearest getway city and airport from Tikal. Buses and minibuses come in from all surrounding areas on a well maintained road. 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 75 minutes. 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). Regular GTQ30 second class buses leave from the Santa Elena bus station to Tikal.
There are different options for tours to Tikal, and the best ones leave early. It might mean getting up at 4 am, but you'll be thankful to avoid the beating midday sun that awaits those on later tours. It's worth picking up a map of Tikal. The site is huge and it's easy to get lost. Also, stock up on snacks before you go if you're on a budget. The on-site cafes are fairly expensive and the food isn't great.