In the middle of the deepest jungle, hidden behind green thickets and miles away from the next bigger city Flores lies the legendary Mayan city of Tikal, one of the absolute highlights of Guatemala and one of the most worth seeing ruins of the whole continent.
Tour to Tikal
The best time to visit the temple complex, which covers more than 60 square kilometers, is in the morning from 6 a.m., as soon as the gates of Tikal open. Only then does the feeling of authentically experiencing the truly original Tikal unfold. Only then you are alone with yourself, the ruins half covered by plants and the wild animals that are most active at this time. In the morning the streams of tourists reach the Great Square and the natural tranquility is over. Accordingly, the best time to start a tour to Tikal is at 4 or 5 in the morning in Flores at Lake Petén-Itzá.
Nature and culture in one
Since the former Mayan city and the national park surrounding it were declared a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979, only half of the buildings that had not yet been excavated may be excavated. As a result, many of the buildings are still half overgrown with tropical plants, creating a mystique rarely found in other perfectly restored ruins (such as Chichén Itzá in Mexico, not too far away). The wild animals (parrots, howler monkeys, insects and many more) that can be observed in the wild here make the visit a natural experience as well as a cultural one.
Buildings in Tikal
The most important buildings of the site are located near the center, the so-called Great Square. Temple I, also called the Great Jaguar, trumps the large lawn in the center, where most tourists scurry during the day. Across the street is Temple II, which towers at least as breathtakingly and proudly from the ground. To the left and right of it are the North and Central Acropolis and, not far away, the main ballpark of the resident Maya.
History of Tikal
The first settlements in the area are dated around 900 BC. After that it took some time until the first large buildings were erected, namely around 400 BC. From that time on, Tikal developed into one of the most important Mayan centers in Central America. It even survived the period around 200 AD, when many other powerful cities had to be abandoned. In the fifth century, Tikal first flourished with its power until a fierce war with the neighboring culture of Calakmul, which vied with Tikal for supremacy in the area. On the other hand, after a period of weakness of one hundred to two hundred years, they again defeated the arch-enemy and the city shone once more in their dominion. During these centuries, between 50,000 and 200,000 people lived in Tikal and its immediate catchment area. A mass death (perhaps due to a long period of drought on the Yucatán Peninsula) or migration from the area finally sealed Tikal’s decline around 900 AD.