The Mayan temples of Tikal in Guatemala

I last visited Tikal 15 years ago, in 1993, and had a rather magical experience here. At that time, we climbed the highest temple, temple IV, in the middle of the night and witnessed the jungle spectacularly bursting into life at dawn. The sounds of the roaring howler monkeys have stayed with me ever since.

Tikal in Guatemala

Unfortunately tourists are no longer allowed to enter the park before 6am, so we left El Remate at 5.30am arriving shortly after 6.

Tikal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is the largest of the Mayan ruins, and is located in the hot and steamy El Petén region of North East Guatemela. Tikal’s prosperity peaked during the Classic Period, around 200 – 900 AD, during which time the site dominated the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily. It was at this time that the wonderfully named King Moon Double Comb (Aka. Lord Chocolate) ruled over Tikal.

There are thousands of ancient structures at Tikal (some higher than 60 metres), and only a fraction have been excavated, still allowing visitors a bit of an Indiana Jones experience, although word has it that the ruins at El Mirador now surpass the splendor of Tikal.

Tikal was mysteriously abandoned around the 10th century, and popular theories now cite drought as one of the likeliest causes of its sudden demise.

In the last 15 years there have been inevitable changes at Tikal. Apart from the opening time, now there are wooden steps leading up all the temples, and the main pathways and temples are more manicured than before. My biggest disappointment with this visit was due to the presence of a generator near the park entrance which can be heard throughout the park. The generator obviously frightens a lot of the wildlife away (including the previously ubiquitous howler monkeys) and partially destroys the illusion of untouched jungle which I remember previously.

Onwards to the Copán Ruinas in Honduras….

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