Tikal, Guatemala is a National Park archeological site of an Maya city from the Classic Period. About 10,000 people lived in the city itself with many more on the outskirts. It is the most impressive Mayan city that I have been to visit. The ruins are part of a massive complex which many buildings have yet to be uncovered. Because it is in the thick jungle, trees have grown over the buildings, sometimes damaging them but definitely protecting them.
There are a few hotels inside the Tikal National Park. We stayed at the Jungle Lodge. After a 10-15 walk through the rainforest jungle, you the temples start popping up.
The temples and palaces uncovered are those used by royalty and the wealthy. The “normal” Maya people lived in huts that did not survive the years. This area is called the Central Acropolis.
The main plaza in Tikal is impressive but impossible to fit into one picture without use of a helicopter.
Standing in the middle of the Grand Plaza and looking towards the West (Temple II- they let you climb this one from the backside):
The center of the Central Plaza:
There are a few more main temples that are in varying degrees of uncovering and reconstruction. Temple IV is the other main temple that sits a 10 minute walk from the Central Plaza and is the tallest in Tikal. They also let you climb it!
The view of Central Plaza from Temple IV.
From the view of Temple IV, you can tell just how thick is the jungle surrounding Tikal.
Mayan carving of the Rain God in Central Plaza.
This is better than Chichen-Itza in Mexico (don’t believe the list of the New 7 Wonders of the World– there are better options).
Since it is a jungle there are also lots of cool animals! At first I thought this was a human sitting in a tree. It is really a howler monkey.
Scratching his armpit.
This little cute guy is a kinkajou. Our guide who has worked at Tikal for 10 years has only seen this species twice because they are nocturnal. This little kinkajou was confused because it was definitely around noon when we saw him.
If you only have time for one thing in Guatemala, this is it. Stay inside the park if you can for one night and see if you can get special permission to watch the sunrise or sunset from the temples in the Central Plaza.