The national park of Tikal situated in northern Guatemala is extremely magical to say the least. While I was in two minds about going to this place a friend of mine convinced that I should not miss it. And I did not. It certainly was one of the top highlights of my Central American journey for sure. Tikal apparently is the one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation. In Mayan history it is the ruins of an ancient city.
I had arrived into Flores, Guatemala from Belize the night before. Ah crossing the border from Belize was time consuming for no reason. 90minutes to clear 30 people !! And the process was straight forward too. Collect US$20, print an exit stamp and let go. How hard can it be. Anyway after crossing the border it hardly took about an hour or so to get to Isla Flores. Coming from Belize it was a pleasant change with Flores being lot more cleaner, nicer people and plenty of US fast food joints, like Taco Bell, McD, Pizza Hut etc, operating in the area. That just tells how popular Flores must be ha !
It was some 9 day festival in Guatemala when I arrived, with loud music, bands and plenty of food stalls in full swing. Was almost 1am when they wrapped it up. I had my Tikal tour booked in for 8am and irrespective of the noise I managed a good night’s sleep. In the morning I did wake up early to catch the sunrise. And then set off on the shuttle ride to Tikal. On the shuttle I did meet some fellow travellers from Canada, Costa Rica and Brazil, all of whom by the end of the day had become good friends.
Entering the national park I wasn’t still impressed with what I had signed up for. But it was after we cleared the ticket process and the guide started to take us deeper into the park that I felt different completely !! Two minutes into our walk we could hear the spider and howler monkeys at the top of their voice. A random animal or two just walked past us like we didn’t exist. And there were signposts of Jaguar in a couple of places. Now it felt like I was in a real jungle and not dreaming of any of those.
About an hour into the walk we came across the Mayan ruins and boy was it magical !!! The ancient ruins did definitely tell many stories of their own but I was too mesmerised to listen to many of those and just went about exploring my way. With the monkeys screaming in the background it felt like I was on the sets of Jungle Book, no doubt. From one temple to another, from one part to another I was so touched by the ruins that were a few thousand years old. I mean after visiting Chichen Itza in Cancun I thought Tikal ruins would be no different but it sure was.
We also made our way to the highest temple of the ruins and a good 300 steps later made it to the top. And woah ! The view from up there was incredible. The Guatemalan jungles spread out as far as the eyes could see and amidst that was the temple we as passed earlier. Given it was a non tourist season, I was able to sit up there for a good 30mins or more. Which in peak season apparently takes an hour to get to the top, grab 2mins of views and back down again.
After about 5hours in the park, it was time for us to get back to Flores. The experience in total was something extraordinary, getting amidst all the fauna with the native animals giving us company throughout. I also made some amazing friendships through the day, all of whom I’m hoping I’d catch up at some point before I leave South America.
- Everything you need to know about Tikal is here – http://www.tikalnationalpark.org/
- Here’s a short video of the entire day – CLICK HERE
- And here are some of the photos – CLICK HERE