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The Mayan ruins at Tikal are one of the most famous tourist attractions in Guatemala. Here’s what you should know before you travel.
Guatemala is dotted with Mayan ruins, but Tikal is among the most impressive. The kingdom is thought to have been one of the most powerful of the ancient Maya, and dominated much of the Mesoamerican region from 200BC to 900AD.
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.
There are a few accommodation options in Flores, but Los Amigos is the place to be if you want to have fun. There is an on-site bar, pool table and a restaurant. Book a room with AC to make sure you’re well-rested for the early tour.
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.
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.
Even if you’re watching your spending, it’s worth picking up a map of Tikal. The site is huge and it’s easy to get lost.
The sun and the insects can be incredibly intense, and you’ll need protection. You don’t want to spend the day hiding from the sun or beating off mozzies.
If you are really pressed for time and have some cash to play with, book a tour from Guatemala City. You can get a flight from the capital to an airport near Tikal, transfer to the park and explore the ruins for a day before flying back in the evening.
For those that are counting the pennies, the best way to see the ruins is to book a tour from the town of Flores. There are many operators in town and you can haggle to get the best deal.
The Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto featured ruins modelled on those at Tikal, and you can climb Temple IV to see the same view that was featured in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.