10 Things to Know Before Visiting Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal, Guatemala © Hugo Zea / Flickr
Tikal, Guatemala © Hugo Zea / Flickr
Photo of Jack Guy
20 February 2018

The Mayan ruins at Tikal are one of the most famous tourist attractions in Guatemala. Here’s what you should know before you travel.

Tikal, Guatemala | © Mike Vondran / Flickr

Appreciate the history

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.

Book an early tour

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.

Stay at Hostal Los Amigos if you want to party

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.

(c) Wikimedia Commons

Get a guide or read up before you go

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.

Take food with you

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.

Get a map of the site

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.

Tikal, Peten, Guatemala | © mockney_piers / Flickr

Take sun cream and insect repellent

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.

You can make a day trip from Guatemala City

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.

Budget travelers should book a tour in Flores

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 ruins have featured in various films

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.

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