Tikal: In the Heart of the Jungle

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Flores, Guatemala

I did it again y’all….. I let my wild sense of adventure overtake all my reasoning. Granted I didn’t have this revelation until I was hours into the Guatemalan rainforest and a bird sized bug landed too close for comfort. All my anticipation and planning was now coming into play. Tikal is an ancient Mayan city located in the northern Petén region of Guatemala. Tikal flourished between 300 and 850 C.E. It is also the largest excavated site on the American continent and was declared a national park in 1955 along with a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979. It contains an impressive 3,000 plus structures across 15 square kilometers.

There are three tour options offered to this site:

Sunrise tour

Sunset tour

Daytime tour

While is it possible to visit Tikal without a tour guide during the daytime, a guide is required for the sunrise and sunset tours. Even still, I would not recommend trying to visit without a guide because it would be rather difficult to get a clear understanding of all the people of Tikal represented and accomplished.

After a bit of research, I decided to take the sunrise tour to avoid the fierce afternoonScreen Shot 2017-08-21 at 4.24.04 PM.png heat. It should be noted that the sun rises in Guatemala are often cloudy and there is no view from Temple IV, just listening to the jungle awaken was fulfilling enough to keep me satisfied though.  In order to buy our ticket, we had to find our way to a Banrural with our passports. A break down of our expenses will be included at the end of this article. We had a bit of difficulty finding a Banrural due to our lack of Spanish speaking skills. I included the logo to help others find it.

Our tour picked us up from our hotel at 3 AM…. Unfortunately, this did not mean we would be on our way to Tikal at that time. Our driver proceeded to drive around the city of Flores picking up other tourist for another hour….. Subsequently making us an hour late arriving at Tikal. I do not know if this is customary or if we just had a bit of bad luck that day.

 

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Tikal, Guatemala

Once we finally arrived at Tikal is was clear we would not make it to the top to Temple IV to watch the sun rise since getting to the temple required a 20-minute hike… it was also very cloudy so even if we did make it, we wouldn’t be able to see much. Even with all odd against me, I was determined to climb to the top. With sweat dripping down my back, and hot, muggy air invading my personal space, I made my way to the top.

 

Once to the top, I was pleasantly surprised. Although it was a bit crowded, the guides made sure to remind everyone to be quiet to allow for a peaceful experience.

 

I sat in awe at the top of the mammoth Temple and decomposed to the melody of the jungle. Never had I experiences something so peaceful surrounded by so many things that make me squirm.

We were given 20 minutes to relax at the top before we reconvened at the bottom for the last 3 hour guided portion of the tour. Along the tour, we passed active excavation sites and lush pastures that were once bustling market places. I do not think I could justly describe the beauty of this ancient city so I have included a small photo gallery below.

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Once the tour was complete we were given the opportunity…. or should I say forced, to stay around and check out the restaurant on site along with the small market for souvenirs. I only mention the word forced because we were not informed that we had to wait another hour before the buses to take us back to Flores would be there. So stuck with nothing to do, most people went to grab lunch, go shopping, or walked back through the temples alone. I decided to take advantage of the first two options since I was pretty worn out already. After a shopping around the market, I was able to negotiate a beautiful shot glass and t-shirt for $75 GTQ ($10 USD). In Guatemalan and Belizean markets you should always negotiate the price. The starting price should never be the final.

Overall I would give this experience a 9/10. The only thing that could have made this better was a more organized system and punctuality.

While these aren’t major deterrents…. It is a little upsetting to pay extra for a sunrise tour but miss the sunrise. Even with that, I would still recommend the Sunrise Tikal tour to all of my friends. There is still so much to be learned from the ancient Mayan people. It is an amazing what they were able to leave behind for us to uncover.

Below is the break down of my Tikal expenses. Because of the irregular time frame, I was visiting I had to go with an organized tour guide. The final cost totaled $400GTQ ($54 USD). The breakdown can be seen below.

Guided tour with transportation:  $150 GTQ 

Tikal entrance fee: $150 GTQ

Sunrise/Sunset fee: $100 GTQ

Total: $400 GTQ

While you’re here, you might as well check out my blog on The Hidden Cost of Seeing the Ancient Mayan Ruins and my review of Actun Tunichil Muknal. 

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