In the Petén department of northern Guatemala, the Maya Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected area in Central America with 21,000 km2 that occupies almost a fifth of the national territory.
Within the reserve, you will find many archaeological sites representing the blossoming of one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas. Tikal, its most famous site and known for its iconic ‘Temple of the Great Jaguar’, is one of the most important cities of the Classic Maya Period and was the biggest rival of Calakmul. Other important sites include El Mirador, Nakbe, Uaxactun, Piedras Negras, and Yaxhá.
Tikal National Park covers an area of 575 km2. It was declared the first Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
The ancient Mayan city of Tikal, located in the center of the park, is the largest restored archaeological site in the Americas. It has more than 5000 structures in an area of 16 km2, and only 5% have been restored and enabled for visits.
Large animals such as spider monkeys, howler monkeys, coatis, toucans, and ocellated turkeys live in Tikal. There are also jaguars and pumas, which are very hard to see.
Tikal, as one of the fundamental symbols of Guatemalan identity, is a must-see for visitors.
Taking the sunrise tour and witnessing the awakening of the jungle is a memorable experience. Seeing the crest of the pyramids drawn on top of the trees while hearing the birds sing and the occasional howler monkey in the distance make it almost a sacred ritual.
No matter which time you choose, Tikal is always a great adventure. If you visit it later in the afternoon, the light at that time of the day delivers better pictures of the Gran Jaguar.
There are several hotels within the park. For the tour at dawn or dusk, staying one night in the park might be a good idea. Jungle Lodge is my favorite and the one I would recommend.
Take into account that...
- To buy the entrance tickets to Tikal, you must go to a bank, present your ID and pay in cash, in quetzales.
- If you are doing the sunrise or sunset tours, besides the day ticket, you also need to buy the additional ticket for before 6 am or after 6 pm.
- If you want to combine a visit to Tikal with another site, I recommend the tour of Yaxhá at dusk with a beautiful view of the lake of the same name.