Tikal National Park is to Guatemala what Angkor Wat is to Cambodia or the Taj Mahal is to India. The Guatemalan people are very proud of the history and culture the Tikal Ruins represent. And rightly so considering it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. We were excited to be able to explore the ruins nearly alone since it was still early in the morning just after Sunrise. We had already done the Temple IV Sunrise Tour, and we had the park to ourselves.
Tikal is the ruin of an ancient Mayan city totaling around 3000 structures in more than 16 square kilometers of tropical jungle in northern Guatemala. It was known at one time as one of the most dominant kingdoms of the ancient Maya due to its’ influences in politics, economy and military. Officially discovered in the 1840’s, the Tikal Ruins are one of the largest archaeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.
Exploring Tikal and the Ruins
Exploring the Tikal Ruins
There really is too much to say about the Tikal Ruins. We explored all the major temples and some of other buildings one by one. Somewhere much more intact than others. We were allowed to climb up the steep staircases and walk all through rooms and buildings. As we were walking around I found myself wondering about the lives of the people who had lived here so long ago. What was their daily routine? Where and what did they eat? What games did the children play? How did they interact with the wildlife living so close in the surrounding jungle? I felt the history of this place as we wandered, wondering what different rooms were used for and why they were built in this strategic way. It seems sometimes, the more you learn the more questions you have.
Wildlife in the Jungle
We decided to rest for a while in the shade of one of the buildings near the edge of the central area. As we sat there we noticed a family of spider monkeys hanging out in the nearby trees. There were some little ones that seemed to be learning the ropes of branch swinging. It was fascinating to watch and hear how they interacted with each other. We were also intrigued by the haunting sounds of the howler monkeys we’d heard earlier. So when we heard them again we decided to follow the sound to try to see what the mysterious sounding animal looked like.
We finally found one high up in a tree only about 25 feet away and were able to get some good pictures with a zoom lens. They like to keep their distance! But we were glad to be able to see one while we were here. Howler Monkey Audio Clip. As well as monkeys, we saw a deer, a bunch of exotic birds, an anteater/ raccoon cross animal, some large rodent about the size of a ground-hog, and some oscillated turkeys. (crazy cool birds)
Discovery Channel Filming Crew and Archeologist
Discovery Channel Interview
We happened upon a film crew from the The Discovery Channel who were filming a documentary about Tikal and Maya civilization. An archaeological from Guatemala was being interviewed about Mayan Prophecies. We sat (out-of-the-way of cameras) on the ruin stairs listening to the interview for over an hour. The interview was in Spanish and English and it was super cool to be able to see and hear what goes on behind the scenes. We love watching the Discovery Channel and this was the icing on the cake of our day at Tikal!
The heat and humidity started to get to us about 1pm and we decided to call it a day. Since we had started so early we were able to see saw all the major Temples, some of the palaces and terraces, and of course the ball court. We probably saw less than half of all the structures at Tikal. You could definitely spend multiple days touring the entire complex. Hopefully we will make it back another time see the rest.
Souvenirs and Relaxing
Shopping for Souvenirs
We went out the front gate where all the vendors were set up to shop for some souvenirs. One of the things we liked most about how the Tikal Ruins runs, is that the vendors are not allowed into the actually park. They are confined to the parking lot and surrounding area and must be an actual shop. No traveling salesmen hunting you down and shoving their wares in your face like other Mayan sites we have visited. We found some things we liked without pushy peddlers and enjoyed looking at all the handmade items on display. We bought a Mayan bag that forevermore is deemed our "Guatemala Bag" I bought a patchwork skirt and I Brady bought a huge machete for his birthday with a leather scabbard. We went back to the Hotel Jaguar Inn Tikal next to the parking lot and took a well needed nap after our early rise to see the sunset and a full day climbing around the ruins.
Saying Goodbye To Tikal
Change In Perspective
A Perfect birthday for Brady (His 40th)! Full of adventure, beauty, history, culture and of course fun. We really had a great time, this place is indescribable! A day to remember for sure. Do you ever get the feeling you are in right place at the right time, but you don’t know why? A sense of deja-vu perhaps? Like the universe is telling you something. Well this is the feeling we had today overall. We will always remember this special place and how it made us feel!