Tikal National Park

Tikal Temples

Tikal, the magnificent Maya Ruin, continually captivates travelers from distant corners of the world. While it may not be nestled in Belize, many tourists eagerly incorporate Tikal into their itineraries or spontaneously extend their travel plans to include it. Whether you opt for a one-day adventure or a leisurely two-day exploration, Tikal offers a mesmerizing journey.

A single day is ample to immerse yourself in the area’s rich history and beauty, but the allure of sunrise and sunset tours is undeniable. Beyond the centuries-old ruins and breathtaking vistas, Tikal’s vast expanse is also a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, including tapirs, jaguars, cougars, howler monkeys, coatimundi, wild turkeys, and a myriad of vibrant avian species. Here are some captivating facts about Tikal:

Historical Facts about Tikal National Park

  1. Tikal is among the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.
  2. In 1979, Tikal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  3. The name Tikal originates from the Maya Yucatec language, meaning “at the waterhole.” Ancient hieroglyphs reveal that the ruins were once known as Yax Mutul, which translates to “first mutal.”
  4. There are over 3,000 structures within the Tikal site.
  5. Jasaw Chan K’awiil I, also known as Ah Cacao (Lord Chocolate), was the illustrious Tikal king whose mortuary structure is Temple I, the Temple of the Great Jaguar.
  6. Tikal boasted a population of nearly 100,000 inhabitants.
  7. Only 5% of the Tikal area has been restored and is accessible to visitors.
  8. Tikal was declared a National Park on May 26, 1955, covering an expansive 220 square miles.
  9. Traces of agriculture dating back to 1000 BC have been discovered at Tikal.
  10. Tikal thrived during the Maya Classic Period, spanning from 200 to 900 AD, and served as the most prominent city-state in the Maya region.
  11. Mayan temples at Tikal were meticulously designed to align with the sun, creating unique acoustic effects. Clapping in front of these temples could produce sounds resembling the national bird, the Quetzal.
  12. The construction of Tikal involved limestone and featured towering structures, royal palaces, pyramids, residences, administrative buildings, platforms, stone monuments and ball courts.
  13. Tikal National Park welcomes a million or more visitors annually, including those vacationing in Belize.
Tikal national park main plaza

Archeologial Details

elving into Tikal’s archaeological wonders reveals a tapestry of ancient marvels waiting to be unraveled. This historic site, nestled deep within the Guatemalan rainforest, stands as a testament to the remarkable achievements of the ancient Maya civilization.

At Tikal, more than 3,000 structures, shrouded in the enigmatic veil of time, stretch across its expansive landscape. Each of these edifices bears witness to the architectural prowess and cultural significance of the Maya people. The meticulous use of limestone, a readily available material in the region, gave rise to towering pyramids, stately royal palaces, modest pyramids, residential complexes, administrative buildings, sprawling platforms, intricately carved stone monuments, and evocative ball courts, all meticulously crafted to harmonize with their natural surroundings.

The mightiest among Tikal’s structures is Temple IV, soaring an astonishing 70 meters from the ground to the top of its roof comb. These monumental pyramids served not only as imposing symbols of Maya power but also as vital astronomical observatories, aiding in the calculation of the intricate Maya calendar, with celestial events precisely recorded on stelae and monuments.

Glyptic writing, etched onto stone surfaces and crafted from tree bark paper, has granted us a glimpse into Tikal’s rich history. The inscriptions on these artifacts reveal the names, achievements, and lineage of Tikal’s rulers and dynastic events. The city’s “Central Acropolis,” a grand complex featuring 45 buildings and six courtyards, surrounded by palaces with three tiers, provides a window into the hierarchical society and ceremonial life of the Maya elite.

One of Tikal’s most iconic structures, the “Mundo Perdido” or “Lost World” Pyramid, stands as a monument to Maya intellectual and architectural ingenuity. It stood at an imposing height of 100 feet and played a pivotal role in marking equinoxes and solstices, underscoring the Maya’s deep connection with celestial phenomena.

Despite Tikal’s eventual decline and mysterious collapse around AD 900, the site remains an enduring testament to the ancient Maya’s accomplishments, their reverence for celestial bodies, and their intricate hieroglyphic language. Exploring these archaeological details is like stepping back in time, unveiling the legacy of a civilization that continues to captivate and inspire generations of explorers and scholars alike.

Guided Tour of Tikal from Belize

Visitors can explore Tikal by guided tours led by expert local guides. Experience the ancient temples and provide historical insights into Maya culture. Day trips to Tikal can be combined with other exciting adventures such as Yaxha Maya Ruins or  go Zip Lining.

A guided tour from San Ignacio to Tikal takes approximately 2 hours each, covering a distance of about 113 kilometers (70 miles). Travelers can expect fully air-conditioned Vans or SUVs, tailored to their group size. Dress comfortably, with light clothing in the dry season and long pants in the wet season. Consider visiting in the morning for the best chance to spot wildlife.

Guide tours of Tikal normally leaves the Hotels and Resorts in San Ignacio Town at 7:30AM. Places on the outside of town or else where in Cayo may leave 7AM or earlier. Lunch is normally at a local restaurant in Guatemala.

Planning your Trip

The great Tikal Maya Ruin never ceases to amaze travelers from far and wide. Although it is not located in Belize, many tourists have Tikal as part of their itinerary, or eventually add it to their travel plans. This tour can be done in one day or over a two day period. High Point Travel offer pickup also in Guatemala for the this tour for people looking to visit Belize after the tour is done.  

travel tip: When going to Tikal from Belize there is a $20USD departure tax, per person. You can pay this fee in either cash or card. USD accepted (1USD to 2BZD)

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Belize Adventures

San Ignacio / Santa Elena, Cayo is base for exploring this archaeological marvel. Discover our recommendations for accommodations and dining options in the area to complete your Tikal adventure.


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Tikal National Park

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