The history behind the great Tikal Ruins of Guatemala has its humble beginnings back in 800 B.C. when settlers came to the area and began building on top of a small mound.
Today, the Mayan temples and ceremonial centers are still highly impressive even compared to modern day structures and very popular on Tikal Guatemala tours. The historic plazas and temples of Tikal are well preserved natural and cultural treasures and were cause for declaring Guatemala’s Tikal Ruins a UNESCO Heritage site in 1979 and then in 1986, a World Monument.
In this blog post, learn about Tikal Ruins National Park and all of its can’t miss attractions, wildlife, and other interesting facts.
Tikal Ruins National Park
A visit to Tikal National Park while on vacation in Guatemala is a must. Located in the northern province of Peten Guatemala, Tikal was the first official National Park in Central America, declared back in 1955. Later in 1970 Tikal was also named a National Monument.
At its height of existence around 500 AD, Tikal was home to 50,000 – 100,000 Mayan people. The growth and construction of this great Mayan city began to slow around 870 AD and Tikal was eventually any mysteriously deserted by the end of 900 AD for unknown reasons.
Guatemala’s Tikal ruins are the largest excavated site in the Americas giving glimpses into Mayan practices pertaining to art, religion, economics, agriculture, mathematics and hieroglyphics.
Tikal Ruins’ Points of Interest
Tour Tikal’s Great Plaza – The Great Plaza of Tikal rests at the heart of Tikal and is one of the most studied Mayan architectural groups. Brochures, pictures, and maps cannot do justice to the sheer size of Tikal’s Great Plaza. Within a 20 minute walk from the gate entrance, many people put the Great Plaza at the top of their “to see” list on their Tikal Guatemala tour.
Temple of the Grand Jaguar – Also known as Tikal Temple I, the Grand Jaguar is one of the major structures at Tikal. Built in typical Peten style with a limestone stepped pyramid dating back to 730 AD. The lintel at the top of the temple is said to represent a king sitting on a jaguar throne. Temple I deviates from traditional Mayan culture of building funerary temples for burials north of the Great Plaza.
Tikal Temple II –Also known as Masks Temple, Temple II was built by Jasaw Chan K’awiil in tribute to his wife. The single wooden sculpture is of a woman who some speculate was Kawaiil’s wife.
Plaza of the Seven Temples – Many regard the Plaza of Seven Temples as the most attractive sites in all of Tikal. It is quiet, secluded, and renowned for excellent bird watching. There are also three Tikal ball fields to see which are unique to the Mayan World. Other must see attractions include stela with glyphic inscriptions, altars, and stucco human heads.
El Mundo Perdido (The Lost World) – Tikal’s Lost World is made up of 38 different Tikal structures covering 60,000 square meters of jungle. The main feature point in the Lost World is the Great Pyramid which is a four sided structure with stairways leading up 30 meters. The structure, for whatever reason, never leads to a temple at the summit. The Lost World is also home to building 5C-49, the oldest structure in Tikal with a unique architectural design.
A visit to Tikal National Park on any Tikal Guatemala tour offers much more than just exploring the Guatemala’s ancient Mayan ruins; the National Park spreads out over more than 200 square miles. The lush tropical jungles of this northern Guatemalan area are home to some 285 species of wildlife including:
- Exotic birds
While enjoying Tikal Guatemala tours it is useful to note that many of the wildlife in the area is endangered – giving rare glimpses of animals and birds that many people may never have the opportunity to see. Also, Tikal is a bird watcher’s paradise and considered one of the best spots to bird watch in all of Central America.
Additional Facts About Tikal National Park
Once inside Tikal National Park, tourists will be amazed at the grand size of Tikal’s ruins. Keep in mind that:
- Only 40% of Tikal Ruins in Tikal National Park are mapped.
- 80% of the structures are still unexcavated sitting as mounds of rock covered by trees.
- 220 sq miles of Guatemalan jungle surround Tikal.
- Access to the Tikal Ruins is restricted to foot.
- There are an estimated 3000 structures in the ruins of Tikal.
When visiting Guatemala’s Tikal ruins it is highly recommended by Caravan Tours to come prepared. Comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sun protection, and mosquito repellant can make your visit much more enjoyable. Binoculars and cameras (with extra batteries) will help you fully take in the setting and capture it for years to come.
All Inclusive Tikal Guatemala Tours Include Tikal Ruins
A Caravan Tour all inclusive Guatemala Vacation includes a visit to the Tikal ruins at Tikal National Park. The Tikal visit is fully escorted and fully guided so that Caravan travelers get the most out of their ancient Tikal experience.
Contact Caravan Tours by calling 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) to ask about our 10 day Tikal Guatemala Tours or browse the reviews page to read what others have to say about this all inclusive tour of Guatemala’s ancient Mayan ruins.
(Editor’s Note – This original post from January 2012 has been updated to reflect current Guatemala vacation details.)