Aside from its popularity due to it being used as a filming location for Yaving 4 in Start Wars: Episode IV, Tikal is also one of the largest and most impressive Mayan archaeological sites. It is situated in the jungle in the district of Petén in northern Guatemala. The site was declared and UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Its location and mentioned before, is right in the middle of the jungle. It is not uncommon to stumble across incredible fauna such as Mexican Black Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, White-nosed Coaties, bats, snakes, Anteaters, Kinkajous, Northern Raccoons, Tayras, Red-Brocket Deers, White-collared Peccaries, Nine-Banded Armadillos, and more! Pumas, jaguarundis and jaguars are also around, but luckily for us, they prefer to remain outside the park!
Tikal was one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Mayan World – dominating a great part of the region’s politics, economy, military and more. The site dates back to the 4th century BC and is believed to have been abandoned during the 10th century. For centuries, the park remained undiscovered and only legends about it were heard from indigenous people about the lost city until 1848, when it was rediscovered by Ambrosio Tut.
It is recommended to stay in Tikal for at least two days due to the vastness of the park. There are three hotels and a camping ground inside the park as well as several restaurants. Another great option is to stay at “El Remate”, a junction in the highway a few kilometers away from the park that offers a myriad of selection of hostels, hotels and restaurants (both budget as well as more expensive ones) for you to spend the night in.
Tikal is divided into several architectural groups. There are some maps inside the park but it is highly advised to print one to carry with you or buy one at the entrance to avoid getting lost.
Main architectural groups: Great Plaza, Central Acropolis, North Acropolis, South Acropolis, Plaza of the Seven Temples, Mundo Perdido (Lost World).
Smaller architectural groups: Group G, Group H, Group Q and Group R.
A brief introduction to the main ruins:
Temple I – Temple of the Great Jaguar: Situated right at the heart of the site, it measures 47 metres (154 ft) high and it served as the tomb of the king Jasaw Chan K’awiil I.
Temple II – Temple of the Mask: Located in the Great Plaza group, it was built by king Jasaw Chan K’awiil I in honor of his wife and it served as her tomb as well.
Temple III – Temple of the Jaguar Priest: Stands at 55 metres (180 ft) and it is believed to have been king Dark Sun’s funerary temple.
Temple IV: A favorite among visitors due to the panoramic view of the park, Temple IV is one of the tallest Mayan structures. Archaeologists believe that Yik’in Chan K’awiil’s tomb is underneath the structure but it has never been proven true.
Temple V: Located south of the Central Acropolis, it is the second tallest temple in Tikal at 57 metres (187 ft) high and it is believed to date back to the year 700 AD.
Firstly, you must get to either Flores or El Remate (El Remate is advised if you'd like to get here first thing in the morning). Ask at your hotel for shuttle buses.