Tikal – Guatemala’s Mayan City

Tikal is one of the most accessible Mayan ruins in Guatemala and one of the largest it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site so it is not to be missed if you are in the area. On a wet afternoon, we visited Tikal as part of a guided sunset tour and because it was raining we almost had the place to ourselves which added to the atmosphere of this ancient site. However, it did mean we did not get to enjoy a sunset.


Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites of a pre-Columbian Mayan civilization.  The site has an area greater than 16 square kilometres which include over 3,000 structures. Due to the scale of the city, it was only possible to see a small area which included the temples and structures in the main centre of the old city.

Below are some site highlights from Tikal and a quick description of each building

Complex Q – 771 AD – one of the two pyramids that form the complex

Complex Q consists of two pyramids across from one another and is the largest complex of this type at Tikal.  The complex dates from 771 AD. It is possible to climb the steps and get a better view of the place.

Tip: Be careful walking up and down the structures, they are very steep and were a bit slippery on a wet day

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Walking down Complex Q


The rear of Temple I.  Temple I has a height of 47m.

Temple, I is located on the main plaza of Tikal was completed around 740/750 AD and has a total height of 47 meters.

The temple is a funerary pyramid dedicated to Jasaw Chan K’awil, who was entombed in the structure.

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Katie watching over the Main Plaza

The Main Plaza was the centre of Tikal and it is an impressive sight.  In the photo above Katie is looking towards the front of Temple I.

Tip: Make sure you climb to the top of the higher structures, the views are amazing. From the highest one, we climbed you could look out over the forest and see many structures emerging out from above. Take a moment, sit and enjoy where you are! 

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Another view over the Main Plaza
High level of detail in the brickwork.

The above image was taken of what is believed to be a market structure.  The high level of detail of the brickwork suggests that Mayan’s we very proud of there commercial activities.

Tip: Many of the structures within Tikal have a high level of detail within the brickwork so make sure you stop and take a closer look. 

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Another view of the Main Plaza

The above image shows the true scale of the structures at Tikal.  We were impressed by the size of the temples considering how old they are.

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Pedro and Michael enjoying Tikal

Tikal is a place worth visiting if you are in Northern Guatemala as it is an impressive sight when you consider the scale and age of the temples.  We both enjoyed our afternoon here and felt that the rain added to the atmosphere of the place. Be warned on a sunny day it can be very hot here with limited facilities.

Tip: Use the restroom at the entrance before you go in, there weren’t many options once you are onsite. There was also limited shelter from the weather. 

What to bring

  • Water and snacks – although there is a small market at the entrance which sells water, snacks and tourist items
  • Wear good shoes, you will be walking a lot and climbing steep structures
  • Depending on the time of your tour, bring sunscreen, insect repellent, headtorch

Getting there 

Our tour was organised through our hostel – Amigos Hostel, Flores.  The hostel was really great and had a social atmosphere. What we also loved that once it got late the party moved into their soundproof night lounge which meant if you wanted you could either get a good nights sleep or continue the party.

The hostel website provides different time options for visiting Tikal, this takes into account sunrise (get a ticket in advance) and sunset. The tour included our transportation and an English speaking guide. You arrange your own entrance ticket on arrival.

Where to next?

From Tikal gateway city, Flores we were able (again via the hostel) take a shuttle bus to Belize where we jumped on a boat and went to Caye Caulker.


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Enjoy your time at the top! Take a moment to appreciate where you are and the people that lived here before us

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