Tikal, Guatemala – A Complete Travel Guide
When traveling through Guatemala or Belize, Tikal should be at the top of your destinations list. This rich, cultural site is home to ancient ruins, diverse wildlife, and infinite mysteries. Not only is every picture Instagram-worthy, but you will come out with a newfound respect for different cultures all over the world.
Tikal – The Basics
You can study maps and travel guides until your eyes fall out, but the only way to explore Tikal National Park is with a tour guide. I am a huge advocate for exploring at my own pace and saving money, but I would have seriously missed out if I tried that at Tikal!
Our tour guide was of Mayan heritage and I learned so much from him. Not only was he a Tikal expert, he also pointed out camouflaged animals and explained how Mayan people used the jungle as a resource. From medicinal uses of trees – to predicting the weather through bird observation – to the purpose for each Mayan structure. It was incredible!
Also, it’s cheap! Zoe and I each paid 150 queztales (about $20 USD) which included our transportation, entrance fee, and tour.
Sunrise and sunset tours are offered each day. These options allow your group to explore the park while it is closed to the general public – so cool! Zoe and I opted for the sunset tour and I could not have been happier. First, we got to sleep in (which is always a bonus in my book!) Second, our tour started during the late afternoon a.k.a. the coolest part of the day (Guatemala is HOT!)
Although Tikal National Park is known for its ANCIENT Mayan ruins (which is cool enough, as is) there is a good chance that you will see present-day Mayans, too. That’s right, Mayan people still hold festivals, ceremonies, and rituals at Tikal! Just remember to be respectful.
Where to Stay
Stay in Flores. Don’t fret – the drive from Flores to Tikal National Park is super mellow. And, your tour group will usually offer to pick you up from your hostel/hotel.
If you are staying in Belize, Tikal is only 2 hours from the Guatemalan/Belizean border. It is totally worth the trip!
You can camp in Tikal, which some members of our group did, but it is not going to make or break your experience.
What to Wear
Hiking shoes – You are hiking through a living, breathing jungle! Be prepared to climb towers and make your way through tight trails. Ditch the flip flops for a pair of sturdy, closed-toe shoes.
Shorts & a tank top OR loose fitting clothing – Once again, it is HOT here! Wear whatever is most comfortable for you in 100°F heat.
What to Bring
Shove these items in your daypack before you head out!
Camera – you won’t want to forget this
Baseball hat – to cover your beautiful face from that brutal sun
Extra quetzales – for souvenirs and a cold beer (Gallo) at the end of the tour
Food – granola and snack bars are always a hit
Headlamp or flashlight – some of your time will be spent in the dark if you opt for a sunrise/sunset tour
So, snag a tour guide, some sunscreen, Gallo beer, and enjoy your trip to the LARGEST recovered Mayan civilization. Don’t forget to take pictures – of the ruins AND the wildlife!