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eirekay Tikal - A travel report by Eire
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Tikal,  Guatemala - flag Guatemala -  Petén
8658 readers

eirekay's travel reports

Tikal - Pyramids at Sunrise

  30 votes
Page: 1 2
Tikal is a place full of mystery. Mayan pyramids, as tall as 22 stories high, arise from the Jungle, while others remain claimed by layers of vines. Once a City of 300,000 people, it was abruptly abandoned, covered over in mud and lay hidden until 1875

South Acropolis Palace Structure
South Acropolis Palace Structure
As we crossed the border from Belize into Guatemala, a vast, nearly uninhabited land spread before us. Close to the City of Flores, Tikal laid hidden for 8 centuries under dense jungle, but seeing the hills that naturally appear over the countryside, it is easy to understand how Tikal could remain hidden. When the Mayans abandoned the City around 900AD, they covered it over in mud, much of which remains today. As we drove around Lake Peten Itza, toward the Park, the mysteries deepened. Animal Crossing signs appeared: first Jaquar Crossing, then Anteater and Snake Crossings; lastly, Turkey Crossing. Monkeys swung in the trees overhead. Reaching the park, Keel Toucans, green Parrots and elegant turquoise Quetzals populated the trees in abundance. We had heard about bird-watching in Tikal, but nothing prepared us for the beauty and variety of birds (See Recommendations).
Near the entrance to the ruins sits a Museum with a marvelous 4m x 4m model/map on the outside showing Tikal as it would have looked. At one time Tikal was entirely stuccoed over in white plaster, including roads and plazas; the buildings painted bright orange, red and blue. The only trees were ornamental orchards.
Having arranged a guide for the next day, my son, Marc (18) and I decided to work Tikal from the outside in, starting with the exterior buildings. Using the map from Coe's book (see below), we headed out toward the Temple of Inscriptions (VI). As we explored the South Acropolis, a palace structure entered though a dark tunnel, walking along a serpent’s back, we were already struck by wilderness of the ruins. Right and left along the trail are piles and mounds of unexcavated structures. Reaching Temple VI, we were awed by the hieroglyphics surrounding the roof comb. Our first Stelae and alter stone were in front. Back to the trail, we were on to Temple III, the largest unexcavated structure, then the Central Acropolis. This Acropolis consists of rooms and structures**Continued**

Favourite spots:
Stair/ladder up Temple IV
Stair/ladder up Temple IV
dating from 200ad to 900ad. The many courtyards are reached from a myriad of staircases. From here we caught our 1st glimpse of the Grand Plaza with its huge twin Temples. On to Group N, a small set of twins and then Temple IV. George Lucas used a shot from the top of this temple in Star Wars IV. The view is spectaular but accessed using stairs/ladders that fright the bravest. Only the roof comb has been exposed-the rest remains covered. Roof combs of I, II and III can be seen over the tree tops. As we continued the outer paths, unexcavated twin pyramids lined both sides of the trail. Sometimes Stelae and alter stones were present, but only a couple of excavated structures, smaller, and w/o roof combs. We explored nearly alone, until asked to leave at closing. The next morning, headlamps in place, we rose at 4am for a Sunrise climb of Temple IV with it's spooky stairs. By 5 we had reached the top, where we sat for over an hour watching (and hearing) the jungle awaken. **Continued*

What's really great:
Sunrise from Temple IV
Sunrise from Temple IV
We met our Guide in the Grand Plaza. Many questions were sparked by our exploration yesterday. After a climb up the less spooky stairs for Temple II, we toured the North Acropolis. Tikal has many structures built over earlier versions. At every thatched roof were excavation down to earlier structures with Masks or carvings exposed. This Acropolis once had small pyramids at either end-remanants remain. The Stelae and alter stones were moved by people after Tikal was vacated-it remained a ritual center for some Mayans in the area,although the buildings were not used. The faces of the lords depicted on the Stelae were ritually marred, but the elaborate dress can still be seen. Intricate hieroglyphics record history on the sides and rear of the stelae. A Ball Court sits beside Temple I on the otherside of the Plaza. From here we went on to the Bat Palace, which served as home to Mahler in 1890, as one of the 1st archeologists. The wood lintle over the doorway is still visible.**Cont**

Temple V
Temple V
Next up, the Seven Temples structures (made up of 7 attached temples), currently being excavated and restored. Here we saw pottery shards being collected as wheel barrows of dirt were being removed from below the structure. A poisonous snake crossed our path but was quickly executed by Machete. Close by is Lost World, the oldest group of buildings in Tikal, dating back to 200BC. This time the climb is on original stone stairs. This temple has a platform top, with no roof comb. A wonderful panoramic view greets you on top, allowing views down into the surrounding palaces with their many walled rooms. After exploring the palace structures, we went on to Temple V. A quick climb to the top offers splendid views back toward the Grand Plaza, with many roof combs visible over the tree tops. Leaving our guide, we ventured into the Tikal Museum. Here one can see a reconstruction of the tomb of Lord Moon Double Comb. Before leaving we shopped in the open Markets outside the Museum.

Me on top of Temple II
Me on top of Temple II
We stayed at the Jungle Lodge, inside the Park and not 5 minutes from the entrance to the ruins themselves. Electricity from 6am to 8pm and again 6pm to 8pm. Rooms were clean and well furnished with nice bathrooms but I would not recommend the full package including food. The food was bland and not traditional. Jungle Lodge does however have a pool. One evening after hiking the ruins for 7 hours straight, we ventured up for a swim. As we lay floating, in the trees overhead sat Toucans SCREAMING at a group of turkeys in a neighboring tree. Monkeys were swinging over to take a look at what was causing all the ruckus. The resulting Squak fest was amazing.
The camp grounds looked clean and were not crowded. There are two other hotels on the grounds. Otherwise, stay in Flores, 45 minutes away.

None - We were told there were some good clubs in Flores.

The Poisinous Snake
The Poisinous Snake
There are a number of eateries right outside the ruins themselves. We ate at two and food was good, plentiful and inexpensive ($2 Breakfast, $3 Lunch) at both. Beans and rice with a little cubed meat is the traditional food of Guatemala. It is lightly spiced but hot sauce is at every table to add to your liking. Eggs on torillas are offered for breakfast.

Other recommendations:
View from top of Lost World
View from top of Lost World
The ruins of Tikal are 16 square miles. There are so many things to see that it helps to know as much as possible before going. We had read a number of books-best book = William Coe's Tikal: A Handbook of the Ancient Maya Ruins which includes a TERRIFIC map. Coe headed the archeology team for 13 years in the 60s and 70s. Peter Harrison's Lords of Tikal is also terrific. He was a part of Coe's team. We had great fun picking out the hieroglyphics that we knew from the books as we viewed the stelae!
This site has lists and photos of the birds of Tikal:

Published on Saturday September 10th, 2005

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Mon, Jul 10 2006 - 05:34 PM rating by barcelona

reportage maravilloso

Thu, Jan 19 2006 - 02:47 PM rating by frenchfrog

One of the "golden cities", well done for your nice report, I would love to go there!

Sat, Jan 14 2006 - 08:54 AM rating by mj2004


Wed, Oct 26 2005 - 05:23 AM rating by davidx

Great report on what sounds a great place.

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 07:01 AM rating by toribio


Tue, Sep 27 2005 - 06:26 AM rating by magsalex

Nicely written and informative.

Fri, Sep 23 2005 - 01:21 PM rating by isaacmolina

again you wrote a wonderful report. Gracias!

Mon, Sep 19 2005 - 04:11 PM rating by jorgesanchez

excellent report and excellent pictures !!!
Thanks, Eire

Wed, Sep 14 2005 - 12:14 PM rating by bootlegga

Fantastic! This is one place that's on my list of future travels and your report brought some interesting info to my attention. Thank you!

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 01:16 PM rating by mistybleu


This is a lovely reports, congrats.

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 09:31 AM rating by porcupine

This sounds like a genuine Indiana Jones style adventure. You have piqued my interest.

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 09:10 AM rating by alexandre

I can ear the birds and see the Monkeys jumping form tree to tree.

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 12:20 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Sun, Sep 11 2005 - 01:22 AM rating by downundergal

Great report. I love the ruins of the Ancients and the Mayan in particular. This one is now definately on the list!

Sat, Sep 10 2005 - 09:28 PM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Eire!
Seems like you had a great adventure!
Thanks for the fun read!

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