Posted by: Jack | November 24, 2007

Guatemala – Tikal

Arriving at Tikal National Park shortly after 6 am, our first priority was coffee. After another disappointing cup of instant, we made our way to the ticket booth where we were shocked to see the price listed as Q150; triple what all of our guidebooks had said. Aside from not wanting to pay this steep price, we calculated that it would not leave us with enough money to reach the nearest bank which was in Santa Elena, two towns away. After much stressing, the cashier asked if we were going to buy the tickets at Q50. Not wanting to mention the discrepancy, we bought the tickets at the expected price and went on our way. We also sprung for the park map which was well worth the extra Q20. If you go to this park and don’t do a guided tour, get the map.

Following the main path towards the ruins, we were quickly immersed in the jungle. Though we could never quite see them clearly in the dense canopy, large monkeys could be heard hooting and howling as they cruised effortlessly (presumably) along the upper reaches of the forest.

When the trees eventually cleared we found ourselves at the base of the backside of an enormous temple. Trying to make our way around to the front we saw a small tunnel leading under said temple and decided to explore. I just so happened to have my headlamp in my pack so I went about digging it out as Anna began inching into the darkness. Much to my delight, a very large and dark butterfly –or possibly a bat — flew out giving Anna quite a scare and me, some quality entertainment. With my lamp, I proceeded into the tunnel which ended only about fifty feet later. As I was about to turn back I noticed the horrifying creature below. At the time I had assumed it was a spider but looking at it now, it would appear to be an insect. I attempted to get my hand in the picture for a sense of scale but could not force myself close enough. Excluding the super long antennae, it was about the size a hand spread wide-open.

Eagerly leaving the tunnel, we continued around the temple and numerous adjoining ruins until we found a path which led us onto the Grand Plaza. This level field is surrounded by ruins on all sides with two towering temples at the East and West ends and extensive acropoli to the North and South. Having arrived early, we were fortunate to see this area before the hordes of tourists swarmed later on. Below is the cleverly named Temple II which is at the West end of the plaza.

We moved on to view some of the more remote and less spectacular ruins, many of which are clearly discernible despite having not yet been unearthed. The mound of earth and plants seen below is a small-ish pyramid.

At the western edge of the park is Temple IV which in addition to being located upon a large hill, is the tallest temple in the area. After climbing an incredibly steep set of temporary, wooden stairs we were presented with an endless view of the jungle, broken only by the protruding tops of temples I, II and III.

By this time our legs were feeling the burn from hundreds of steep stairs and the sun was up in full force making it way too hot to remain above the shelter of the jungle for long.

We came across our first guided tour group as we were checking out the Lost World Pyramid. Unlike the temples, this structure just has a flat surface on top and is suspected to have been used as an astronomical viewing platform. Unfortunately it is currently off limits for climbing and as we walked by the tour group, we heard the guide explaining that a few years back five visitors had stumbled and died while trying to descend from the top. This picture does not really capture the steepness but in person it is easy to see how a single slip could lead to an unstoppable tumble. Still, I would have liked to have scrambled up there.

Continuing on we found Temple V. I’m pretty sure the stairs here were steeper than any previously seen but a wooden stair case had been built on the side to allow access to the top. These ~100 stairs were far steeper than the actual temple but featured a semi-comforting hand rail. Facing North, this temple provided a nice view as well as a shady spot to have a snack.

Our six+ hour hike/climb neared an end as we looped back to the Grand Plaza which, as I mentioned before, was now swarming with tourists. With the sun now high enough, I was able to get some pictures of the iconic Temple I.

Returning to the park entrance thoroughly exhausted, we climbed back on our bus and returned to El Remate with the day only half over.

Gray Line on the Progress Map

Next: El Remate to Flores



  1. […] Next: Tikal and back to El Remate […]

  2. Safe Travels!

    Have Fun in Flores!


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