Of the many cool things there are to do in Central America, seeing some Mayan ruins is certainly one of the most important to put on your itinerary. While there are many to choose from, the ancient site of Tikal in northern Guatemala has to be one of the best Mayan ruins to visit. It not only has a whole bunch of incredible Mayan temples, but those temples are found inside an atmospheric jungle setting which feels incredibly remote. Tikal National Park is a vast archaeological site which dates back thousands of years. So if you feel like going for a wander in the jungle in search of ancient temples, Tikal is the place to do it. It's best to head out on an adventure like this with some direction, so this guide to Tikal will give you some of the most important tips for visiting Tikal to ensure you have a terrific trip.
The Grand Plaza. The most important stop on any Tikal itinerary is the heart of Tikal, the Grand Plaza. Once the central square of the city, it takes little imagination to bring ancient Tikal to life. At opposite ends of the Grand Plaza you'll see two towering temples, Temple I and Temple II. On the two other sides of the plaza lie the North Acropolis on one side and the Central Acropolis on the other.
Temple IV. While climbing the temples at the Grand Plaza involves some steps, none quite compete with the workout you get climbing up Temple IV. Standing at 70 meters in height, it's the tallest pyramid in Tikal and towers over the surrounding canopy. Temple IV is actually the largest pyramid of its time built anywhere by the Mayans and now stands as the tallest pre-Columbian structure. The climb up isn't all that tricky or steep like other temples, it's just a long way up!
Temple V. The greatest temple reveal comes when you visit Temple V, as this pyramid sits in a small clearing surrounded by jungle. One moment you're walking along a trail and the next a giant temple appears out of nowhere in the gap in the trees. The second highest temple of Tikal at 57 meters, Temple V also dates from around 700 AD.
1. Temples III and VI. A little outshined by the temples previously mentioned, these are two of the later temples to be built in Tikal. Temple III was known as the Temple of the Jaguar Priest and dates from 810 AD. The temple is such a steep and solid structure that it almost seems more like a carved rock than a man made structure. Temple IV is often referred to as the Temple of Inscriptions, which is hardly surprising given the hieroglyphic inscriptions which run around the sides of its roof-comb.
Lost World Pyramid. Throughout the rest of Tikal there are other plazas and temple complexes to explore. These tend to get less attention by tour groups making them quieter but no less fascinating. Take for example the Lost World Pyramid in the Mundo Perdido complex, one of the oldest structures found throughout Tikal. It’s final form, now covered in vegetation, dates from the 4th century and this ancient temple is almost 100 meters tall with a viewing platform for visitors sitting on top.