Tikal Maya Ruins is one of the most special places in the world to my family and me. Why? Because this is where my husband and I met thirteen years ago. Since then we have taken our sons to visit the ruins so they too can see the magic this place possesses.
Normally when my family visits the park, we usually stay in Flores. Flores is an adorable island on Lake Peten Itza about 45 minutes from the actual Park and is one of the more popular places to spend the night because of the large selection of hotels and restaurants. Plus, it’s super fun to walk around with its European feel.
However, this last time we wanted the full experience of Tikal, the way my husband and I remember it (almost).
How to Get the Full Experience While Visiting Tikal Guatemala
Tikal Ruins is one of the only Mayan ruins that you are permitted to visit for sunset and sunrise. Which is truly incredible because this is also when the majority of the wildlife come out.
This time we decided that arriving in the morning when the kids wake up and after breakfast isn’t the right way to go. Since we would also be getting there after all the wildlife is resting from their own breakfast. A sunset tour became the ideal solution.
NOTE: Sunrise tour with young kids is too difficult. Waking them up at 3:30 am isn’t fun for anyone. With that in mind, the sunset tour rocked as well.
Staying at Jaguar Inn Tikal – Why It Is a Great Choice
Thirteen years ago when my husband and I met, we stayed in the park. However, we were in the camping ground rather than a hotel. With kids everything is different. As much as my sons beg me to camp, I have fully outgrown this side of me and need comfy beds for all of us. And most importantly a private bathroom and hot showers (no matter how blistering it is outside).
I stumbled upon Hotel Jaguar Inn Tikal when searching for a place to stay for us when visiting the park.
The hotel is completely in the park and was a perfect find. Our room had four really comfortable bed, a great bathroom, and the hotel had a restaurant with internet and plenty of vegetation to keep my boys excited about staying.
NOTE: When staying in the park there are a few restrictions and limitations such as no TV and lights are out by 10 pm (including all electricity altogether).
When we weren’t exploring the jungle, our porch and hammock also got plenty of usage.
Best Way to Explore Tikal Ruins
Entrance Fee – to enter the park you need to pay $25 for foreigners and $4 for Guatemalans. The price is good for all day, however, if you arrive here at 3:30 pm you get the next full day included in that price.
Sunset and Sunrise fee – as of last year a new price is added for these visits. $12 extra for foreigners and $3 for Guatemalans.
Jaguar Inn offers all tours at great prices for a four hour tour it is usually $20 per person.
Recommendation – when traveling with really young kids a private tour is a much better way to see the park. Kids get super restless and need to move on. When you are in a group tour this can be tough on everyone. For an extra nominal fee the private tour will be way more enjoyed.
What You Will See In Tikal Guatemala
Ceibas – These are huge trees that were the sacred tree of the Maya and are national symbols of Guatemala.
- This Ceiba can definitely tell us many stories about the TRUE Maya
The Market Place or Group F
The Main Plaza – This is the most famous sight of the whole park
Lost World – The largest ceremonial compound in Tikal.
The Bat Palace – A two story structure also known as the palace of windows.
The Tallest Structure of Tikal – Temple IV – you can climb to the top and get a bird’s eye view of the jungle.
Wildlife We Saw on our Tikal Visit
Ruins are great fun and all, but the most fun is searching for the wildlife. This is what will keep your young kids most interested.
Porcupine – We have never seen one before and at first glance thought it wasn’t real
Monkeys – this is the main reason my baby was excited to be here. We saw a troop of spider monkeys and it made his entire Tikal stay amazing.
Coati Mundi – we saw a whole family playing and eating in front of us
And some mating action too
Tarantula – did you know that Tarantula’s are the least scariest spiders. They don’t have venom if they bite, and they rarely bite. So it is easy for people who know where to find them and how to handle them to take them out of their hole. Such as this guide.
And my oldest was daring enough to play with it as well.
Wild Turkeys – these birds run around here like peacocks at other parks
A Quick Bit of Tikal Maya History
The Maya was a powerful culture that once lived in the northernmost countries of Central America.
Tikal was one of the largest and mightiest cities of the Maya.
Tikal was a superpower in constant conflict with its neighbors, but its most important conflict was with the city-state of Calakmul, located in the present-day Mexican state of Campeche.
Archaeological records near Tikal go back to about 1000 B.C. and by 300 B.C. it was already a thriving city.
First major structures were built in Tikal between 400 and 300 BC.
Tikal was ruled by a powerful dynasty. This unnamed family ruled Tikal for generations until 378 A.D.
In the 5th century the power of the city reached as far south as Copán Honduras, whose founder K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ was clearly connected with Tikal. Copán itself was not in an ethnically Maya region and the founding of the Copán dynasty probably involved the direct intervention of Tikal.
In 629 Tikal founded Dos Pilas, some 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the southwest, as a military outpost in order to control trade along the course of the Pasión River.
As Tikal reached peak population, the area suffered deforestation, erosion and nutrient loss followed by a rapid decline in population.
By 950 A.D. the city was essentially abandoned.
This archaeological gem is located over 222 square miles of jungle.
Tons of structures have been found, but there is still tons to be excavated. Many of the lumps and tiny hills that you see are most likely unearthed buildings.
After 1000 years of being abandoned, there was only the legend of a great city lost under the jungle.
Tikal was discovered in 1848 by Ambrosio Tut while collecting gum from trees.
In 1955 it became the first National park in Guatemala.
in 1990 it became a biosphere reserve.
Lots of international universities helped during excavations. Currently Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala is in charge.
More Fun Facts About Tikal
It was the first place to be declared Human Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979 for two things. Its archaeological and its ecological value.
We all know it as Tikal but what its name really means is “Lugar de Las Voces” (place of voices).
It was used as the scenario for one of the ‘Star Wars’ movies and used as a model for one of Mel Gibson’s movies: Apocalypto.
Its population is estimated to have been of around 50,000 habitants and 90,000 at its highest point making it one of the biggest cities of its time.
There are 410 species of birds in Tikal alone.
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