Tikal National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to one of the largest archaeological sites of the Mayan civilization, and the greatest Mayan ruin in Guatemala. The park is 222 square miles and contains over 3,000 unearthed buildings. It is larger than other nearby sites and surrounded by lush jungle. It is accessible by bus from Flores, just over an hour away.
At its height, the site would have been inhabited by more than 90,000 people. You can climb the highest pyramid, Temple IV (temple of the two-headed snake), which was built around 741 AD and stands at 229 feet high. It is the second tallest pre-Columbian structure that still stands, and was also used in the Star Wars film A New Hope. Be sure to follow signage that will tell you which structures you can, and cannot, climb.
The major construction at Tikal took place from 400-300 BC. All of the structures are built from limestone, and include administrative buildings, residences, and smaller pyramids. The dynastic line of Tikal included 33 rulers over 800 years.
Plan to arrive at the site early, as the midday heat makes for tougher exploring. If you are hiring a tour guide, do so at least the night before, as you won’t be able to hire one once you arrive. And like many similar tourist attractions out there, you can also download an audio guide if you’d prefer to explore on your own.
In the jungle, you will find a diverse ecosystem, which includes jaguars, pumas, and more than 300 species of birds. There are also over 200 tree species.
You can spend the evening in the park if you would like to bring your own tent and camp, or stay at the onsite Jaguar Inn.