Central America 2010

Visiting Tikal – Mayan Ruins and Wildlife

Another early morning today. Our bus left for Tikal National Park here in Guatemala at 4:30am this morning. Or at least it was supposed too… In typical tour company fashion they were 15 minutes late. We arrived in Tikal about an hour and a half later and from there set off on our adventure exploring the Mayan city state of Tikal.

Tikal is known, not only for its giant Mayan Ruins, but also for its wildlife. Our guide, Caesar, made sure to tell us all about the history of the Mayans and Tikal, as well as point out any wildlife he spotted. We were able to see an array of wildlife including a couple of animals whose names I don’t know, a toucan, and spider monkeys. No howler monkeys were out today though, but you could hear them in the distance. Caesar went fairly in depth on the history part of things so I’ll probably do a more in depth write up on the history of Tikal and the Mayans once I’m home in July or August but for now I’ll show you some pictures and tell you a little bit about Tikal.

Today Tikal is made up of multiple temples and other smaller buildings that area surrounded by the Guatemalan jungle. At the time of the reign of the Mayan civilization, however, the city was almost completely cleared of trees. The buildings are all made of a concrete mixture that is made from limestone. Limestone is normally a very brittle stone when dried because of the amount of moisture that it normally holds but the Mayans go to extra lengths to prepare the stone for building, which has allowed the temples to remain standing for as long as they have, which has been a long time! All of the buildings we saw today were built between 600 BC and 900 AD.

Well, enough of the boring stuff. Now i’ll show you some pictures of the Mayan ruins and the wildlife around the park.

  • One of the Mayan rulers was buried under this temple, Temple 1, in Tikal
  • The North Acropolis of Tikal is one of the most complex structures in Tikal. It was built over the course of six generations and parts were added as events occurred in the city
  • One of the many little critters in Tikal, not sure what this one is called
  • The Ceiba is the Guatemalan National Tree and this one is the largest one we saw
  • Me holding a Tarantula our guide caught while in Tikal
  • During the Mayan reign the large slabs shown here were sculpted with portraits of the current rulers or noblemen and the circular stone in front of it was used as a sacrificial alter to whichever leader was displayed
  • A termite nest in Tikal
  • A view of Temples I and II from Temple IV
  • This building in Tikal was used for purification. Mayans would enter the room at the top and while there would not eat, sleep, or drink and would take psychedelic drugs to help get in touch with their inner selves
  • This building was actually closed to climbing because over the past few years two people had actually fallen to their deaths while climbing it
  • Temple V easily has the steepest face of the 7 temples
  • They called them stairs but this is basically just a glorified ladder that you have to climb to get up onto Temple V
  • The view from Temple V features a glimpse of Temple I and Temple II facing each other in the main plaza
  • You are literally level with or higher than the trees when you climb these temples
  • The front of Temple V is extremely steep as you can see from this picture. You can walk as close to the edge as you want but I chose to stay leaning against the main wall instead of getting adventurous
  • Temple II sits on the main plaza and faces Temple I. When viewing both of them together it is quite an exciting set up
  • This is some sort of ball court the Mayans used for a game involving rubbery ball. The winner had the privilege of being sacrificed to the gods and the loser was often sold into slavery… Great game huh?
  • I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think they want you to climb in this area

I was also able to take this short video of a family of spider monkeys making their way through the trees. They were quite hard to capture on a still camera but I think this is even better. In the background you will hear our guide talking about them a bit as well as everyone else in the group.


  1. Monkeys in Tikal National Park in Guatemala

    […] of spider monkeys moving through the trees. You can read the original post the video appeared in here. In the background you will hear our guide talking about them a bit as well as everyone else in the […]

  2. Ty Guillaume

    You were doing so good telling the historical story and then you had to ruin it with “enough with the boring stuff.” History is not boring!!! I look forward to your future stories on the temples. It’s amazing to think all that jungle was cleared at one point. Take care. Oh, Stacey says to take the spider picture off. It takes away from the other spectacular views. She is a wimp when it comes to spiders, but I still love her.

  3. Matt

    Haha, sorry but the spider picture stays! I’ll hopefully get some posts up about it once I get home.

    1. Maranda

      your crazy

      1. Matt

        Haha, nahhhh. It was harmless!

  4. Dennis Goedegebuure

    Isn’t Tikal such a great destination for your travel?
    I have been at Tikal 9 years ago, and was so impressed about the large structures build centuries ago. I always wanted to get back to visit again, but have not come around it yet.

    Thanks for sharing your story and pictures.

    1. Matt

      Yea, it is definitely an impressive place to visit. I’ll definitely go back if I ever get the chance. Thanks for checking out the post!

  5. Latin Hostel Guide

    Cool Photos Matt!! I’ll be heading to Tikal in March after I hit Mexico and Belize. What were some of your other favorite destinations in the region? Any sketchy moments? ~Barry LatinHostelGuide

    1. Matt

      Zero sketchy moments! Seriously! Guatemala is an incredible country, and right now I’m in El Salvador which has some of the nicest/best people I’ve ever met. In Guatemala definitely check out Semuc Champey, and if you make it down to El Salvador then you’d be crazy not to snag some beach time! I just stayed in El Tunco for a few days and it was incredible. Good luck in your travels!

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