If you’re coming to Guatemala for the first time, we’re going to take a wild guess that this is high on your must-see list. And for good reason. The ruins at Tikal constitute the largest excavated Mayan site on Earth (not to be confused with the largest overall site, El Mirador, which resides 65 km to the north), even though to-date only a fraction of its structures has been uncovered. Understandable, really, when you consider this complex was established somewhere around the 5th century BCE and subsequently abandoned to the jungle some 1,400 years later. These days, walking tours give visitors access to four main restored areas: the Main Plaza, the North and Central Acropolises, and the Mundo Perdito (the Lost World which, in fact, can get overlooked by unaware visitors). From here you can explore/climb Tikal’s 6 high temples, including #III (the ever-photogenic Temple of the Jaguar Priest ) and the towering #IV (the tallest temple in the park at close to 70 meters from jungle floor to the top).
Getting to the Tikal National Park is fairly straightforward from Flores, Santa Elena, or anywhere else around Lake Peten Itza. There are taxis and organized tour groups aplenty, and it’s worth bearing in mind that with a map and a little research you can easily explore the massive architectural site on your own. Entrance will set you back just under $20 USD. Just be sure to bring some bug spray, lots of water, and a good camera to capture everything from ancient temples to howler monkeys swinging from the trees.