Tikal is the ultimate Mayan city. If you are at all interested in Mayan history and culture, and you are already going all the way to Belize, you want to schedule some extra time to visit Tikal. Located in next-door Guatemala, it is actually easier to get there from Belize than from Guatemala City (where international flights land). To learn more about this, visit our blog post How do I get to Tikal from Belize?
Even the size of Tikal is awe-inspiring, as some 10 square miles of Tikal have been mapped by archaeologists. Huge stones brought via nearby rivers served as the raw materials for construction. Tikal has five enormous temple complexes that center around steep-sided pyramids rising above the jungle canopy.
Dating from as far back as 900 BC, Tikal was originally just a village, making it the oldest of Mayan sites. The Great Plaza, which is flanked on each end by a huge pyramid, is surrounded by stelae (sculptures) and altars, ceremonial buildings, and a ball court. The Temple of the Giant Jaguar is arguably the most spectacular of all of Tikal’s structures and reaches more than 150 feet in height. No one knows exactly why Tikal experienced its’ final downfall, but by 900 AD almost the entire Mayan civilization had collapsed and Tikal was abandoned.
When you visit Tikal, if you travel on your own it is well worth it to hire a guide when you get there. A good guide will greatly increase your enjoyment and understanding. If you visit as part of a tour group from Belize the guide will of course be provided. Allow at least two days extra to visit Tikal, and three or four is preferable.