From San Ignacio we made our way to Tikal in Guatemala. There in the rainforest of northern Guatemala lies an abandoned city that was once the center of the Mayan empire. Tikal flourished between 200 and 850 A.D. and was the most powerful city besides Calakmul in todays Mexico. At one point it even conquered Calakmul and tried to rule the entire Mayan empire. But that was the beginning of the end of the Mayas.
We stayed in the Jungle Lodge right next to the entrance in order to be able to enter at 6am. Not only did we have the temples and pyramids almost to ourselves and could avoid the Guatemalan heat but we were also able to enjoy lots of animal activity. The howler monkeys we could hear from far but to see them moving in the trees was even better. On the ground we found a group of colorful ocellated turkeys and when passing the grand plaza, a group of toucans was lining up to wish us a good morning. Further on we spotted a group of coatis, an agouti and lots of different birds.
But we couldn’t stop for too long observing those animals as we wanted to reach Temple IV at the far side of the park. Once we had climbed the highest temple (62m) we enjoyed an awesome view all over this outstanding Mayan site in the light of the early morning. The view was so spectacular that it was even featured in the first of the Star Wars movies.
After the sweaty ascent on this temple we also climbed the highest pyramid of Mundo Perdido, the Acropolis Centro and Temple II right across the main temple of the site – Templo de Jaguar. This temple is so impressive that Mel Gibson featured it in his Mayan movie Apocalypto.
We had already seen so many Mayan sites in Mexico but we enjoyed Tikal even a little bit more. The impressive buildings, the fact that we could climb most of them and the location in the middle of the jungle including all those exotic animals made it an exceptional experience. But maybe also the fact that we could relax in the hotel pool right after leaving the ruins added a bit to the joy factor.