13 Nov The Wonder of Tikal: Everything Its Cracked Up to Be
I can’t tell you how many times I heard about Tikal and how amazing it is. It kind of made me want to avoid it, honestly. With hype comes expectations that often aren’t met, but in this case I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Tikal earned its fame for me, from the towering pyramids to the massive, protected jungle full of incredible species I’d only read about. The park itself is one of the largest archeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya and helps to preserve a sizeable swath of rainforest in the Petén region of northern Guatemala. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tikal National Park covers and impressive 575.83 square km (222.33 sq mi), giving a home to many dwindling populations of species, like the mighty jaguar.
Once you enter the park gates, you drive 17 km (10.5 miles) to the parking area, where the trails begin. Along that road there are amazing signs for everything from puma to snake crossings.
Tikal is named “the watering hole” because of its underground reservoirs which gained fame among hunters and travelers in the region, although that’s not the original Mayan name for the conquered city which functioned as the Mayan Capital from 200-900 AD.
Buildings of massive height and epic precision dot the rainforest preserve. Out favorites were the Southern Acropolis and, of course, the Jaguar temple. Also, the view from temple four, above the canopy, was truly incredible. You can see why the city was covered under jungle for centuries.
This site probably dominated the trade route across the Yucatan, due to its fertile soil and abundance of wildlife, including: agouti, white-nosed coatis, gray foxes, Geoffroy’s spider monkeys, howler monkeys, harpy eagles, falcons, ocellated turkeys, guans, toucans, green parrots, leafcutter ants, jaguars, jaguarundis, and cougars. There are also several varieties of highly poisonous spiders and snakes.
It is also host to the sacred Mayan tree known as the Ceiba, considered a bridge to the world beyond ours.
Tikal pretty much knocked my socks off. You feel so small next to those imposing constructions laden with millennia of history. Even the jungle itself feels like such a mighty force, full of secrets and truths that we’re only beginning to understand. From incredible medicinal plants to serious governmental efforts at conservation, these forests are sacred, full of hope for humanity.
Have you ever been to Tikal? What was your experience like? If not, would you like to go? Share below!