The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.
Travel bucket list idea:
Mayan Temple of Tikal
Tikal National Park, Peten Basin, Guatemala|en.wikipedia.org|
The Maya ruins of Tikal are the most majestic of the accessible jungle ruins in Guatemala. Towering temples soar through the jungle canopy; carved stelae depict Maya lords and record periods of war; vast plazas contain ball courts; and two museums reveal ceramics and jade jewels that journeyed with Maya lords to the underworld. More than 3,000 structures remain of a city that once housed 100,000 Maya.
Although a city of the dead, the forest is alive with the chatter of howler monkeys and screech of toucans.
See it from a helicopter
For an unforgettable view of the temples, book a helicopter flight from Guatemala City. Flights usually circle over Tikal for ten minutes, and some also visit the buried ruins of Mirador, the largest city in the Maya world.
Getting there & doing it
Tikal is an hour’s drive north of the main town and international airport at Flores. One-day tours can be organised in Flores, or inclusive packages (including return day or overnight flights) to/from Guatemala City. If you prefer to avoid tours, you can arrange return transport in Flores (where there are regular minibus shuttles) and hire a guide at the ruins.
Be careful when climbing the temple and pyramid steps – it’s treacherous footing and visitors have died in the past.
Tikal history and birdlife books are sold at the site.
It’s possible to stay overnight within the national park in basic bungalow accommodation. Great for spotting wildlife, while dawn and dusk access allows you to experience the ruins without the crowds.
When to do it
The site is open all year round, seven days a week.
There are fewer visitors at the site before 9am and after 2pm; go early or late and you may have whole plazas or corners of the complex to yourself.
Round-ups that include this experience
Throughout human history vast empires have risen and fallen into ruin, their culture and customs lost to the sands of time. Thankfully, some outstanding examples remain. Here’s our round-up of the best.