Discovering the jungle ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
After a grueling day of a 5 hour bumpy windy van ride from Lake Atitlan to Antigua in the morning, we left our luggage with a tour company that booked our next leg of our trip to Tikal and spent the next 8 hours wondering the streets of Antigua where I attempted to photo all the places I lost on my camera with my back up camera (Which I later lost again with the memory card formatting itself!!!). We went to a little place in the square and decided to pay an criminal amount of money for a slice of cake which we had been eyeing off the previous week but didn’t dare pay the price, which was only $5, but in Guatemala that is a lot of money – think a huge dinner for 2 can be bought for the same price! The cake was good but of course didn’t meet expectations.
At 7pm that evening we boarded a van due for Guatemala City where we got off at a seedy, scary looking bus stop where we hung onto our bags for dear life while we waited 2 hours for our bus to arrive. Once we finally boarded we were prepared with many layers of clothing, due to experiencing some of the coldest temperatures known to man on Central American bus journeys in the past. We slept most of the way and at 7am arrived at Flores, a small island village surrounded by the pretty Lake Peten Itza and checked into our hotel, got changed and boarded a bus bound for Tikal. Flores is located a mere 40mins from Tikal Ruins which makes it a great base to stay as there aren’t many accommodation options around Tikal except for jungle lodges which need to be booked way in advance and can cost a pretty penny.
As we arrived to the Tikal gates we paid 150Q each entry ($20) and declined many tour guides offering the best tours money could buy, and proceeded toward the ruins on our own. As we approached the entrance there was a huge map with at least 10 different routes we could take, we had no idea which way was best or if we even had enough time to see all the ruins by the end of the day, so we made out decision based on the direction of the sounds of howler monkeys. As we headed down the dirt path we spotted a group of over 15 howler monkeys in the trees making the loudest howling sound ever. We had fun watching them goof around but realized we should keep going if we were to see everything.
As we made our way through the multiple temples, ruins and sights it started to lightly rain, which was unfortunate but perhaps lucky as we were in the middle of a huge hot jungle and even though it might not of looked so nice we weren’t dying of the heat. We climbed some very impressive, steep vertigo inducing pyramids, which had no rails but were totally worth the amazing views from the top of never-ending lush green jungle and majestic ruins poking through the tops of the jungle canopy.
We felt like we were in a different world, and the best part about Tikal is how most ruins are still in tact, which is rare in this earthquake prone zone and that they are spread over such a huge area that they are never crowded. These ruins are a true testament to the engineering marvels of the Mayan civilization.
We really enjoyed our day at Tikal but were happy to head back to Flores to enjoy a relaxing night of dinner and rest before taking a bus out the next morning to the beautiful country of Belize.