Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centers of the Maya civilization. Though monumental architecture at the site dates to the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, ca. 200 AD to 850 AD, during which time the site dominated the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica, such as central Mexican center of Teotihuacan. There is also evidence that Tikal was even conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century A.D. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century.
Tikal had no water other than what was collected from rainwater and stored in underground storage facilities (termed chultuns). Archaeologists working in Tikal during the last century utilized the ancient underground facilities to store water for their own use. The absence of springs, rivers, and lakes in the immediate vicinity of Tikal highlights a prodigious feat: building a major city with only supplies of stored seasonal rainfall. Tikal prospered with intensive agricultural techniques, which were far more advanced than the slash and burn methods originally theorized by archeologists. The reliance on seasonal rainfall left Tikal vulnerable to prolonged drought, which is now thought to play a major role in the Classic Maya Collapse.
The ruins lie on lowland rainforest. Conspicuous trees at the Tikal park include gigantic ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) the sacred tree of the Maya; tropical cedar (Cedrela odorata), and mahogany (Swietenia). Regarding the fauna, agouti, coatis, gray foxes, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, Harpy Eagles, Falcons, ocellated turkeys, guans, toucans, green parrots and leaf-cutting ants can be seen there regularly. Jaguars Jaguarundis and Cougars are also said to roam in the park.
There are thousands of ancient structures at Tikal and only a fraction of these have been excavated after decades of archaeological work. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large Mesoamerican step pyramids, labeled Temples I – VI, each of which support a temple structure on their summits. Some of these pyramids are over 60 meters high (200 feet). They were numbered sequentially during the early survey of the site.
We leave from our office at Casa Blanca Guesthouse at 7:30 for a ten miles drive to the Belize / Guatemala border. We will also pick you up form your hotel.
Border paper work and fees take about a half an hour, followed by two hours of driving time on a combination of dirt road and pavement for 60 miles to Tikal. The drive is very scenic, many farm communities are seen on the way and many farm animals are usually on the road too. This is an excellent opportunity for photography from start to finish.
The guided tour of Tikal takes 4 hours. You will see lots of wildlife. The Tikal national park covers 222 square miles of rainforest that has not been inhabited for 1,000 years so the rainforest is at its best, a primary rainforest .
A lunch is serve at one of the restaurants of the site, shopping time is always available and for the adventurous “The Canopy Tour” is an option (zip-lining).
Tours departure any day of the week at 7:30 a.m. from the Casa Blanca Guesthouse on 10 Burns Avenue, San Ignacio, Cayo.
2 to 10 persons
We return back to San Ignacio around 5:30 pm.
“On our recent trip to Belize, we stayed in San Ignacio just so that we could more easily visit the Mayan ruins in Tikal. A friend of ours highly recommended Elias Cambranes, but didn’t have his card or any contact information. After walking the streets of San Ignacio, we finally found his office at the Casa Blanca Guest House.
From what we heard, most tours that you sign up with in San Ignacio will drive you to the Guatemala border and then hand you over to another guide who will take you to Tikal. Elias is the only tour operator who will cross the border and stay with you the whole day. The morning of our tour, he picked us up from our hotel (we stayed at the Ka Ana just outside of town) and drove us to the Guatemala border. There we walked across the border and was met by a fancy modern tour bus. I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive to Tikal. Most of the taxis and shuttles that we took in Belize were run down vans and 4-door sedans with minimal AC, so it was a nice surprise to have such plush transportation for just the two of us!
Elias was very friendly and began talking about Belize and Guatemalan history and culture during our drive to Tikal. I’m not even sure how long the drive was because I was so involved in the conversation. Once we arrived in Tikal, his impressive knowledge of Tikal sometimes overwhelmed me. The day was filled with history, culture and entertaining stories. We spent about 4 hours walking through the jungle going from one excavation to another. How he could continue talking while walking through the heat was also impressive. They say that Tikal is one of the most spiritual places on earth. It’s hard to fully appreciate the gravity of this place until you climb high a top a temple and look out across the jungle to see the majestic ruins towering above the trees. It is a sight to behold. In between ruins, Elias also pointed out various plants and wildlife. We saw almost as much wildlife at Tikal as our zoo tour days earlier. After our long trek through the jungle, we were provided a delicious meal at Tikal before boarding our bus back to San Ignacio. That smooth AC bus was a perfect place for a nap.
For anyone planning a day tour to Tikal, I would highly recommend looking up Elias Cambranes. Good luck and happy travels!”
Menlo Park, CA