Visiting the Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Guatemala
One of the reasons we decided to visit Guatemala was to explore Tikal..... the city of Mayan ruins!
Tikal is located in the northern part of Peten in Guatemala. It is one of the largest archeological sites of the Mayan civilization. This site is part of the Tikal National Park and it has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1979.
The town of Flores is known as the perfect gateway to Tikal. It's a picturesque colonial town surrounded by Lake Peten Itza. It's a convenient place to base yourself while you explore the Mayan ruins.
TRAVELING TO FLORES
We started our journey from Guatemala City towards Flores on an overnight bus which left at 10:30pm. We purchased each ticket for 260Q ($35.43USD) with the bus company Fuentes Del Norte. We opted for the luxury leather seats (Clase de Oro) on the 1st floor of the overnight bus. We highly recommend paying extra for the additional comfort. It will be completely worth it. The bus we traveled in was a double decker and the 1st floor had a total of 12 seats. If you travel this route, you will have to catch the Fuentes Del Norte bus at their terminal in Zone 1. If you are coming from Antigua or the Lake Atitlan area, you will have to purchase shuttle transportation to get to Guatemala City. This shuttle will drop you off directly at the station in Zone 1. Once you get there, someone will escort you from the shuttle to the waiting area on the second floor of the bus terminal. They say Zone 1 in Guatemala City is not the safest, but we got there at 8:30pm and did not go anywhere except to buy some water and snacks across the street. I would recommend you do the same and stay inside the terminal to avoid any issues.
The bus was incredibly comfortable and we slept the entire way there. We woke up to a man yelling "Flores" and in the blink of an eye we were there. Our arrival time was about 7:30am. The island is very small and you can walk to your hotel with no issue.
GETTING TO TIKAL FROM FLORES
Once we arrived at our hotel, we started to walk around Flores and noticed we could easily stroll around the city in an afternoon. Since Tikal is still about 1.5 hrs away from Flores, we started searching for options to visit the famous ruins. After much research, the best price we found was 80Q ($10.90USD) per person for transportation and a guide. The other option was transportation only to Tikal for 60Q ($8.18 USD). The difference of 20Q ($2.73USD) is worth the 4 hours of a guided tour. A guided tour is highly recommended since there are little to no signs regarding the ruins or the history. At the Tikal entrance there were maps being sold for 20Q ($2.73USD), but at that point I would highly recommend opting for the guided tour instead. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable about the flora, fauna, Mayan history and much more!
When you purchase your transportation you have the ability to select the time you would like to be picked up and transported to Tikal. There were several options to select for hotel pickup: 3:30am, 4:30am, 8am and 12pm. The entrance fee at Tikal Park is 150Q ($20.44USD) for the 4:30am and 8am pickup. If you decide to go for the sunrise at 3:30am or sunset at 12pm, you will have to pay 250Q ($34.07USD) at the Tikal entrance. We also learned that if you want to do the sunrise tour, you will have to purchase your ticket one day before at Banco Banrural as the ticket office will be closed when you arrive in the morning for the sunrise tour. The ticket office opens at 6am just in time for the 4:30am departures from Flores. For your way back to Flores, you also have few options to choose from. Shuttles will start going back at 11am, 12:30pm, 3pm and 6pm. The 6pm is normally reserved for the sunset tours.
Bring comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking through the jungle and climbing ruins.
Bring water. It gets very hot during the day.
Bring snacks. The only restaurant in Tikal is very expensive.
Pack SPF especially if you will be visiting the park later in the day.
Bring mosquito repellent. You will be walking in the jungle and there are lots of mosquitoes.
If you opt out of the tour guide, do your research as there is little to no signage regarding the ruins or its history.
There is so much to explore in Tikal it would take you an entire day to see all of the temples. Take your time to take in all the history and the beauty the Mayans once created. It truly is a beautiful experience to be able to see, still touch and even be able to climb some of these temples.
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