The UNESCO protected Mayan Temple site of Tikal, arguably the greatest of all the ancient Mayan cities, is located in the Tikal National Park. Awe-inspiring Mayan temples rise above the jungle canopy and monkeys and tropical birds (more than 330 species) abound in the surrounding rainforest.
- Watch the sun rise from the top of one of Tikal’s temple pyramids
- Wander around the streets of the historic island town of Flores
- Take a heli-flip out to the rarely seen Mayan city of El Mirador
- Listen to the Howler monkeys roaring through the forest canopy
- Enjoy a sundowner whilst boating around Yaxha Lagoon
For around two thousand years the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal have been entombed in thick jungle, but some of the forest has been cut back to reveal an astounding 3,000 temples, shrines, plazas, terraces and stone monuments.
Estimates suggest that during the Classic period, more than 50,000 people lived in Tikal. The metropolis was occupied during the period between 800BC and 900AD, but the earliest architecture originates from the 4th Century BC. The nobility resided in the Central and North Acropolis, the administrative centre of the city, which is also where some of the rulers were buried.
Yaxha, one of the most important of all Guatemala’s ancient Mayan ruin sites, lies near Flores on the shores of the Yaxha lagoon. Yaxha (or ‘green water’ in q’equchi), was discovered in 1904 by architect Teobert Maler, and is situated within the Maya Biosphere Reserve along with the sites of Nakum and El Naranjo. It was occupied from pre-classic (800 BC) to post-classic (1600 AD) times and covers 3 square kilometers with more than 500 buildings discovered, including the only twin pyramid complex outside of Tikal. It was allied to Tikal and an enemy of El Naranjo, from whom it suffered various defeats. Nearby is Yaxha lagoon, in the centre of which was another Mayan site called Topoxte, where building continued after the classic collapse until 1450.