Welcome to Tikal
Set deep in the jungle of Parque Nacional Tikal lies the most
magnificent of all Mayan ruins, the Mayan ceremonial centre of
Tikal (City of Voices). First occupied around 800 BC and
mysteriously abandoned about 1,000 years later, its most striking
features are the steep sided towering temples rising up to heights
of 192ft (60m) into the green canopy of the rainforest. Scattered
around the area are countless other structures, many still
partially buried in the ground or having nearly succumbed to the
overwhelming grasp of jungle greenery.
The central area, or Great Plaza, with its five main temples,
was the heart of the ancient city and the centre for religious and
ceremonial activity. It is the most impressive section, especially
the two massive pyramid-shaped structures with steep steps leading
up to the roofed enclosures at the top. Temple I, the Temple of the
Grand Jaguar, is the main landmark of Tikal and was built to house
the magnificent tomb of King Hasaw Chan K'awil. Temple II,
opposite, has two grotesque, eroded masks on either side of the
stairway and there are fantastic views from the top. The jungle
around the ruins is alive with the sounds of bird and animal life,
particularly the fearsome roars of howler monkeys, which have
conjured up images of jaguars in many a frightened traveller's
mind. Walking from ruined temple to temple, surrounded by the
sounds and smells of the jungle, is an experience not offered at
any other major Mayan site.
This combination of archaeological remains and natural
environment of the jungle makes it the only place in the world to
be declared both a Cultural and Natural Heritage to Humanity UNESCO
Site. Visitors to Tikal are overwhelmed by the atmosphere and sheer
scale of the place. There are two museums, one inside the Visitors'
Centre, containing copies of some of the elaborate sculptures,
bas-reliefs and stelae from the ruins, a map showing Tikal as it
was in 800 BC, and items recovered from the excavations, including
the burial goods of King Hasaw Chan K'awil.
Information & Facts
Q150 (US$ 20 - 22)
The official language is Spanish but English is
understood in hotels and tourist destinations. Many indigenous
languages are also spoken.
The official currency is the Quetzal (GTQ) divided into 100
centavos. In 2001 the US Dollar became the second official currency
alongside the Quetzal and both are accepted. Travellers cheques and
major credit cards are accepted, though some more than others. It
is recommended to take travellers cheques in US dollars. Cash
exchange is easier, but more risky. Visitors are not advised to
exchange money at the informal booths on the street. There are ATMs
in the towns and cities, which accept American Express and Visa.
MasterCard and Diners Club have a more limited acceptance.
Daily 6am to 6pm; extensions to 8pm can be obtained.
The museums are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and Saturday and
Sunday 9am to 4pm