Tikal: The Crown Jewel of the Maya World

We were sitting on steps at the top of a nearly thousand year old pyramid, high above the tree tops. The jungle was thick around us, a dense bright green that was covered in layers of thick grey mist. We hugged the edge of the pyramid as much as possible; the narrow steep steps descended to a sharp drop off with no railing. Suddenly the sun grew brighter. The morning mist opened up like a billowing stage curtain, revealing a view that stretched for miles and the tops of two other giant pyramids poking above the jungle. That was morning in Tikal.

Tikal is one of those places that everyone says you should visit. It’s also one of the few cases where everyone is right.

The walls of Tikal's buildings are dripping with green jungle plants.
The walls of Tikal’s buildings are dripping with green jungle plants.

The pyramids and buildings of this ancient Mayan metropolis are covered in moss and jungle plants. Howler monkeys populate the trees and their primeval cries echo amongst the crumbling building walls. Wandering through Tikal truly feels like you are wandering through a lost world.

We spent the night in the park, there are three hotels on site, in order to wake up early and start exploring right when they open the gates at 6am. Arriving this early was totally worth the lack of coffee or breakfast. We made our way down the trails while it was still dark, and were able to hear and see the wildlife as the jungle came alive for the day. Walking along the trails, the buildings became more and more magnificent as we went on. By the time the tour busses and crowds began to show up, late morning, we had already seen most of what there was to see and were ready to be on our way.

It’s hard to describe more, because the feeling of actually being amongst the jungle ruins almost defies all words. Pictures barely do the place justice. It’s an impressive glimpse into the ancient Maya world, and worth every penny of entrance or transportation fees. Staring up at those ancient pyramids you get a sense of the majesty and power of this once great civilization.

Everyone says you should visit Tikal. You really, really should.