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The Tikal Maya ruins are the crown jewels of the many and magnificent Maya archaeology sites that are found throughout Guatemala. This is one of the most extensive archaeological sites and urban centres built by the ancient Maya in the pre-Columbian dynasty. The Maya began building this ancient metropolis in 600 B.C. and at its peak in 900 A.D. was home to more than 100,000 inhabitants and the dominant political, scientific and religious centre in the area. When visiting Belize do not miss the opportunity to visit this Maya site that is a little over one hour by excellent road on a tourist bus from San Ignacio – Santa Elena. Day tours to Tikal from Belize leave every day in the morning and return in the afternoon. Belizean tour operators are not allowed to work at Tikal, so your journey from Belize will take you to the border at Melchor de Mencos in western Belize. From there your tour operator will transfer you to a licensed Guatemala tour guide and transport, take you to Tikal, pay your entrance fees and thereafter return you to the Belize side of the border, and back to your hotel. Tours from Belize normally allow two hours free time at Tikal Maya Ruins once your guided tour is over.
Guatemala’s vast northern department of Petén reveals spectacular nature reserves and hundreds of Maya ruins, many completely buried in the jungle. The jewel of the region is Tikal, arguably the most magnificent of all Maya sites. It towers impressively over the rainforest 1.5 hours from the Belize border, making for an accessible – and unmissable – side-trip, and it can be done independently or on an organized tour. Tikal’s monumental temple-pyramids are testament to the fact that Petén was the heartland of ancient Maya civilization during the Preclassic and Classic periods (around 300 BC–900 AD), and that here Maya culture reached the height of its architectural achievement.
Places Of Interest On The Way To Tikal
En route to Tikal, there are other Maya sites worth stopping for, and you’ll see signs for several as you head west along the road from the bustling yet nondescript border town of Melchor de Mencos. The first major sites are Yaxhá, the third largest in Petén, and the much smaller Topoxté. Both occupy beautiful settings on opposite shores of Laguna Yaxhá, about nineteen miles from the border, and there’s camping and cabaña accommodation nearby. If you’re travelling directly to Tikal by bus from the Belizean border, you’ll need to change buses at the village of Ixlú, from where it’s only about a mile to the peaceful community of El Remate – a good base if you plan to spend more than a day exploring the area. Those with the time for a more extended trip could make for the village and ruins of Uaxactún, to the north of Tikal, which also serves as a jumping-off point for expeditions to El Zotz and the remote northern sites of Río Azul and El Mirador.
But archeology isn’t the only thing to tempt you over the border. Petén is a huge, rolling expanse of tropical forest, swamps, lakes and dry savannahs, stretching into the Lacandón forest of southern Mexico. Tikal itself lies at the centre of a large national park, which forms part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, covering six thousand square miles of northern Petén. As one of the largest tropical forest reserves in Central America, it’s extraordinarily rich in wildlife, particularly birds, though you’re also virtually guaranteed to see coati, howler or spider monkeys.
Things To Bring When Visiting Tikal
Spending cash for buying souvenirs US and Belize currency accepted
Sneakers of light hiking shoes
Camera or smart cellphone to take pictures
Hat and sunglasses
Bottled water but this can be purchased on your way
Things To Consider
Tours to Tikal from Belize cost US $150. per person
While your tourist bus / shuttle from Belize will have an experienced driver / tourist guide, Belizean tourist guides are not allowed to work at Tikal. Your hotel, tour operator will have pre-arranged the services of a Guatemala tour guide to meet your tour on the Tikal site.
Entrance fee to Tikal is US$25. but this should be covered by your tour package in Belize. If in doubt ask if it is an all inclusive tour.
Lunch, snacks, soft drinks, water are provided by the tour operators.