Guatemala City - Flores ( Friday afternoon 03/03 - Saturday 03/04 )After I had settled in the Hotel Pan American ( corner 9a Calle / 5a Av in Zona 1 ) I went for a short walk over the Plaza Mayor which is just one block far from the hotel. I had planned to visit the Palacio Nacional and the Catedral Metropolitana but both buildings were closed so I had no luck. I strolled through the Mercado Central and than just sat down for a while on the Plaza Mayor to observe everything around me. Back at the hotel I was to lazy to leave again so I went for dinner in the Hotel and than early to my room to repack my stuff, since I had planned to leave my big backpack in the Hotel Pan American and just take my small one with me to Flores / Tikal for the next 5 days.
On Saturday morning my alarm clock did ring already at 4.20am, the day before I had ordered a taxi for 5am. so I got up, took a quick shower, left my big backpack on the reception behind and got into the taxi ( which was on time ) to get to the airport. Since it was so early the drive did take only 10 min - I could have slept at least half an hour longer! At 6.30 am the plane took off, half an hour later we were over Flores, but it was very fogy, so we had to circle over the airport. After about 30 min the pilot decided that he had to get back to Guatemala City to refuel the plane - great! After one hour waiting we did leave Guate again and this time - thank god - we were able to land in Flores - so finally I did arrive there at 11am. The Tourists which had just planned to fligh to Flores to visit Tikal just for the day were now really running out of time! So I was happy that I had a more relaxed schedule. Flores itself is a neat small town on a small island - more to that on the next page!
Tikal ( Sunday 03/05 - Monday 03/06 )Sunday morning I had again to get up early, since I had bought a ticket at "San Juan Travel" for 4$ ( 30 GTQ ) for the 7 am minibus up north, to Tikal. The bus drive took about 1 1/2 hours. The entrance fee in Tikal did cost about 7$ ( 50 GTQ ) for each day. First I went to the Jungle Lodge ( the Hotel which I had booked already in Antigua ), to drop off some of my stuff and than I started to get on my way to discover the ruined city of Tikal.
History Lesson: Tikal was occupied from the middle preclassic period ( around 700 BC ) and reached the height of it's glory during the late classic period ( AD 550 - 950 ). During its peak Tikal had around 10000 inhabitants within a radius of thirty minutes walk from the center. ( Some sources do suggest that it's estimated that the whole area the city had covered was about 120 square kilometers and had held a population of up to 55000 people. )
Starting from the Lodge I passed the entrance and entered the twilight jungle to walk to the Great Plaza. You should take one of the smaller pathes, not the main gravel one! After a 20 min walk where some animals ( like a Ring-Tailed Coati ) passed my way I first got a glimpse from the back of Temple I ( Temple of the Grand Jaguar - 44m high ). It's really very impressive to stumble on this grassy clearing in the middle of the jungle and stand on the Great Plaza, with it's two dominating Temple I and II ( Temple of the Masks - 38m high ) and the North Acropolis. I walked up the steep stairs of Temple II, Temple I is closed for tourists, since some accidents had happened because of the poor condition of a lot of stairs from this temple.
Temple of the Grand Jaguar
View of the Great Plaza
from the North Acropolis
Temple of the Masks
From the Great Plaza I headed further through the jungle to get to the Temple IV, it's suppost
to be the highest one with 64 m. On the foot of this temple there where many spider monkeys
around. To get to the top of this temple you have first to climb over a wooden ladder, holding
on to roots and trees, to reach a metal ladder which will take you to the top.
Than I went further over the "Maudslay Causeway" for about 20 min through the jungle to get
to the so-called Group H. From there I did head back over the "Maler Causeway", passing some
smaller temples, to get again to the Great Plaza to see the sunset from the North Acropolis.
You should really spend the money to stay in one of the hotels in Tikal ( or stay on the
camping area ), otherwise you have to be back at 5 pm on the bus parking lot to
catch the last bus back to Flores. For me it was one of my most impressive experiences
to await the sunset on the Great Plaza, I couldn't capture the "jungle mood" on a picture
since one of the most significant impressions are the sounds of the jungle at dusk.
I "shared" the Great Plaza with only 3 more people, I think most of the tourists are either
on Temple IV or on the pyramid ( on the plaza El Mundo Peridido ) to see the sunset, probably from there you've got the
better view, but I actually prefered to have this place "almost" to myself. After sunset
I headed back to the Lodge, I also had expected to find more people on their way back, but
I was by myself and was happy that I brought a flashlight. The sounds of the jungle ( all
kind of birds and especially the howler monkeys ) seemed to get louder and louder in the
dark. Even if it's very unlikely that a jaguar will pass your way it's not impossible, and
with all these noises around me I started to "fantasize" and was glad as I finally reached
Next morning at 7am I went to get breakfast at the Lodge. I talked to a guide, José: first he had asked me if I want to get a tour of tikal, but I said "no thanks", than I did ask him if he thinks that the way to the Temple of Inscriptions is save or not. In the Lonely Planet was written that "there have been incidents of robbery and rape of single travelers and couples" along this way. He told me that these incidents were in the 70's, and it's pretty save now. So I left the Lodge and first went again to the Great Plaza, this day there was some kind of mayan ceremony going on in front of Temple II. On the Plaza I got to talk to another single traveler, a woman from Germany, so I asked her if she would like to go to the Temple of Inscriptions with me, she said why not, so we got on our way on the Mendez Causeway. This temple is the only one in tikal with many inscriptions, so it's worth to check it out. Later on I went to the plaza of the Seven Temples and than to El Mundo Perdido a large complex with over 30 structures, a huge pyramid in the middle. The pyramid is 32m high and 80m along the base, beneath the outer face there are 4 similar pyramids, the earliest dates from 700 BC, which makes it the oldest structure in Tikal. At 2pm I did get back to the Lodge to check out, grabbed a snack at the Visitor Center and than went in the Museo Litico, which has an interesting exhibition. It shows several stelae ( these "big" stones with inscriptions ) and also many pictures from the discovery and exploration of Tikal - which was very interesting. Than I also went to the smaller museum Museo Tikal, which exhibits burial goods, carved jade, ceramics ... etc. At 4pm I said goodbye to Tikal and catched the bus back to Flores.
For a detailed information on the monuments at Tikal, I would recommend you to get the book:
"Tikal - a Handbook of the ancient Maya Ruins" by William R. Coe
Some interesting Links to Tikal:
Jaguar in the Night - photos from Tikal in 1895
Journey through Tikal
World Heritage - Tikal
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