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Located in the northern rainforests of Guatemala, is one of the largest Mayan excavated archaeological sites ever discovered – and that site is Tikal, the capital of the ancient Mayan empire. However, it’s not just Tikal’s impressive size that draws visitors here, but also the extremely well excavated and restored temples.
These temples are some of the biggest (and tallest) from the Mayan civilisation. These well-restored temples have made Tikal one of the best ancient ruins to visit in Central America and possibly the world! Tikal is now a popular tourist destination in Guatemala. It holds a huge cultural significance to the local people making it a great place for your next holiday!
So here’s everything you need to know about Tikal including why you should visit this beautiful ancient city for yourself!
Tikal was discovered in the 1840s and by 1979 was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The Mayan people occupied the city between 600BC and 900AD. During this time, Tikal was one of the most powerful kingdoms in the Mayan empire.
The ancient city of Tikal is home to thousands of buildings that cover 222 square miles, however, only very few have been excavated. That being said, the ones that have include many of the most important temples and the entire main plaza.
In Tikal’s most prominent days it is estimated that some 60,000 people occupied both the main city and surrounding area. However, the population number has been the cause of some debate between archaeologists and the exact number is unknown.
The 5 Largest Temples of Tikal
Tikal is home to 5 huge temples. These temples range in height with smallest being 38 meters or 124 feet tall, and the tallest, Temple IV soaring a huge 65 meters or 213 feet into the air! All 5 of these temples are high enough to pierce above the tree line.
Many of the temples you are actually able to climb, and from the top of one, you will see all of the others protruding up above the trees.
There are many more temples in Tikal and it’s estimated that only 30% have been unearthed!
Still a sacred significance
These days, the city is one of the best places to remember this ancient culture, however, it is still used by local people for ceremonies. During these ceremonies, locals will light a fire in the main plaza while sacrificing goods into the flames while they dance around it to music.
Other smaller ceremonies are done by families. They will light a fire in the main square and pray and light candles. This shows that the ancient city of Tikal still holds a huge cultural significance to the Guatemalan people.
The great city of Tikal is continually being restored and the viewable buildings are continuing to grow. Currently, restorations are still being done to one of the 5 main temples. Work on the temples takes great care, time, and money. As Tikal’s popularity grows so will the city, however, there has been no better time to explore Tikal than now!
Why visit Tikal
Tikal is one of the largest and most well preserved Mayan cities. Its large size and rather recent popularity make visiting Tikal such a personal experience. Large crowds are hard to find and it is easy to find yourself wondering where nobody else is.
However, it’s also Tikal’s setting that makes it so amazing. Surrounding the ancient buildings is thick green rainforest which is home to many animals including monkeys! During a tour of Tikal, it’s very likely to see and hear Howler or Spider Monkeys swing from the trees!
In Tikal, you can climb many of the temples which are not possible in some other historic sites around the world. This gives visitors a real chance to explore and view the city from the great temples that make Tikal so magnificent.
For these reasons and many more, visitors around the world are choosing this magnificent city as their go to place to explore and learn about the Mayan culture.
Best way to see Tikal: Our Glimpse of Guatemala tour
One of the best ways to see Tikal is on our Glimpse of Guatemala tour. One of the main stops (day 2) on this tour is the great ancient city of Tikal. Here, you will be guided around the city on a full day tour while learning all about this impressive civilisation. For more information on the tour, click here!