We decided to go to Belize due to its close proximity to the United States. Its nearby sites also very much appealed to us. Mayan ruins are popular in that area and when friends told us about Tikal we knew we wanted to go. Your Tikal Guatemala Mayan Ruins Adventure Begins Here.
Tikal is a day trip from San Ignacio, Belize. It’s just over the border of Guatemala. We opted to join a tour for a guided day trip as opposed to driving ourselves, navigating to get there in a foreign land, and paying park fees and such ourselves. This would mean that our ride to Guatemala was fuss free. We simply joined the group in the morning in the town of San Ignacio and hoped in a van that took our small group there. We had a great guide too. I especially loved that we didn’t have to deal with the border crossing – they did it for us. (You do have to take your passport, however, since you are traveling between countries if you stay in Belize and site see from there.)
Tikal was very much a functioning Mayan city between the third and tenth centuries. Archeologists have evidence that it was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Maya. Remember hundreds of years ago current country borders – like Belize and Guatemala – didn’t exist. Instead the Mayans lived on the land.
Today Tikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared back in 1979. It’s a network of ruins consisting of pyramid temples, stone plazas and pathways through in the rainforest.
We booked an excursion with MayaWalk Adventures, on the advice of our friends who recommended the adventure in the first place, Katherine and Romeo of Travel the World. We drove about twenty minutes via rental car from our resort to the village of San Ignacio (street parking was relatively easy that early in the morning). We arrived bright and early at 7:15am.
The guide was wonderful and spoke English well. We booked the tour online but paid the balance in person. It cost $145 USD per person, including transportation, lunch and park fees. The tour was small – while I’m guessing they had room for a few more people our tour ended up being just us, another couple and two guides.
It’s a nine hour tour. While it includes about four hours at the Tikal site, a about the same amount of time is spent commuting to Tikal in Guatemala and back to San Ignacio in Belize. It’s approximately a two hour drive each way. We also stopped at a little shop along the way where we were able to use a restroom, see a scale model of Tikal, buy souvenirs and snacks.
What to Pack and Wear
Definitely wear shorts and comfortable shoes, to start! If you have long hair you may want to wear it up in a ponytail because it’s HOT there and you get sweaty.
I would also pack a backpack with the below:
- Passport (a must for crossing the border)
- Money for tipping your tour guide or snacks/souvenirs at the stop along the way
- If you think your shoes may hurt then definitely back band aids for blisters!
We absolutely adored the tour of the ruins. A lot of the joy of the site, however, is some of the cool wildlife you encounter! It’s in the rainforest so you’ll have a chance to see some cool animals if you keep your eyes open. Our two guides were wonderful about keeping their eyes alert and pointing things out to us, like some Howler Monkeys he saw up in the trees. It’s very easy to miss them without an expert since they’re so high up in the trees and camouflage fairly well.
We encountered some Coatis on our walk to lunch (a relative of the raccoon) native to the Central American area. Even the bugs there were exquisite – and I don’t say that about bugs too often. The tropical foliage is most certainly a point of interest as well. You may also see swarms of beautiful butterflies, toucans and other pretty birds.
Our Favorite Part
We loved the ruins. Simply seeing it firsthand and learning about how the Mayans lived and functioned as a culture was really cool. It’s one thing to see a documentary (and I looked up a fair amount to watch before our trip in hopes of better understanding the culture) but it’s another to see it in person. Being there enabled us to understand the scale of the city and pyramids and envision it all coming to life.
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Questions or experiences of your own with Tikal? Let us know in the comments below!