Day 42: Parque Nacional Tikal

Tikal Travel Blog

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Ceiba, the national tree of Guatemala

It was good we had gone to bed early, because at 5 in the morning a symphony of bird twitter started, and t

heir performance took place right beneath our window. I think the whole hotel was immediately awake.

After breakfast we took a minibus to Tikal. Tikal is, together with Palenque, the highlight of the Maya route for most people. And rightly so!
Spread out over 16 square kilometres and with over 4000 buildings identified, this was certainly one of the largest cities in the Mayan kingdom (although both Calakmul in Mexico and Caracol in Belize were larger).

But the best feature of Tikal is that it is located smack in the jungle. And where in Calakmul we had seen three pyramids peaking above the jungle canopy, Tikal has at least 10! And because the pyramids are much steeper than elsewhere, they look so much more impressive too!
One of the first temples we visited (a stupidly named Templo IV) is the highest of all, reaching 64 metres.

Tikal
Only the top has been restored, from the bottom it just looks like a hill. And from the top you really have a majestic view over the jungle, where everywhere you look you see the tops of temples protruding above the trees. Absolutely fantastic! One of the best views in the world!

Tikal is such a wonderful place to visit. Sometimes we walked through the dense jungle for more than half an hour, without much to see (apart from dense jungle) and then all of a sudden we would reach a pyramid or a collection of other restored temples again. It is very easy to get lost here without a map.

The national park is also teeming with wildlife. Everywhere you saw Coati, a kind of raccoon, which have become half-tame because they are constantly fed by people (despite signs everywhere telling people not to, because it eventually kills the animals).

the inquisitive Coati
But we also saw squirrels, birds (which you hear more than you see) and monkeys. Both spider monkeys, which you could see play around in the trees sometimes, as well as big roaring monkeys (whatever they are called in English) which you hear more than you actually see them.

In total it was more than 15 kilometres walking over rough terrain, and in between of course climbing all those temples, which altogether is quite a lot. So we had decided to stay in Tikal for two days, staying in the park itself.
There is some (expensive) accommodation, but we figured this would be a great place for camping. Robbel and I in my tent, while our dad could sleep in a tiny wooden shack that passed for a ‘cabaña’. They used to rent out tents as well in the past, but in my opinion these cabañas were a much better option.

Tikal
They even had mattresses in them, and if you didn’t have a sleeping bag you could get some blankets as well - not bad at all.
Tally and Laura had figured they would sleep under the stars, but after hearing about all the animals roaming the jungle at night, they opted for a cabaña as well.

When we returned after a full day of walking through the jungle I was shocked. When we checked in in the morning it had been so quiet and there had been only 2 or 3 other tents. By now about 20 motor homes had arrived, with people driving from Alaska to Panama and back (damn, now I’m jealous). There was also a class of American high school kids on a school trip (all I ever got was a weekend Ardennes, did I say I was jealous yet?). And just when I said to my sister "how much worse can this get?" our attention was caught by a bright red truck arriving, the 'Rotel'.

our superb campsite
I swear, everywhere I go I seem to meet them. The Rotel is a German tour, ‘Das Reisende Hotel’ (the travelling hotel) consisting of a 4x4 touring car with a trailer that has been converted into a capsule hotel style accommodation - utter genius! And I have bumped into these Rotels in the strangest places (South America, Middle East, Australia).
So my idyllic image of sleeping under the stars in the jungle with no one else around seemed shattered...

But we were lucky. Our tent and cabins were far enough from the others to retain some of that image. Tally, Laura, Robbel and I put our mattresses and sleeping bags outside and lay down with thousands and thousands of bright stars above us. It was magic. Everywhere in the jungle you heard the noises of animals. And when you walked you saw hundreds of fireflies lighting up in the trees and the grass. Definitely one of my best nights of camping ever!

 

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Ceiba, the national tree of Guatem…
Ceiba, the national tree of Guate…
Tikal
Tikal
the inquisitive Coati
the inquisitive Coati
Tikal
Tikal
our superb campsite
our superb campsite
standing in front of a massive Cei…
standing in front of a massive Ce…
the roads in Tikal
the roads in Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
temples everywhere
temples everywhere
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
Tikal
a family of Coatis in Tikal
a family of Coatis in Tikal
maquette of Tikal
maquette of Tikal
maquette of Tikal
maquette of Tikal
Tikal
photo by: Biedjee