Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Initially my plan was to see the sunrise at Tikal. I had the perfect sunrise watching spot all mapped out in my guidebook and everything. I booked the 4:30am pickup time and knew not too many hours later that I wasn't going to be seeing the sunrise - it's been raining off and on since shortly after I arrived in Flores. I went ahead with the early pickup because I figured maybe it wouldn't be as crowded and it turned out I was correct.

The pickup was late by about a half-hour (it's the Central American way!), but it only took about an hour to get to Tikal. Had there been a sunrise, we (technically) would've still made it since the sun rose at 6:28am, although getting to the spot I'd picked out would have been tough. 

The park is huge. I had about six hours until I needed to be back for the return ride to Flores, but I had no idea just how much time it would take me to see everything I wanted to see. I was especially worried looking at the walking time approximations on the map I'd purchased. There were an awful lot of trails marked 25 minutes or more and a couple were marked an hour or more. Luckily I had nothing to worry about as I saw everything and had time to spare.

Some pics before we get to the big granddaddy:
(Click for a larger view of the panorama)
(Coral makes another appearance)
(Ruins just spring up out of the jungle)
The temple I was most looking forward to was Temple IV. It's the tallest in Tikal National Park at 64.6 m (211.9 ft) which also makes it the tallest in all of Mesoamerica. What makes this more impressive is that this structure was built in 740 AD. It did not disappoint:
(Click for larger view. What you see to the left is scaffolding for some restoration work.)
You can't climb all of the structures, but this one you can. I was very happy to see that the park has constructed a staircase (reminiscent of those found in water parks) to make this easier. I've mentioned before how the stairs on a lot of ruins I've seen are more like vertigo inducing ladders than stairs. But just because there were stairs doesn't mean I wasn't out of breath by the time I got to the top! I sat up there, quietly taking it all in for almost an hour. (Well, except for when I (very politely, mind you) asked the person who was smoking when they weren't supposed to be to make sure he didn't toss his butt into the jungle and to take it out with him.) I couldn't see them, but the howler monkeys were screaming and making all kinds of noise. It was kind of wild.
There were other cool animals in the park, too, but I didn't get to see all of them. The park is home to jaguars, toucans, occellated turkeys, wild pigs, coatimundis, the aforementioned howler monkeys, and a number of other bird species. I even saw jaguar- and coatimundi-crossing signs which cracked me up.

One interesting thing to note: although there were a lot of similarities between Tikal and Angkor Wat, it was refreshing to see a lot of Guatemalan visitors at Tikal. I don't remember seeing any Cambodians at Angkor Wat. Maybe it's because nationals pay Q25 (about $3) versus the Q150 (about $19) that foreigners pay? I don't think there was a similar incentive in Siem Reap.

Tomorrow (well, today, July 3rd by the time this posts) I'll be on my longest bus ride so far for this trip: eight hours from Flores to Lanquin.


  1. Very impressive. The size of the temple, the thickness of the jungle, the array of critters, all of it. And you know I loved the Coral shot. ��

  2. So you were in a National Park and reminded someone to respect the place?
    I'm wondering where you got that trait from...

    1. I know, right, Dad? :-) I was telling someone right after that about that time at Yellowstone that you admonished that person who dared to step over the rail very clearly marked "do not enter."