The biggest Mayan city in Central America.
An absolutely must in Guatemala is the national park Tikal, which you’ll find in the North of Guatemala in the area El Petén. Tikal is the biggest Mayan city in Central America and it’s breathtaking. Tikal is 576 square meter and the inhabitants lived there between 400 BC and 1000 AD. If you decide to visit Tikal, the easiest way to do that is to book a hostel in the cute little town Flores and visit Tikal from there. The old city of Flores is only a small part of the city on a little island surrounded by the lake Petén Itzá. It takes you about ten minutes to walk around the island. There is not much to do but it’s worth staying there, because you’ll enjoy the colourful houses and the pretty lake views. Be prepared for the temperature though, during the days we were there it was around 42 Celsius degrees accompanied by some intense tropical rains and thunderstorms.
We stayed in the hostel Los Amigos in Flores and I would really recommend it to stay there! They have an amazing garden in the middle of the hostel with a Indian / hippie kinda vibe where you can relax in hammocks and eat all kinds of affordable and tasty lunches and dinners, including healthy smoothies! The cheapest dorm is 80 Quetzal (10 euros / 11 dollar). For 10Q more you have airconditioning which can be a nice luxury because of the hot temperatures there.
The trip to Tikal
You can book your trip to Tikal from the hostel. We did the sunrise excursion to Tikal. They picked us up at 3 am and drove us to Tikal. On the way to the park we spotted a jaguar (they told us it’s very rare to spot them), so our day was perfect before it even begun! Another name for Tikal is ‘The city of echoes‘ and you’ll know why when you’re guide will clap his hands in the main area of Tikal: the ruins will respond with a strange kind of echo.
We started with a little hike in Tikal while it was still dark (so if you want to do this excursion, make sure to bring a flashlight or some other light). Our guide walked us to the highest Mayan ruin (over 70 metres!), where we climbed it to the top and watched the sunrise. When we were there it was kinda foggy, so we didn’t see much of the jungle. But still, it was completely worth it because you hear the jungle wake up (especially the howlers). After this impressive sunrise we walked through the park (it’s huge) with our guide while he was teaching us all kinds of things about the park and the Mayan people and its culture. We spotted plenty of animal: spider monkeys, a toucan, a lot of other beautiful birds, and anteaters.
Tip: make sure to have some cash with you when you’re heading to Flores / Tikal. For us it was really hard to get some money out of the atm (our creditcard didn’t connect there).