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TIKAL (Place of the Voices)

In 1848 the Governor of Peten took three days to march through the jungle to the newly discovered Mayan ruins of Tikal. Today the 70 km drive from Flores takes about an hour. The ruins lie within the 576 km2 Tikal National Park, declared a World Heritage site in 1979. Among the 54 species of mammals in the park, the Spider monkeys and Pizotes (Coatimundi) are the easiest to see; among the 333 species of birds is the endemic Ocellated turkey. The site's mapped district covers 16 km2 and comprises more than 3,000 individual structures, temples, and courtyard groups. Estimates suggest that, during the Classic period, more than 50,000 people lived in Tikal. The metropolis was occupied during the period between 800 BC and 900 AD, but the earliest architecture originates from the 4th century BC. The nobility resided in the Central and North Acropolis, the administrative center of the city, which is also where some of the rulers were buried.

 

Highlights of the site include:

  • the Great Plaza, with Temple I (Jaguar Temple, 44 m), Temple II (Temple of the Masks, 38 m), the North Acropolis and Central Acropolis.
  • Temple IV (Temple of the two-headed serpent), the tallest temple at 64 m
  • the Mundo Perdido (Lost World) complex, a great place to watch sunrise and sunset, and good for birdwatching. The Great Pyramid dominates this section, the tallest pyramid at 32 m
  • Plaza of the Seven Temples, seven closely adjacent small Late Classic temples set in a row
  • The newly restored Temple V (59 m)

 

Tikal Museum / Museo Sylvanus G. Morley houses some of the artifacts found in the ruins, including a reconstruction of burial 116 of Temple I, that of Hasaw Chan K'awil, one of Tikal's greatest rulers.

 

Museo Litico, inside the visitor centre, has stelae, altars and poster-size photographs, dating back to Tikal's rediscovery.

 

Tikal National Park is at an altitude of 600 m. The climate is warm and humid with an average of 24°C. Remember to take plenty of drinking water into the site, along with sun protector and insect repellant. The visitor center offers refreshments, books, maps, and souvenirs.

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