I think I finally figured it out. I think I felt the same way about Tikal as I did about the Grand Canyon. I just didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it either though. Maybe I don’t have this all figured out. It was my fourth and final ruin site. Maybe I was running out of ruin steam. That didn’t take long. After all, I did just see Coba, Tulum, and Cahal Pech within a week or so. This just seems so weird that I didn’t love it because I did have fun there.
I do think that if I was there by myself I would have liked it much less. It was quite an adventure though, and I enjoyed the way it happened. It all started with the idea to stay up all night for the early morning tour. Not sunrise early, but the right after sunrise tour.
The evening before we left, there were a few drinks consumed by everyone. Eventually, two of us decided we wanted tacos and we were determined to find them. Find them we did in a local bar on the waterfront. I felt like the center of attention walking through there with my pasty skin, still untouched by the golden rays of the sun. It was still early in my trip, I couldn’t help it. These were the best tacos ever and totally worth the stares. I even liked the pork tacos and I don’t like pork that much. They were that good.
After that, we got locked out of our hostel. This happened around 2:30 AM and we didn’t want to wake up every person in there, but we also didn’t want to sleep in the street. We were finally let in for our whopping hour of sleep. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and I was the first to wake up and ended up waking up the other two that were going from my hostel.
Have you ever walked into a hostel dorm room to wake someone up hoping you weren’t waking up a complete stranger? I have. It’s weird. Thankfully, it was the right person and I maybe only woke up a couple others as collateral damage. Sorry guys!
Finally, we’re on our way! The first stop after arrival at the park was for the bathroom and coffee. This is when I met a Chinese girl that was studying in Wisconsin. What are the chances! This was her escape from the cold, too, but she was headed back in a few short days.
Somehow we became part of a group. Shortly after, we were told we had to part ways if we didn’t pay for the tour guide we were currently with. What? We paid for a tour? Right, yes, we paid for a tour. Perfect, we’re on our way then!
But, of course, this luck wouldn’t last. Was this even luck? Batteries were dying left and right and a solar charger wasn’t doing much of anything. I was stuck using my phone for pretty much all of my pictures because tequila left me a bit unprepared. Oh well, life goes on!
The guide was beneficial though and I’m glad we stuck with him. You know I don’t like tours because I’m horribly forgetful and just like to wander around, but it was very cool to hear about the history and he was good for help with animals we at least heard. I would definitely recommend going with a guide, at least for part of it.
I’m not even sure how long we were at Tikal, it was a long time, but it ended up being fun. I didn’t see much wildlife but did get to see the whole jungle. That wasn’t too horrible. I did like that we could go to the top of some temples. There were stairs on the back leading up to the top for wonderful views of more jungle temples. Some smaller ones you could just climb right up the front. I definitely spent more time here than any other ruins and could have spent way more if I was a little more prepared.
Where is Tikal?
The Tikal Ruins are in Tikal National Park which is in the northern region of Guatemala, not too far from the Belize border. It’s a popular day trip from San Ignacio, Belize as well as Flores.
They are just over an hour from Flores which is where most people that are visiting stay, but if you want to be a little closer, El Remate is just 40 minutes from Tikal.
How much is Tikal?
It’s about 150 Quetzales ($20) to enter the park, but if you book a tour from anywhere, it would most likely be included. I don’t remember how much I paid for my tour, but I think it was really just transportation there. It looks like tours are anywhere from $30+.
Sunrise tour tickets are 250 Quetzales and any tickets purchased after 3PM are good for the next day as well. Some trips from town include a guide, some don’t, so make sure to ask about that if you definitely want to go with a guide. And I would highly recommend that you do go with a guide. I don’t usually like to because I don’t take much in that way, but I’m really glad we tagged along.
How to get to the Tikal Ruins
You can book tours from pretty much any tour agency or hostel in Flores and San Ignacio. This is going to be the easiest and most efficient way to get from Flores to Tikal. There are most likely public buses that can take you there as well, but the time and effort may not be worth it.
I think when we left Tikal for Flores, we just got on one of the collective shuttle things and didn’t have a specific time we had to leave, so we could have spent all day there but, obviously after the last night that wasn’t happening. The last bus/shuttle leaves at 5:30PM.
You can even do a day tour from Antigua, which includes a flight there and back. If you’re only visiting southern Guatemala, this is a great option if you really want to see Tikal because it’s like, a million hours on a collectivo from Antigua to Tikal and not something you could easily do in a couple of days.
What to bring to the Tikal Ruins
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too. Whatever you can find in Flores would be good, too.
Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated. A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long. Bring lots of water to stay hydrated.
Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.
Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.
Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the strong sun. Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly and if you’re going for sunrise or sunset, it will be cooler. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
How long do you need at the Tikal Ruins?
I would say at least four hours. There is sooooo much to see here, you could easily spend days here seeing all the temples and looking for wildlife. If you’re not still drunk with no sleep when you get there, it will be much more enjoyable to spend a whole day there.
You can spend some time with a guide and more time walking around on your own. There are park maps that you can get to help navigate your way through the temples and park grounds. I would love to go back and see even more of it. You can climb some temples right on the stone and others have stairs on the back so you’re not walking on the actual temple.
Spend some time relaxing in the temple courtyard areas in the morning before everyone else gets there. Walk around looking for birds and other wildlife in the thick jungle foliage. You can get a good mix of temples and jungle here.
Is Tikal Worth it?
Yes! While I wasn’t as thrilled about it as I hoped at the time, I do really want to go back. I think I would appreciate it a lot more now, kind of like Mesa Verde. It’s one of the most impressive Mayan Ruin sites in the area and 100% worth visiting.
Alright, maybe I liked Tikal a little more than the Grand Canyon. Thinking back on the experience and everything that happened, I realize I enjoyed it more that I thought. Maybe I think I enjoy it more than I actually did. I’m not sure, but now I’m a little more fond of it, so I guess it’s all worked out.
Have you been to Tikal? What did you think of it? Do you want to go? What is your advice for going?
3 thoughts on “Tikal at Almost Sunrise”