I took the early morning shuttle from El Portal hostel to Flores, planning to explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal and from there make my way further east to Rio Dulce. The shuttle journey was tough going, the roads out of Semuc Champey were just as bad as those we had passed to get there, and the rain didn’t help much! Finally we arrived in Flores and made it to Hostel Los Amigos, I had a met a lovely Irish couple Eoin and Patrice, and we decided to book the Tikal sunset tour for the following day (the idea of doing the sunrise trip and waking up at 3am didn’t seem to appealing to any of us!).
The hostel was nice, pretty chilled out with a nice restaurant and bar. The room was a six bed dorm with a bathroom (and hot shower!) for 55 quetzal per night. The next day, I took it easy in the morning and got ready for our pick up from the hostel at about 1pm. The shuttle took us directly to the entrance of the ruins (about one hour from the hostel), from where our tour guide brought us through to the national park.
Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation and the site is part of Guatemala’s Tikal National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
During it’s peak as one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya (around 200 to 900 AD), the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically and militarily, interacting with areas such as Teotihuacán in Mexico.
The park itself is huge and filled with wildlife, howler monkeys, toucans, woodpeckers, wild turkeys and many more animals (these were the only ones we managed to spot though!). The ruins themselves are really impressive, especially as they are situated right in the middle of the jungle. We explored the ruins and were able to climb a number of them which was great. The views from the top of some of the bigger ruins were amazing, where you can look across and see the sheer vastness of the jungle around you, with the tops of the ruins peeking out from above the canopy of trees.
At the main plaza, we climbed up to the highest point possible and stayed there for the sunset. You can’t really see the sunset but the affect of the fading light on the ruins was beautiful.
The tour cost about 120 quetzals (I think!), to be honest it was good to have a guide but I think you could enjoy it without a guide just as much. The only benefit of being there on a tour is that you have access to the park either before/after opening hours – our tour went on until about 6.30pm or 7pm (to allow us to watch the sunset), but if you are there alone you have to leave by 6pm.
Afterwards we made our way back to the hostel and prepared to take off the next morning – it would be an early start for my bus at 6am to Rio Dulce!