A 45-minute flight from Guatemala City takes you to Flores in the steamy Petén region of northern Guatemala, staging post to reach Tikal's 3,000 temples, shrines, ceremonial platforms, ball courts and plazas in the heart of the jungle. A substantial portion of the complex remains unexcavated, and the site's jungle location gives it a mystical atmosphere; whether shrouded in dawn mist, or covered in tropical foliage.
This Mayan marvel still only receives around 200,000 visitors a year; a fraction of those at the other better-known Mayan and Incan sites. The most impressive of Tikal's structures are the six huge step pyramids or Temples I-VI, some towering over 200 feet above the humble tourist (who may recognise them from the original Star Wars movie). Yet the majesty of Tikal is apparent wherever you are; craning your neck upwards, peering giddily downwards, or gazing across the Grand Plaza at the temple tops rising above the jungle canopy on the skyline. The region's wildlife is plentiful and Tikal holidays are always accompanied by the sounds of chattering birds and howler monkeys, all adding to the unforgettable experience.
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What you can find in Tikal that you won't find anywhere else?
Tikal National Park provides that rare combination of culture and wildlife in one, with these ancient ruins found hidden away amongst over 800 species of trees that in turn are home to 57 species of reptile and 500 species of birds. There is even the possibility of seeing jaguars, tapirs and peccaries in this patch of Guatemalan jungle. But surrounding this National Park are some other must-see places. The small village of Flores is one of these, with its selection of handicraft shops dotted along the cobblestone streets, while the ancient Mayan ruins of El Mirador and the archaeological site of Yaxka are definitely worth spending a day or two exploring.