Tikal: Ancient Mayan Ruins
The ancient city of Tikal is one of the world’s leading travel wonders and is situated about a half hour away from the island city of Flores and only a few hours from the Belizean border. Many seasoned travelers and explorers swear that Tikal is one of the most powerful spiritual spots on the entire planet – and they just might have it right! What was once a wealthy metropolitan center with an estimated population of anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 citizens is now an enchanted region of ruin, where over 3,000 different structures emerge from the surrounding jungle and whisper of what life was like long before the Spaniards ever arrived.
Tikal: Rich in History and Legend
Tikal translates into the “Place of Voices” or the “Place of Tongues” but it is also known by the Mayan name of Mutal or Yax Mutal which means either “Green Bundle” or metaphorically, “First Prophecy”. In its heyday, Tikal was the seat of the great and powerful Jaguar clan, but today it has become a haven for archeologists, anthropologists, historians and avid naturalists. A great deal of the existing structures have been excavated and restored, and thousands of people visit this treasure each year. The city was established sometime around 600 B.C. and went on to reign for another 1,500 years as a religious, scientific and political center of the Mayan world. In fact, the land of Tikal is such a treasure that UNESCO declared it a Heritage of Humanity site and it is now protected by laws, regulations and regular government involvement. Indeed, Tikal (which covers an area of nearly six square miles) is now in the midst of a 220 square mile wildlife preserve where you can view howler monkeys, parrots, white lipped peccaries, brocket deer, coati-mundis, toucans, scarlet macaw, ocelots, and even the occasional jaguar.
If you plan on exploring the ancient wonder of Tikal, you’ll want to set aside no fewer than two days for your exploration. There are so many towering pyramids, and crumbling ruins that you could never manage to discover it all in any shorter time period. There are palaces, temples, ceremonial platforms, ball courts, terraces, plazas, avenues and baths, each one filled with enough wonder, mystery and enchantment to dazzle you for hours on end. Perhaps the most prevalent structures of the Mayan pyramids, gigantic structures modeled after the sacred mountains that the Maya believed provided them with the life giving staple of maize, or corn. Other structures you won’t want to miss include:
- The Temple of the Giant Jaguar
- The Temple of the Masks
- The Temple of the Jaguar Priest
- The North Acropolis
- The Central Acropolis
- The Great Plaza
- The Plaza of the Lost World
- The Temple of the Inscriptions
- And over 42 different palatial estates.
A Modern Look at an Ancient Marvel
Excavations began in the area for the first time in 1848, but even after all of those years, new discoveries and mysteries are popping up every single day. Today, you can take part in this exploration and get your own first hand taste of what a magnificent and technologically advanced society the Maya had created while many nations were locked into the world of the Dark Ages. And, don’t be too surprised if it looks a little bit familiar upon arrival. Tikal provided the background scenery of the Rebel Base in George Lucas’s epic film, Star Wars.