Tikal – Guatemala’s Prime Mayan SiteSunday, 8 May 2016
Although my recent visit to Guatemala – wearing my Global Heritage Fund archaeology hat – was principally to see the remote jungle site of El Mirador I also went back to Tikal, which I last visited way back in 1998. It’s a big contrast to El Mirador – no helicopter or jungle trek is required to get there, you just jump in a car or bus for the 45km trip from Flores.
Although it was no trouble getting to Tikal with the San Juan Travel minibus shuttle service I was way less than happy with the whole operation. I think they’re running a scam collecting Tikal entrance money from passengers and not giving them the entrance tickets. At the gate they don’t (always) check tickets so it’s quite possible to wander in and not realise you should have a ticket. Demand a ticket, as I did, and this San Juan Travel guy reluctantly pulls a crumpled ticket out of his pocket.
So that’s cheating the archaeological site out of the income it needs to maintain and improve things. There was more trouble when we came to return to Flores (I had a flight to catch), because the 3pm bus never turned up. Eventually three of us had to pay for a guy in a car to take us and I didn’t even have time to go around to the San Juan Travel office to complain. His battered old Mazda MX-6. ▼
◄ Tikal itself was wonderful, however, just like on my previous visit. Here’s the view down the Gran Plaza to Templo I from the top of Templo II. On that 1998 visit you could just march straight up the steep steps at the front of Templo II, now there’s a wooden stairway round the back. With today’s tourist numbers it’s probably a very good idea.
The big crowds are at the Gran Plaza, but there are plenty of other sites around Tikal where you can get away from other visitors. Here’s the pleasantly uncrowded seven temples of the Plaza de los Siete Templos. From there you can carry on to equally uncrowded El Mundo Perdido, The Lost World. ▼
▲ We finished up at the iconic lookout point, Templo IV. From the jungle Templo I and II pop up and then, a little to the right Templo V, the tarpaulin over the top indicating there’s some work going on.