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Posted by on Mar 18, 2011 | 0 comments

Papillon Photos: Tikal, Guatemala (Part 2)

Hi there. Are you ready for a fantastic expedition through Tikal?  I thought so.

Last week, I showed you photos of Tikal’s lesser known areas and structures.  The truth is that the park is enormous.  The whole complex contains more than 3,000 structures.  Most of them are still covered by the jungle and there are no plans for excavations. Today, we are going to take a look at the big pyramid temples.  Yes, hold on because this is as good as Tikal gets.

Temple V seen from below

Let me say that the tall structures we see today in the area were built from the late 7th to early 9th centuries.  This period of massive construction was known as Tikal resurgence (Late Classic Maya period).  Tikal was one of the most powerful Mayan cities during the Early Classic Maya Period.  As you can imagine, Tikal had serious problems with the other powerful cities during the time.  Its biggest (and powerful) enemies were Calakmul (today in Mexico) and Caracol (today and Belize).  One time Caracol beat up Tikal pretty bad.  Then, Caracol allied with Calakmul and hit Tikal even worse.  After this defeat, Tikal stopped building structures, writing and proceeding with its usual cultural activities.  This dark period in the city’s history is known as the Tikal hiatus.  Once Tikal recuperated, it started to build the giant pyramids that we can admire today.

Another view of Temple V

Last time, you saw the view from Temple IV (the view I presented of the rainforest and other tall temples was taken from Temple IV).  This is the tallest structure in Tikal with an altitude of 70m (230 ft).  The bottom of the temple is covered with rainforest and only the tip is visible.  You climb the temple though wooden stairs constructed on the side of the temple.  The stairs are easy to climb even though the top is really high.  Believe it or not, this is not the tallest Maya structure in the world.  The tallest structure is called La Danta Temple and can be found in the city of El Mirador (still Guatemala but close to the Mexican border).  La Danta is 30 feet higher than Temple IV.

Then, we moved to the area containing Temple V.  This is the second highest structure in Tikal.  Now, the climb to the top of this temple is more challenging.  The stairs are completely vertical.  For a chicken like me, it took a long time to go up and down (sorry people who was climbing or going down after me).  Once at the top, the view was magnificent. 

Stairs used to climb Temple V

View from Temple V

Another view from Temple V

 Finally, we arrived to the Gran Plaza area.  This is where the Temple of the Gran Jaguar (Temple 1) and the Temple of the Masks (Temple II) are located.  The plaza is surrounded by an acropolis or a residential area.  Some of the buildings have notable signs of erosion but it is easy to imagine how this area was more than 1,000 years ago.  You can climb the Temple of the Masks but not the Temple of the Grand Jaguar.  It was great to lie down in the center of the Gran Plaza while being covered by the shadow of the two big temple pyramids.

Temple of the Grand Jaguar or Temple 1

View of the Acropolis

Now, let’s talk about the options you have to get to Tikal.  If you are in Guatemala City, you can take a domestic flight to Flores which is the town closest to the National Park.  Alternatively, you can take a bus from the capital to Flores.  An overnight bus makes the trip every night and takes about 9 hours.  I am talking about big private buses which are generally safe to use.  I assume there is also public transportation doing the route.  However, I can’t recommend you to take this option due to security concerns.  Get informed before taking the decision of using public transportation.

Temple of the Grand Jaguar seen from the residential complex

Close up of the top of the Temple of the Grand Jaguar. Original top was removed and is currently in foreign museums.

If you are in San Ignacio, Belize, it is easy to get to Tikal.  There are a lot of companies offering excursions to the park.  Most companies price the excursion at about the same price and have similar tour guide quality.  Now, there is a big difference you should be aware of.  Some include Belize departure fees and entrance to Guatemala fees on its price.  Others do not include this so you will have to pay from your own pocket once at the border.  Therefore, pick a company that includes all the border crossing fees.   In other words, if the excursions are equally price, pick the one which offers more for your money.

Climbing one part of the acropolis

Temple of the Masks seen in the background

You can also use public transportation to get to the border and then take another bus to Flores.  Again, do some research before deciding to use public transportation.  These areas are safer when compared to Guatemala and Belize cities.  I will consider public transportation an option in this case.

Another photo showing the Temple of the Grand Jaguar

 Remember to get your passport stamped every time you move between Belize and Guatemala.  You don’t want to go thru an uncomfortable situation (yes, it happened to me).

Well, this is it for now.  Hope you enjoyed the post. Bye.

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