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Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 | 10 comments

Papillon Photos: Tikal, Guatemala

I haven’t been to a lot of Mayan ruins and that is actually not a good fact.  Why? Because I have been to Tikal and after seeing its grandiose temples I don’t know if I will be able to see other sites without being disappointed (I am exaggerating in here, a little bit of drama spice up things).

The truth is Tikal is one of those places that seem cut out of the real world.  It is a place of dreams where wild creatures roam free.  As a matter of fact, one of the areas of the complex is called “The Lost World” (very a la Jurassic Park).  Believe it or not, I almost miss the opportunity to visit this amazing place.  Yes, thanks to a series of unforeseen events.  Here is how the story goes.

Me entering Tikal National Park

During the second half of 2008, my husband and I did a three weeks trip around El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize.  While we were on El Salvador, I noticed my ATM card was not working.  The problem continued for several days so I decided to call my bank in the United States.  For some reason that I still do not understand, the bank canceled my ATM card and sent a new one to my apartment.  At that moment, the card was expiring in 2010 and to this day I don’t understand why the bank suddenly took that decision.  I called again in order to speak to another representative but I was notified of the same situation.  There was nothing to do. 

The ceiba - the sacred tree of the Mayas

To make the story short, I ended up really tight on cash.  We tried to charge most of our expenses to credit cards but in Central America it is difficult to move around for a long time without cash.  When I arrived to San Ignacio, Belize (the base city for my trip to Tikal), I was almost out of cash.  I had booked most of my Belize excursions from home but I wanted to get a better price for Tikal once in town.  Well, nobody was accepting credit to take you to Tikal.  I had no other option than to present one of my credit cards at a bank and ask for a cash advance (at least that bank in a little undeveloped town offered sandwiches and cold Coke to its customers).  I had depleted the cash advance limit from my other credit card.  After a total mess, I got the money to visit Tikal.  After being so close, I had to do everything to visit.

Small structure at the park.

The good thing about life is that after the storm there is calm.  Leaving aside all the negative emotions and energy, I was able to enjoy this magical place. 

Jungle seen from the top of a tall temple. Can you spot the other temple among the tree tops?

A closer view of the temples in the Gran Plaza

Me resting at the top of a temple

Tikal meaning can be interpreted as “The place of the Voices”.  Experts know that this wasn’t the ancient name for the site.  In the Classical Mayan Period, the city was called Yax Mutul which means First Mutul.  Apparently, there was another Mayan city called Mutul and the inhabitants of Tikal wanted to make sure their city was recognized as the oldest of the two cities.  Mutul means hair bundle (the precise meaning is unknown).

Structure at Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Beautiful structure at Tikal National Park

When people think about Tikal, they exclusively think about the Mayan ruins.  However, there is much more than the ruins of the ancient city.  The ruins are surrounded by deep jungle.  Both the ruins and the jungle are protected inside Tikal National Park.  The whole park is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You have to walk thru the rainforest while moving from area to area.

Having fun in while crossing the jungle.

This place is huge and contains thousands of structure.  Hence, there is more to see than the huge temple (but, of course, they are the most striking structures).

This structure is located in the area known as The Lost World

Structure in The Lost World area

Well, I will post  picture of the massive temples next week.  Hope you liked thi post featuring the lesser known areas of the park.

Temple seen thru the foliage


  1. I don’t have much of a desire to revisit Guatemala EXCEPT to hit up Tikal, which we missed the first time around. And, of course, my husband has one thing in mind: “REBEL BASE CAMP!” Star Wars freak.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..On Where I Am at the MomentMy Profile

    • When I went to Guatemala, I just wanted to see Tikal. While there, I discovered more places I would like to visit. But at least I already went to Tikal because is so remote. Now, I can concentrate in other areas.
      Ruth recently posted..Know Your World – HondurasMy Profile

  2. Thank goodness you made it! I love how the temples look popping out of the top of the forest canopy.

    • Michael, I definetly want to see more Mayan ruins. Well, in fact, I want to go to all the major sites. I never get tired of Mayan ruins. One day I will post my photos of Mayan ruins in Belize.
      Ruth recently posted..Thailand’s Blue Tiger- Day 5 Scene 1My Profile

  3. Tikal looks fascinating. I’ve been to Chichen Itza and was totally amazed. It was quite a long time ago, so I’m ready to visit more Mayan ruins — maybe Tikal will be next!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Traveling for a CauseMy Profile

    • Cathy, I would like to visit Chichen Itza. In fact, the Yucatan peninsula had so many Mayan ruins I want to visit that I think I will need to go like 4 times to visit all of them.

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