The next morning in Flores we had to wake up super early to get the bus and drive to the Mayan ruins of Tikal to see the sunrise from the top of the biggest Mayan Pyramide.
When we arrived it was still dark and our guide was already waiting for us. We had to hurry a bit and walk another 20 minutes through the dark jungle towards the highest pyramid to see the sun rise from there and watch the jungle waking up.
On our way we already heard the howler monkeys making a lot of noise.
If you wouldn't know that they are monkeys you would think it's some dangerous animal. In fact we learned that this is the same sound, that was used in the jurassic park movie for the T-Rex scene.
Once we went up the highest pyramid of Tikal (47m) we witnessed how the jungle woke up! First we just heard the howler monkeys, then they got quiet all of the sudden and the birds started to sing. Tukans were flying from one side to the other and parrots started to gather.
Even though it was a bit clouded on that day, we enjoyed also a wonderful sunrise. The vibe was just mystical.
Of course we also had a little breakfast there before we went further ;)
Tikal is one of the most important archeologic sights of the Mayan culture. The exact translation of the name is not certain but it could have mean "Flower". The oldest ceramic found at the place is about 3900 years old which means that people must have lived here already 900 b.Chr. - I know, impressive right??
The first temples were finished about 500 years later. At this time Tikal was kind of a power centre in Latin America. Until the 9 century it stayed being an important city and started to grow a lot in the 5 century when the Mayan king decided to attack the neighbor cities and make them part of theirs. This is when Tikal started to have problems with Calakmul in the north, which finally got conquered by them in the 8th century. Between the 9th and the 10th century Tikal got weaker and weaker and people left until the city was totally empty.
The number of inhabitants is estimated to about 50 000 in the beginning and 1 million at its best times.
The mayan people of today never really forgot about the place, but the Spanish didn't know about it and so with the time the jungle grow over it. It was discovered when locals were searching for gum trees to sell to the US and ever since archaeologist try to dig more temples out and renovate them.
This is the little plant, the locals were searching. It is used to produce chewing gum.
The city of Tikal is about 65 square kilometers big. It has about 3000 buildings and about another 10 000 that have to get freed by trees to rebuild them.
However, you can not visit all of that in just one day, so most of the people just come and visit the "city center" (map below), it is possible though to do a guided tour over days through the jungle, to see more of the city.
As Tikal is so big we had a little tour first with Henry (our guide) and then walked around by ourselves a bit.
Henry brought us to several temples, showed us secret ways to move around, pointed out animals for us and told us a lot about the ancient history of the Mayan culture.
From ants till coatis and parrots - we saw a surprisingly many animals so close to touristy sights! In Mexico that is different. I loved how original this place is.
Of course we climbed a few other temples as well and enjoyed the nice view over the jungle.
After we got the main tour we arrived at the most important and most famous part of the ruins: The Jaguar Temple
Here we walked around by ourselves and enjoyed the majestic architecture. Its incredible how precise the mayan were working 3000 years ago!! - Really mystical to walk around at a historical place like that!
This place was just the perfect highlight and ending for this informative and adventurous trip.
From here we walked back through the rainforest once again admiring the nature.
We took the shuttle back to Flores and enjoyed our last evening there before we would go on to Belize the very next day. But more about that soon, so stay tuned!
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Here you can check out my previous posts about Guatemala: