In Tikal, it’s a jungle out there these days

Long before they served as the Rebel moon base at Yavin IV, the skyscrapers of Tikal were part of an important Mayan urban area that sprawled over 100 square kilometers.  The Temples that remain today, which date from as early as 600 BC, poke through the jungle in the lowlands of El Peten, about an hour’s drive from where I’m staying in this tiny island town of Flores.

Tikal temple in misty light

I woke up at Stupid O’Clock yesterday hoping to see sunrise over Tikal, but on the misty morning that was in it, we instead got to watch the temples appear out of the mist, as howler monkeys roared through the jungle and toucans took their places in the jungle canopy.

If you’re visiting Tikal from Flores, an excellent guide is Caesar from Little Caesar’s Travels (e-mail), who gave us a passionate and informative tour of the site.  I don’t tend to go in for guided tours, but Caesar was very insightful about the structures, flora and fauna, and kept my interest all morning.  A few of us tagged along for his tour after ditching the abysmal guide which we’d booked through San Juan Travel Agency (something I think Caesar is used to, and he was very happy and charming while receiving tips from us tagalongs).

There’s plenty of information about Tikal’s history and the relevance of its steep-sided temples at Wikipedia and elsewhere.  The biggest mystery, it seems, is why the site was ultimately abandoned to the jungle around the 10th Century AD.  Overpopulation?  Environmental destruction?  Drought?  Warfare with neighbouring states?  Who knows.

Anyway, something to think about as you look at the photos!


  1. Cheers Jon – I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one whose first association with Tikal is Yavin IV… truth be told I had forgotten that until I was looking at the view in the photo above, and was sitting there thinking… I’ve seen this before!

    Hoping you’re doing well and I do hope you get the chance to visit here some day. It actually isn’t very hard from North America: I had a super-cheap flight from Detroit to Guatemala City, and for Tikal you can either travel overland (circa 9 hours by bus) or by air (just over $100, TACA Airline) from Guatemala City to Flores. Flores is an ideal staging ground for visiting Tikal.

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