Exploring Guatemala – Tikal

Sunday afternoon we were picked up by a tourist bus to take us to Tikal which was about an hour away from Flores.   We enjoyed the tour guide’s banter and, by the time they dropped us off at our hotel, we had signed up for a ‘sunrise tour’ for the following morning.  We checked in and walked through the gardens to our room at the Tikal Jungle Lodge.   This turned out to be a lovely little bungalow with outside seating….with jungle views.   Very nice!

Lodge bungalows Room 1 Room 2

Tikal Lodge RoomWe quickly unpacked and went for a wander looking at the hotel grounds, checking out the pool and the restaurant / lounge area.   

Lodge 3 Lodge 2 Lodge Lodge gardens Lodge pool Lodge gardens 2

Then we decided to take ourselves off out to explore the park.  We wandered to the visitor centre, admiring the little Mayan stalls, and the model which gave us a better idea of the scale of this place.   Oh yes, and we avoided the crocodiles along the way!

Tikal visitor centre Tikal shops Watch out!

Tikal was discovered in 1848 by the Coronel Modesto Mendez Ambrosio Tut.   It was opened to the public in 1955 and it was recognised as a site of humanities heritage by UNESCO in 1979.   Tikal, in Mayan, means In the Lagoon but it is still known as the Place of the Spirit Voices.   The Mayan civilisation dates from the year 800 BC until 900 AD and the nucleus of the city was about 65 km sq.    The park has 19 main areas with five main temples, a Gran Plaza (which took an estimated 1,000 years to build) and numerous unexplored areas which have been reclaimed by the jungle.   It is home to many species including jaguars, cotis, wild pigs, howler monkeys, spider monkeys and is a bird watcher’s paradise.  

Although not ready for a trek into the jungle we did walk for about an hour along well-maintained paths cut through the area.  We enjoyed the sounds and sights and we got quickly exhausted in the heat of the day. 

Tikal 1

So we turned around and went back to our room for a rest up.   After a while we went out for dinner and returned to our little bungalow for an early night.

Time for dinner

Waiting for us in our bathroom was a large spider and Richard tried to trap him in a glass but the diameter of the glass wasn’t big enough!!!   So this agitated the spider who then scampered around jumping like a lunatic and took refuge under the sink – sadly he had to be despatched as we couldn’t have slept knowing he was there. 

Monday morning – at 3.00 am – and the alarm went off.  This eco-lodge shuts off the generator from 10pm to 7am so there are no lights at all so we even had to wash using a light from a head torch LOL.  Equipped with that and a flashlight app on the phone we headed into the pitch black – so dark you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face – and made it to the hotel reception where we were met by Carlos (our guide) for the sunrise tour at 4.15.  

We walked in the dark – at a steady pace – for about an hour and learnt a lot about the Mayan culture until we reached the base of Temple IV and then we started the long climb up the 200+ steps to the top.    They were, thankfully, wooden with handrails until we reached the very top.    Then we climbed the original walls until we took our place against the wall and sat waiting along with other tourists.   The forest canopy started to be seen through the gloom but it was too misty for a view of the sunrise or the tops of the temples poking through the trees.   We sat for a while but had to admit defeat after an hour or so….so made the long walk back down.  

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We visited lots of sites with Carlos before we returned to the hotel for breakfast at 9.00 am.   After breakfast we headed back out into the jungle and returned for the canopy view now that the mist had cleared – and it was certainly worth the effort – and, if it looks eerily familiar, think George Lucas and Star Wars!  Tikal is a magical place and we enjoyed the visit greatly.

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Back to the lodge and we decided to get connected, so went into the lounge area, for the internet.    We also told reception that, as we were flying in the morning, we were going to be leaving at 5.00 am for the airport so would check out this evening.  What time did reception close?

This was met with a stunned silence – oh no they said – you can’t do that!   Why not?  The park is closed tomorrow morning until 7.00 am.  Why?   A meeting.   So what – all we want to do is leave by minibus.   Oh no, you won’t be able to, as the minibus will not be permitted to enter the park to pick you up.  So what’s the answer then?   We will transfer you to our sister hotel in Flores (the Isla de Flores) put you up in the best room and then transfer you to the airport in the morning free of charge.   Disappointed – but what can you do – we headed back to our room and started to pack ourselves up.  Just grateful that we hadn’t prepaid for the airport transfer.    

At 1.30 we left Tikal and arrived back here in Flores an hour later.    Oh yes….and guess what….it was like ground hog day as they gave us the keys to the same room we had before!   

We are now enjoying the air conditioning again before we have an early dinner.  We are out of here at 5.45 am in the morning to go to Flores airport – where we are flying to Guatemala City – and then transferring onwards to our hotel in the ancient city of Antigua (which used to be Guatemala’s capital city).    On with the adventure!

Bye for now