Tikal is located 65 kilometers north to Flores (approximately one hour drive), inside Mayan Biosphere. A full day visit is recommended. Inside Tikal National Park there is a Visitors Center with a Restaurant, handicrafts vendors and two museums (Stone Structures and Ceramic Museum).
Tikal which means ¨City of voices of the Mayan Spirits, is the main tourist-archeological resource of all Central America and it was declared in 1979 by the UNESCO a “Cultural Patrimony of Mankind”, in light of its unequaled value of gathering endless cultural and natural resources.
The size of Tikal is 57,600 hectares and has around 3,000 constructions that include palaces, acropolis, ball game, temples, streets, plazas, steles and others; many of them are even under vegetation. The first evidences of occupation of the site go back to the year 800 BC, within the Middle Pre-Classic period. The last constructions found correspond to the occupation period that contributed to a high cultural, artistic, urban, mathematical, astronomical, agricultural, and commercial development.
The archeological ruins of Tikal are combined with the magic of the exuberant Vegetation of the Rain Forest that nest more than 300 species of birds, toucans, yelling monkeys, jaguars, snakes, cedar trees, orchids, bromeliaceous, and so more.
The Great Plaza is the epicenter of the complete site and is considered to be the most spectacular site in the Tikal architectonic group, product of more than a millennium of construction activities. To the north, the Great Plaza is bordered by a line of carved stele and altars that do not contain great part of the dynastic sequence of Tikal. Immediately to the north, lie a group of ceremonial buildings called the Northern Acropolis, which was also used as a mausoleum for the governing families. South, and in contraposition with the ceremonial, lies another group of palace-type structures, called the Central Acropolis, which were used as homes and for administrative activities. Temple I, or the Great Jaguar, lies on the east side, as well as a ball field of reduced dimensions, while Temple II, or the Temple of the Masks lies to the west.
The Plaza of the Great Pyramid or the Lost World
Located at approximately 300 mts. southwest of the Great Plaza, this plaza acquires its importance due to the presence of the oldest building in Tikal, which is currently visible and is called the Great Pyramid or Structure 5C-54. It is approximately 35 mts. high and forms a group of astronomical commemoration, together with structures 5D-84, 5D-86, 5D-88, located east of it. 400 mts. to the southwest of said plaza, is group 6C-XVI or The Masks.
Plaza of the Seven Temples
Located at the east of the Great Pyramid plaza, this plaza is conformed by series of ceremonial buildings of the Late Classic Period. Among these, you will find a triple ball field, located north of the plaza, seven small temples on the eastern side, and a magnificent ceremonial building to the south. The western part of the plaza is closed by the back of the temples of the Great Pyramid plaza. You can observe a 5-door palace, which corresponds to the Early Classic Period, which was filled up and used as a foundation for another building during the Late Classic Period.
Calzadas Méndez y Maler opens into it. You can observe temple 51D-38 and structure 5D-43, which is characterized by its “Tald-Tabler” style, as well as the unrestored structures, the market and a ball field. Here you can find a resting are in this area with restrooms.
There are no restored buildings in this area. You can observe many smooth stele and altars. Here you can find a resting area with restrooms, and a refreshments’ stand for visitors.
There are six big temples inside Tikal, all of them built during the Classic Period.
Temple I: Also called the temple of the Great Jaguar. It encloses the Great Plaza to the east, and is 45 mts. high. It was built around 700 AC by Governor Ad Cacao, whose tomb (grave 116) was found inside. A replica of this tomb lies in the Sylvanus G. Morley Museum.
Temple II or “Temple of The Masks”: Encloses the Great Plaza to the west, and are 38 mts. high. Same as Temple I, it was built by Governor Ah Cacao.
Temple III or “Temple of the Great Priest”: Located west to Temple II, it is approximately 50 Mt high and was built around 810 AC. It has an original threshold, carved in wood, whose main character is dressed with the skin of a jaguar.
Temple IV or “Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent”: Located west to the Great Plaza, it is 65 Mt. high, being the highest structure in Tikal. It was built around 470 AC, by Governor Yaxkin Caan Chac. South to this temple is a parking lot, a resting area and restrooms.
Temple V: Located west to the Central Acropolis, it is 57 Mt. high and was built around 750 AC.
Temple VI or “Temple of the Engravings”: Located south to Calzada Méndez. On its cresting, you will find the longest hieroglyphic in Tikal and on it the date of 766 AC is mentioned. It is believed that the temple was built by Governor Yaxkin Caan Chac and the glyphic engraving was placed later, by Governor Chitán. Stele 21 and altar 9 are located in front of the temple.
Complex of the Twin Pyramids: Group composed by four buildings is given this name, these being: two truncated pyramids with stairs on both of their sides, located east and west from the plaza. South lies a structure with 9 illusory entries and to the north, the structure called area of the stele. Within the area is a stele with its altar, which is mostly carved. In front of the eastern pyramid, you will find 9 smooth steles with their altars, 5 of which are open to the public. Seven of these complexes have been discovered up to this day in Tikal. These were built at 20-year intervals (time frame that equals 20 years), in order to commemorate the purposes of Katún.