We travelled towards Guatemala and Tikal National Park from a town in Belize called San Ignacio. You can read about our time there here.
Once we had arrived at the border and safely crossed into Guatemala, our driver drove us through the park and dropped us off at the doorstep of the Tikal Inn where we would be staying for the night.
We chose this place as it was the cheaper of only two options for accomodation actually inside the National Park. It was only $30USD each and included dinner and a sunrise tour to Temple IV – more than a standard hostel but totally affordable. There are camping options for Tikal but you need to have your own gear and be very organised – neither of which we were.
Anyway, we put our stuff down and immediately headed towards the archaeological site. Tikal National Park is enormous and you’d need many days to see it all, so our plan was to see as much as we could that afternoon, get a decent rest, get up before sunrise and spend the rest of the next day exploring until we had to leave.
We explored until dark, which crept up on us incredibly quickly might I add – we ended up navigating from the ruins back to the Inn with our phone flashlights!
Here are some photos from that afternoon.
Dinner was an interesting experience. The servers spoke next to no english and our Spanish was pretty weak…….this was the first time I felt truly ashamed at my efforts in learning the language and vowed to get better over the coming days.
Everyone was served the same thing which was a beautifully cooked traditional meal of stewed chicken and rice. I had been vegan for three years and this was my first time eating chicken since going vegetarian – I chose to immerse myself in the culture and experience and really enjoyed the meal. I personally don’t have any qualms with eating local foods when travelling, especially when in small villages.
The inn had a swimming pool which we swam in before lights out – I can’t remember the exact time but basically all power was shut off between certain times. It didn’t really matter though because we were tired from exploring all day so went straight to sleep after dinner and a swim.
We woke up and met our guide in the lobby at 3:30am to start our hike to Temple IV. It was a peaceful fast paced walk in the pitch black, past many pyramids, structures and ruin sites to the tallest temple in the park and the tallest temple still standing in the Americas.
“Tikal Temple IV is a Mesoamerican pyramid in the ruins of the ancient Maya city of Tikal in modern Guatemala. It was one of the tallest and most voluminous buildings in the Maya world. The pyramid was built around 741 AD. Temple IV is located at the western edge of the site core. Temple IV is the tallest pre-Columbian structure still standing in the New World, although Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun may once have been taller. The pyramid was built to mark the reign of the 27th king of the Tikal dynasty, Yik’in Chan K’awiil, although it may have been built after his death as his funerary temple. Archaeologists believe that Yik’in Chan K’awiil’s tomb lies undiscovered somewhere underneath the temple.” (wikipedia)
Once we’d climbed to the top, we sat in the dark and waited for the sun to rise. Not long after sitting down, the jungle began to come alive with the sounds of nature, especially the eerie calls of the Howler Monkeys. Here is a video of some of the sound recordings I took.
It was a profound experience, sitting there as the jungle and distant temples slowly came into view with the rising of the sun. An experience that we will never forget.
Once the sun was well and truly up, we headed back down to the inn for some breakfast, before exploring the park for the rest of the day.
Highlights were the wildlife, including; Coatimundis, Woodpeckers, Oropendolas, Turkeys and other bird species.
We checked out at about 3pm and got on a shuttle to the town of Flores, Guatemala, just over an hour away. Flores is a town set upon a little island on Lake Peten Itza, connected to the ‘mainland’ by a bridge. A cute little colonial town complete with cobblestone roads and colourful buildings, Flores has a lot of character. However, we didn’t intend on staying more than one night here as there really wasn’t a whole lot on offer and we were keen to keep moving. After walking around and finding an ATM, we checked into a hostel called Los Amigos, grabbed dinner and a beer with a new friend/dorm-mate Erin, organised our shuttle for the next morning and called it a night.
The next day we began our journey to Semuc Champey, Guatemala. The hostel arranges daily transfers to many different locations throughout the country and we booked our shuttle to Lanquin, Guatemala with them without any hitches.
It was a 12 passenger van and an eight hour journey…..yep. It was rough, but the peoplewe were travelling with were all quite friendly and we felt somewhat safe along the way.
Click here to read about our time in Semuc Champey!