One of my favourite travel memories is from the time I spent at the Tikal ruins in Guatemala.  

I left one afternoon with someone I had met at the hostel in nearby Flores to the Mayan city of Tikal.  We had the intentions of staying overnight in a hammock next to the entrance so we could get into the site before anyone else.  However, our bus trip to the ruins got us to the site hours before closing time so we decided to enter that night.  As dark began to settle in a security guard tried to whisk us out of the site, saying that as soon as the sun goes down the site closes.  

My co-traveler asked the guard how much it would cost to stay the night inside the grounds. However the security guard did not sense the intention of a bribe, and simply told us “you can’t it’s too dangerous.”  My friend pulled a 20 dollar US note from his pocket and stuffed it in the hand of the guard and said “we’d like to sleep up there,” as he pointed to the top of one of the pyramids; and we did.  

Imagine trying to sleep on the top of an ancient pyramid as howler monkeys howl, toucans squawk, and anything else that can make sound is doing the same as well.  In the end, I didn’t sleep at all, however I did have one of the greatest experiences of my life.  Tikal ruins all to ourselves!

The below photos from Tikal are not taken from that visit, but rather my most recent visit in 2010.

Coming into the site of Tikal you are welcomed by giant pyramids that stretch through the jungle canopy
From the top of one of the pyramids you can see the others peeking their head from the canopy as if they’re standing guard over the jungle
The ruins have become weathered over the years, but the sheer size of this great Mayan city lends to the power that it must have once had
This city was once lost in the jungle.
Sites that were once locations of Mayan sacrifices to the gods are spotted throughout the city.
The main temple still stands strong hundreds years after its days of traditional use
It’s fun to sit and look upon this city in wonder of what it must have looked like full of people carrying on with regular life
Ceremonial tables seem to stand warning in front of some of the temples
In the nearby waters a croc came out to explore, or maybe just to bathe in the sun
The sun setting in nearby Flores

Where to Stay When Visiting Tikal

The nearby town of Flores is where most tourists stay. It’s a decent town with a nice touristy vibe. The options for staying in town are varied. If you’re looking for a hostel the top choice is Los Amigos Hostel. On a bit of a bigger budget, Hotel Casona del Lago is a great option with a beautiful swimming pool right on the lake.

You can also stay right outside the gates of Tikal at Hotel Tikal Inn. If you’re only around to visit the ruins, this is a great option.

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