Tikal National Park and archeological site is an enormously beautiful experience. I got to see it all. Sunset with rainforest and temples in the foreground, diverse wildlife, and well-preserved ruins with lots of history. If you come prepared, this might be the greatest outdoor experience you will get in northern Guatemala!
I met up with two friends, whom I met in San Ignacio, and got a bus from El Remate towards Tikal. Before the entrance to the site, you need to present your passport, buy an entrance ticket, which of course depends on the number of days you want to spend there (150Q/day). Be sure to bring enough cash for this part. Here we also got our camping ticket (50Q), since the cheapest option was to rent a hammock for one night!
The bus takes you two the main area where the three hotels and the camping ground is placed.
We rented hammocks (50Q), had them hung up and locked our bag packs with wires making them securely locked to each other.
Here I also used my PacSafe pouch where I put my valuables that I did not bring on the hike into the park. You can buy it on Amazon, and you can use it as a safe!
After setting up camp we went to explore the site. Before entering Tikal you must present your entrance ticket and in return you get a bracelet at the ticket control booth. If you are camping you also have a bracelet on, which you got when you bought the entrance ticket.
Equipped with a MapsMe download of Tikal we entered the site without guides. One of my companions had all of Wikipedia installed on his phone and thus acted as our personal guide! It is possible to see the site on your own, it depends on how you care about safety, being a tourist in a crowd with a guide, and if you’re into spotting some local wildlife.
Either way, you will likely see the little Coatis, they are curious little animals with a long snout and tail but please don’t feed them! I spotted lots of other animals including Spider monkeys, toucans, Lesson’s Motmot and many other birds.
We climbed some of the ruins using the wooden staircases to Templo II, III and IV. From Templo IV we walked to Mundo Perdido, from where we could see the sunset from atop the structure.
From Mundo Perdido, we watched the most spectacular sunset. You get a view over the rainforest, toucans flying from treetop to treetop.
Make sure you don’t wait too long to leave, as the park closes at 6 pm! By then it will be dark and creepy, here you can use a head torch to guide you down the paths. Bear in mind that some paths might be slippery due to mosses and moisture. Follow the other groups back to the entrance or make sure you know the way before waiting for the last minute to leave!
After a long day of hiking through the moist forest and dirty paths, it was time to treat ourselves with some dinner at one of the hotels.
We treated ourselves at the restaurant at Jaguar Inn, we all ordered delicious pastas and paid by credit card. Win!
Then we went to stay at the campsite. This was a very rustic experience, and if you’re afraid of the dark or of wildlife this is not for you, and you should book a day tour or hotel room.
It was a very cold night, and unless you have blankets and layers of clothes or perhaps a good sleeping bag, you will not have a good night’s sleep.
It was, however, an very wild experience to sleep *almost* under the stars. I listened to all the nocturnal wildlife. It reminded me of the time in 2012, where I slept in a dried river bed in South Africa, which was one of the coolest outdoor experiences I’ve had still to this day.
Packing list for two days exploring with one-night of camping in rented hammocks:
- Sturdy shoes, water, lock, PacSafe or wire, day pack, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, enough cash for transportation to Flores, entrance, food, water, hotel or camping (unless you paid for a hotel room online).
After staying in Tikal for one night we took the bus to Flores, you can grab a bus directly from the site, just ask around for the time schedule.
© All photos are my own and may not be used without permission.