Tikal is one of the most important Mayan sites in northern Guatemala and was inhabited by the Maya since 1000 BC. It is also one of the best explored Mayan sites and has been considered abandoned since the 10th century. In Tikal in Guatemala you can experience the history of the Maya up close and walk among the temples in the jungle. Tikal is very well developed and easy to reach by bus from nearby Flores.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
How to get from Flores to Tikal in Guatemala?
Since all tour operators pack their people into the same buses, it doesn’t matter where you book your tour*. So you can choose the cheapest one. We were picked up from our hotel in Flores at 04:30 in the morning … and not by bus, but on foot, which surprised us a bit.
We then walked after the guide and the other guests through the city to pick up other passengers. Not exactly the nicest activity at half past four in the morning. If we had known that, we would have just walked to the bus parking lot ourselves.
The bus was also packed and occupied up to the last (emergency) seat, on which I was of course allowed to sit. Unfortunately, we did not like that, especially since the other tourists in the back of the bus were very noisy and thus the volume from behind was not to be underestimated.
The buses to Tikal leaves at the following times:
- 03:00: If you want to see the sunrise in Tikal, you have to take this early bus. Since we were in Guatemala during the rainy season, our tour provider advised us not to go there that early because it would not make sense in the morning cloud cover.
- 04:30: If you want to be there when the park opens, you have to take this bus
- 12:00: If you want to stay until sunset.
For the return trip from Tikal to Flores you have the following options:
- 11:00 (If you want to go back directly after the guided tour)
- 12:30 p.m
- 18:30 (If you want to see the sunset on the spot)
You only have to decide in advance on a time for the outward journey and then you can organize the return journey quite flexibly. You just stay as long as you like. We went back at 12:30 and the time was enough to visit many of the temples.
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Do you have to stay overnight in Flores if you want to go to Tikal?
Of course not. But it makes the most sense and is the cheapest option. Besides, Flores is really a beautiful city and is worth spending a few days there. But then you have to take the 1.5 hours to get there and back. If you don’t want to do that, then there is still the possibility to stay overnight directly in Tikal.
In Tikal itself there are 3 rather luxurious resorts, which start at about 100 € per night. The advantages are obvious. You are the first ones in the national park in the morning and the first ones back in the hotel in the evening. And you save the exhausting drive. If you are willing to pay the much higher price for the hotels directly in Tikal*, then you can have a look at them under the following link:
Our Experiences in Tikal Guatemala
Tikal was to be our first visit to a Mayan site. When I think of Mayan temples, I think of a mystical atmosphere and ruins in an enchanted jungle. Unfortunately, Tikal is rather the opposite of that. These are perfectly exposed Mayan ruins that have been developed for tourism and therefore do not give off a spark of mystical atmosphere. At least that was our impression. In addition, there are the masses of tourists who are always loudly noticeable.
There we sat now in the drizzle on the highest of the Maya temples and tried to enjoy the view, while in front of us a group of tourists shouted repeatedly loudly “CHEESE” for the camera and on the other side a group of young people sounded us with gangster rap from the cell phone. This was not the mystical jungle atmosphere we had imagined.
Nevertheless, the numerous temples are very beautiful to look at. But it only takes a little imagination to picture how an advanced civilization ruled here hundreds or almost thousands of years ago, and produced this wonderful architecture. Many of the temples in Tikal are not even uncovered, but have lain dormant for centuries under a dense dress of bushes and trees. If you didn’t know that one of the most important Mayan sites is located here and you just happened to walk through this forest, you wouldn’t even recognize these green hills as temples.
This is probably one of the reasons that Tikal remained undiscovered for so long. All in all, we were of course impressed by the architectural masterpiece of the ancient Maya and also by the importance and history of Tikal. But, anyone who has been to Angkor in Cambodia like I have, has probably seen more impressive temples. In Angkor I found the atmosphere much more intense and mystical. Maybe one reason was that on the day of our stay the Guatemala Triathlon passed through Tikal. Or the Mayan culture is just not for us. But that should not stop you from visiting this unique site.
Do I Need a guide to visit Tikal?
We had organized a tour with a guide from Flores, and that although we prefer to travel on our own. But the guide only cost us Q 20 more per person and it was worth it to us. In total we paid Q 80 for the tour including guide per person and were very satisfied. The group was quite huge (about 40 people), but the guide spoke perfect English and was a super funny guy who gave us a lot of interesting info about the history of the Mayas.
Besides, the tour was over after about 2.5 hours. After that, everyone could explore the area on their own and climb the temples on their own. Since the return trip by bus was also very flexible, it was the perfect mix for us.
Tips for visiting Tikal in Guatemala
- The entrance fee to Tikal National Park is Q150, if you want to go directly to see the sunrise/sunset, it is Q250
- When you arrive by bus, you can buy snacks and drinks
- On the grounds of Tikal there are very few stalls where you can buy drinks
- Drones are forbidden in Tikal and it is also pointed out on some signs inside and outside the area. Of course I could not miss the chance to fly there secretly
- There is only a large overview map directly behind the entrance of Tikal. Take a picture of it with your cell phone so you don’t have to buy one.
- Souvenirs you can buy after the visit of Tikal, behind the exit on the right side on a large area. But they are much more expensive than in Flores.
Do you have questions or maybe more tips for visiting Tikal Guatemala? Then leave us a comment.