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24 Things to Know Before Visiting Tikal National Park in Guatemala

24 Things to Know Before Visiting Tikal National Park in Guatemala

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Are you planning your first trip to Guatemala? Keep scrolling to find out the top things I wish I knew before visiting Tikal National Park.
This list of things I wish I knew before visiting Tikal National Park was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

I have to admit, I had never heard of Tikal until I started planning a trip to Guatemala for the first time.

After a few minutes of research, I immediately knew I had to see this place for myself! Tikal National Park is home to some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the world.

Tikal isn’t just about ancient ruins; it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site recognized for its exceptional biodiversity. The park is a sanctuary for various species of flora and fauna, including spider monkeys, jaguars, and hundreds of bird species.

I seriously felt like I was Dora the Explorer while I was trekking through the jungle to see this incredible site!

Keep scrolling for my top tips for visiting Tikal for the first time!

What are the Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala?

Visiting the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala was like stepping into another world! Tikal National Park is home to some incredible structures that left me in awe.

The Great Plaza is this huge open space surrounded by tall temples and ancient buildings. It’s like the main hangout spot from thousands of years ago, and standing there made me feel like I was part of history.

Then there’s Temple IV, which is super tall. Climbing it was a bit of a workout, but the view from the top? Totally worth it! You can see over the jungle and spot other temples peeking through the trees.

And let’s not forget about the Central Acropolis, a maze of rooms and courtyards that was probably super important back in the day.

These ruins are not just old stones; they tell the story of a civilization that was really advanced. Adding Tikal to your Guatemala trip is a must because it’s not just cool to see, but it also makes you think about the people who lived there long ago. Trust me, it’s a place you’ll remember forever!

Best Time to Visit Tikal

I visited Tikal in mid-March, and let me tell you, it was the perfect time! The weather was amazing – not too hot and it didn’t rain at all.

Image of Marcie Cheung in front of ruins in Tikal National Park in Guatemala.
We visited Tikal in March and the weather was perfect! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

From what I learned, the best months to visit Tikal are from November to April. This is when the weather is coolest and there’s less rain, making it easier to explore the ruins without getting too sweaty or caught in a downpour.

March, when I went, is super popular among visitors, so I saw quite a few other tourists, but it wasn’t too crowded. If you’re planning a trip to Tikal, consider these months for the best experience!

How to Get to Tikal from Guatemala City

Getting to Tikal from Guatemala City was an adventure all on its own! I chose to fly because I heard it’s the quickest way. My flight to Flores was only about 45 minutes, but it was packed with excitement.

Image of Marcie Cheung on a flight from Guatemala City to Flores.
The flight has some pretty amazing views! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The coolest part? We flew past Fuego Volcano just as it was erupting! Seeing lava and smoke from above was something I’ll never forget.

If flying sounds like your thing, there are a few airlines that go from Guatemala City to Flores, which is super close to Tikal. The flight is short, so you won’t get too tired, and the views are unbeatable. Just make sure to pick a window seat!

For those who might prefer a more budget-friendly option, you can take a bus or a shuttle. It’s a longer journey, about 8 to 10 hours, but it’s a chance to see the countryside. Buses and shuttles can be pretty comfy, with some offering reclining seats and air conditioning.

Just remember to bring snacks, water, and maybe a pillow to make the trip as comfortable as possible.

No matter how you decide to travel, getting to Tikal is the start of an amazing adventure. Trust me, it’s worth the trip!

Where to Stay in Tikal

When you’re planning a trip to Tikal, figuring out where to stay is super important. You want a place that’s comfy, gets you close to nature, and makes visiting the ruins easy.

I stayed at La Lancha, and wow, was it amazing! Picture this: a cozy lodge nestled in the rainforest, high above the crystal-clear waters of Lago Petén Itzá. La Lancha has just 10 rooms, so it feels really special and private.

We were blown away by the secluded pool area, on-site restaurant, and traditional Mayan sauna. Check La Lancha rates.

The rooms are filled with cool furniture and decorations picked out by the Coppola family. Yes, like the famous movie director! It’s about a 45-minute drive to Tikal, but the journey is totally worth it because the views are stunning.

If you’re looking for a larger resort, check out Hotel Camino Real Tikal. It has 72 rooms, 2 on-site restaurants, an arcade/game room, a pool, and lots of outdoor activities. Check the latest hotel rates.

There are other great options too. If you want to stay even closer to Tikal, there are a few lodges right near the park such as Jungle Lodge Hotel, Hotel Jaguar Inn Tikal, and Hostal Jungle Lodge Tikal. These places let you wake up, eat breakfast, and be among the ancient ruins in no time.

And for those who love adventure, there are eco-lodges nearby that focus on being kind to the environment. These spots often have guides who can take you on jungle hikes or bird-watching tours.

No matter where you decide to stay, each of these places has something special. Whether it’s the breathtaking views at La Lancha, the convenience of being super close to Tikal, or the adventure of an eco-lodge, you’re in for an unforgettable trip.

How to Visit Tikal

Visiting Tikal National Park was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life! If you’re planning to go, here’s a step-by-step guide to make your trip as awesome as possible.

Tikal Entrance Ticket Fees

First, you need to know about the entrance fees and park hours. The entrance fee is around 150 quetzals, which is about 20 bucks. Kids under 12 can enter Tikal free of charge. Check current rates on their official website.

Image of the entrance to Tikal National Park
This is the entrance to go to the archeological sites. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The park usually opens from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., but times and fees can change if you’re going on a special tour, like the sunrise one I did.

Sunrise Tours

Speaking of which, you absolutely have to do stuff when you’re in Tikal. A must-do is the sunrise tour. My hotel helped me book it, and wow, was it worth it.

Image of Marcie Cheung in front of Temple IV in Tikal.
It was pretty epic to watch the sunrise while sitting on Temple IV! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

They picked us up super early, like 3:15 a.m. early, and we drove to Tikal in the dark. Meeting up with our guide, we walked in the quiet before dawn to this spot where we could watch the sunrise.

As the sun came up, it lit up the ancient temples and the jungle around us—it was magical. The guide also took us around the main sites afterward, giving us loads of cool info.

Top Tips for Visiting Tikal in Guatemala

So, for your Tikal visit, here are my top tips: wear comfy shoes because you’ll walk a lot, bring water and snacks, and don’t forget your camera because you’ll want to capture everything.

Most importantly, wear and bring BUG SPRAY! We doused ourselves at the entrance and then reapplied after sunrise. The bugs there are serious!

Also, listen to your guide; they know so much about the place and its history.

Image of the altar area at Tikal National Park in Guatemala.
Here’s an altar that Mayans still use today! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Trust me, visiting Tikal is something you’ll talk about for years. It’s not just about seeing old ruins; it’s about feeling a connection to the past and the incredible nature around you.

Best Tikal Tour Options

Tikal Sunrise Tour

We did a similar small-group Tikal sunrise tour and it was cool to hear all the early morning jungle sounds before the sun came up and lit this archeological site. This tour doesn’t include the entrance fees but it does include breakfast and lunch and it’s a more personal experience.

Tikal Ruins Guided Day Trip from Flores

If you’re staying on or near Flores Island, this tour is a great option. It includes transportation and a guide who will take you to all the top spots in Tikal. The only annoying part is that the tour doesn’t include the entrance fee to Tikal.

Tikal Sunset Tour

Another awesome time to visit Tikal is right before sunset. The lighting is great for photos and the park might be slightly less crowded since it’s a hotter time of day. This sunset tour also does not include entrance fees, so you’ll have to purchase those separately.

Visiting Tikal National Park FAQs

How many days do you need in Tikal?

I think spending at least a half day in Tikal is necessary to see the main ruins and get a feel for the place. We spent about 3.5 hours in the park and it was the right amount for me.

But if you really want to explore more deeply and maybe catch a sunrise or sunset, two days would be ideal.

Are there ATMs in Tikal?

No. You’ll want to get cash out before you arrive in Tikal.

Can I bring in food or drinks?

There aren’t really any trash cans in Tikal (except for the restrooms) and there are signs saying no food or drink. But, you should definitely bring a water bottle.

Is it worth visiting Tikal?

Absolutely, visiting Tikal is worth it! It’s not just about the ruins; it’s about experiencing a piece of ancient history and being surrounded by an incredible jungle. It’s one of the top places to visit in Guatemala.

Can you do a day trip to Tikal?

Yes, you can definitely do a day trip to Tikal, especially if you’re staying in Flores or nearby. It’s a popular option for many travelers. It’s also only a 45-minute flight from Guatemala City.

Can you visit Tikal without a tour?

You can visit Tikal without a tour, but having a guide can really enrich your experience. They share so much about the history and the Mayan culture that you might miss on your own.

How much does it cost to visit Tikal?

The cost to visit Tikal is about 150 quetzals for foreigners, which is around 20 US dollars. This doesn’t include transportation or tours, just the entrance fee. Check out their official website for up-to-date info.

When is dry season?

The dry season is roughly from November to April. This is when it’s less likely to rain, making it a great time to visit places like Tikal.

When is rainy season?

Rainy season kicks in from May to October. You can expect regular showers, which can add a whole different kind of beauty to places but also make exploring a bit wet.

What types of animals might I see in Tikal?

In Tikal, you might see all sorts of animals like monkeys, toucans, and maybe even a jaguar if you’re super lucky. We heard howler monkeys and saw parrots, pisotes, and even colorful turkeys. The park is full of wildlife!

What are the must-see parts of Tikal?

Don’t miss the Great Plaza, Temple IV, the North and Central Acropolises, and the Plaza of the Seven Temples for a comprehensive experience of Tikal’s grandeur.

Is it safe to visit Tikal?

Yes, Tikal is considered safe for tourists. However, like anywhere, it’s important to follow park rules, stay on designated paths, and keep personal belongings secure.

Where are some other Mayan ruins in Guatemala?

Other Mayan ruins in Guatemala worth checking out are Yaxha, close to Tikal, and Quirigua, known for its impressive stelae.

What to Wear to Tikal

For Tikal, wear comfortable, breathable clothes and sturdy shoes or hiking boots. The paths can be uneven, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen too!

I wore a wool shirt, shorts, and Hoka shoes and it was perfect for the weather. I also had a wool zip-up that I wore while waiting for the sunrise.

What’s it like to visit Tikal vs Chichen Itza?

Tikal and Chichen Itzá are both amazing but in different ways. Tikal is in the middle of a jungle, giving it this wild, adventurous feel. Chichen Itzá is more accessible and well-known, with incredible architecture like the Kukulkan Pyramid. Both offer a glimpse into the Mayan world but from unique perspectives.

How to Visit Tikal Wrap-Up

Visiting Tikal was one of the biggest highlights of my trip to Guatemala. Seeing the amazing archeological sites and the jungle wildlife was an unforgettable adventure.

Looking for more Guatemala travel resources? Check out 10 Helpful Guatemala Travel Tips for First-Timers, 39 Incredible Things to Do in Lake Atitlan Guatemala, 25 Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala for First-Timers, 5 Best Hotels in Antigua Guatemala Worth Booking, and 23 Best Places to Visit in Guatemala for the First Time!

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