27 people and a chicken in a VW camper van
Trip Start Nov 14, 2006
45Trip End May 15, 2007
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Where I stayed
Tikal National Park
The Tikal National Park is simply awe-inspiring and was well worth the effort of the journey. 150 years ago Wrigley's rubber gatherers discovered a group of jungle-covered hills in an otherwise flat area of Guatemala. Some of these hills were found to have man-made rooms at the summits, that archeologists later discovered to be up to two thousand years old. On further excavation, the hills turned out to be giant temples built by the Maya that had been deserted and overrun by jungle. Over the last century, many of these temples have been cleared and there are now over 4,000 known temples and buildings within the main site and over 40,000 in the surrounding area.
When we entered the park, we decided to visit a few of the smaller, less visited temples first. We hardly saw another tourist in these areas, and it was a great feeling to walk through the jungle and to glimpse abandoned temples within the trees. We thought that these temples were impressive enough, so when we finally arrived at the Central Plaza the scale of it took our breath away.
The five main temples have been cleared and restored to a point where you can truly appreciate how impressive they would have been when they were originally constructed. The best way to take in the scale of the whole site is to climb to the top of these temples, the highest of which is over 72m. Since these temples tower above the tree line, they also afford spectacular views over the surrounding area.
By sheer chance, our visit to Tikal coincided with the winter solstice and the associated Mayan festival. This attracted some very "entertaining" characters, which afforded top class people-watching potential to rival the sunset views from the top of the temple.