Tikal, Guatemala…a location fit for Star Wars

I just binged watched the Star Wars Trilogy in anticipation of the new movie coming out this week.  In case you were worried, YES I do have tickets and yes I am ridiculously excited about it. That said, I remembered George Lucas used Tikal as a back drop for one of the rebel bases in the first movie (episode IV).  I realized that I never posted about Tikal so here you are…

My huz and I took a trip last year to Belize.  We took a short day trip in to Guatemala to check out Tikal.  It took a little bit of planning to get there since crossing the border from Belize in to Guatemala isn’t quite as easy as crossing the California/Oregon border.  I had read in the guidebooks that you can do all sorts of tricky stuff like pay people, take a cab from one side to another then get separate cab, blah blah.  I didn’t really want to get stuck anywhere doing something shady so we did what I rarely do and booked a tour.

From San Ignacio, Belize we paid somewhere around the equivalent of $75 per person for the tour which physically pained me.  We were picked up at our AirBNB, like we were rock stars, and were shuttled to the border.  A guide helped us through the border crossing where we got a passport stamp.  Another driver and guide picked us up on the other side and drove us about an hour or so to Tikal with a nice coffee stop along the way.  My reluctance for paying money for a guide quickly dwindled away after I realized he was answering my thousands of questions intelligently and with humor and with a keen enjoyment of people.  He shared endless stories about his home village growing up, his desire for his grand children to be raised as he had been, the economy, politics, etc.  (People are no different anywhere, are they?)  He was an archaeologist and was extremely knowledgeable.  (At this point I thought I was getting a great deal for a guide, driver, entrance in to the park, and lunch!)

The driver, whose grand daughter was also names Jenny, was kind enough to give me one Guatemalan Quetzal bill for my foreign money collection. He refused to take my money in exchange for it which I just thought was the sweetest thing ever.  (Nevermind, the bill was worth less than a quarter coin.  I still thought it was incredibly kind.)

I digress from the reason I am writing this post!  Our guide took us on a half-day hike/walk through Tikal National Park pointing out every species of bird and plant along the way.  Bird watching was very fun for me in Belize and Guatemala because we had a birding book at our disposal which made us feel like we knew what we were doing.  (But, we most didn’t and I gained a respect for people who bird watch.  It’s hard!  And even harder to photograph them!)

Tikal is a world UNESCO Heritage site reaching its status in 1979.  Tikal is found in the Peten Basin and is the largest Mayan site with monuments dating back to the 4th century.  The park is covered in thick brush and rain forest.  As you walk through it you would be hardfast to realize that mere feet beyond where you stand are multiple temples hundreds of feet tall.

Highlights at the park are the Great Plaza, the Central and North Acropolis, the Plaza of the Seven Temples, and the plaza ball court.  Lots of Stela are on display many of which can still clearly show the images.

Bring your hiking boots and a bottle of water because if you want to get to the top of all of these structures you are going to have to hike and sweat to get there.  It is hot and muggy and it is a long way up.  The sun is merciless but the views are epic.  The irony is that the best view, in my opinion, is of the temples themselves.  When you are on the top of them you cannot see their grandeur for you are standing atop them.

I could have easily spent multiple days hiking through the park and checking out each and every site in great detail.  Sadly, because we were on a schedule we had to get back home.  I am very glad we did it.  I was able to see another set of ruins I had always dreamed of in a country I had never visited.

Can you think of any other awesome locations used in film that are must sees?  Have you visited any of them?

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We got a kick out of the automotive relics laying around in addition to the Mayan archaeology

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You get your workout climbing up and down

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I admire the perfect angles

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Having fun with a strange selfie

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This stela has seen better days

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The top of one of the temples is towering over the canopy

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Marker stones

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This is one of the less busy sections of the park with fewer crowds so I gravitated towards it

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They are doing a nice job of trying to protect the stela that remain

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Humans aren’t the only ones that climb the temples although our guide said this was highly unusual

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I find these temples stunning. Can you imagine what they looked like when they were only just built?

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If I were George Lucas I would have used these buildings in my movie too!  They are stunning, mysterious, epic, and impressive.

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Very nicely preserved stela.

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This man was in charge of pulling weeds from the temple and was only tied on by a rope.  You cannot really tell from this photo but it was a long way down and it was very steep.

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Mayan Mask that one had to perform a feat of Yoga in order to capture on film

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View from the top

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More masks at the top.  If memory serves this has been restored and was not original.

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View from the very top by a hot and overheated, likely sunburned, and slightly acrophobic photographer.

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For adventures in Belize click here or Uxmal,Mexico click here.

37 thoughts on “Tikal, Guatemala…a location fit for Star Wars

  1. Fascinating, the cultures that have come and gone. I’ve seen the small ruins at Tulum, Mexico. The vision of Mayan/Incan/Aztec cultures that sticks in my head is the scene from the movie Apocalypto where heads are rolling down those long stairways. Yuk!

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  2. What an amazing day trip, and always a relief when you realize you’ve scored a helpful, friendly guide. I’m very wary of booking tours as well, but there are definitely certain situations where it’s better to bite the bullet and test your luck. Thanks for walking me through your adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! Same with the pyramids in Egypt and so on. They are impressive now but imagine to the people then. Although, frankly, it still boggles my mind how they make tall building today even WITH heavy equipment. And bridges…they just re-did the Bay Bridge in SF. I can’t believe those things are possible sometimes. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tikal is absolutely fabulous. Didn’t remember the scene from SW, but we did “do” a grand Guatemala-Belize combined venture, complete with car-renting, small plane to fly to Tikal, crossing the border on foot to Belize, and swimming with sand-sharks in one of the cays (Caulver?)
    Very nice shots you took. Good Chac-Mols.
    Don’t think we’ll have time to see Star wars before leaving next monday for Colombia. 😦
    Or we might see it in Bogotá. 🙂
    Where do you plan to spend Christmas? a 100 large party of the Collins clan?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tikal is always my next trip and then I end up somewhere else. I really want to go there. Interesting that you went from Belize.Love the photos. You might run into my kids at Star Wars. They also have their tickets.

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    • I know how you feel about places always being the next trip. Just keep them on the list. You will get there someday. Tikal is an interesting place. There is a lot to see in only one part. I think I preferred Uxmal over Tikal but really who is judging. Have you seen any Mayan ruins before?

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  5. Oh wow, great photos! Thanks for doing some yoga to get us the shots. I agree with you that the views of the temples are more amazing than the views from the temples. Great job on getting shots sans tourists too. I think your $75 was well-spent, despite the pain it caused. I can hardly wait to see the new movie; I heard it was great.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This brings back memories. I spent one month in Guatemala on a backpacking trip and we visited Tikal. Very impressive! Can you imagine how it must have been like back in time? Mind-blowing how they were able to build it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Get out there and do it! A lot of the ruins in Mexico and this one Tikal are actually pretty easy to get around considering. And there is a lot to see without doing too terribly much climbing! Just be ready for the heat! I am glad I could take you there in the meantime.

      Liked by 1 person

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