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