Tikal, the legendary Maya village should be on everyone’s itinerary. Even though its one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala, we barely saw any other tourists while we were there. Finally, no need to photoshop people out of my photos 😉 I think we didn’t see more than 10 other people walking around. This made our visit that much more special. You’ll enjoy this place even if you’re not a huge geek and fan of mayan ruins like I am. Only about an hours drive from Flores, hidden in the jungle you’ll find Tikal national park. Besides ruins the breathtakingly beautiful nature and hearing the howler monkeys add to the magic of the experience. I’ll tell you everything I know so you can make the most out of your visit to Tikal.
Sunset or Sunrise?
When you are visiting Tikal, you might as well do it right. It is already pretty magical, but a sunset or sunrise is the cherry on top. I’ve heard the sunrise is the most popular time to go. Unfortunately for the sunrise you have to leave Flores at 02:30 at night. We had spend a night on a night bus and were not up for another short night. We opted for the sunset tour instead. I would highly recommend going for the sunset! It might be the reason why we saw so little other people. I would advice to get a tour guide. Although roaming this place by yourself might be fun too, the knowledge of a mayan tour guide will add a lot of value to your tour of Tikal.
Important: If you opt for the sunrise tour, make sure to buy your ticket at the bank the day before or you won’t be able to get in before the sunrise.
If you don’t feel like buying an extra ticket for the sunset, there is another option. You can bribe the guard with 20 Quetzal, which is around €2,50. Make sure to wait at temple IV around 5 and join the group of tourists that are there for the sunset.
Bring food and water!
When you visit Tikal you are going to be there for quite a while. The place is huge and there is so much to learn about all the temples. While you’re in the park there won’t be any opportunities to buy food or water, so make sure you bring enough! It is in the jungle so it is hot and humid. I drank probably drank about 3 liters of water during the day. It might also be nice to bring a beer to enjoy during the sunset.
Stay in Tikal or Flores?
We stayed in Flores like most people do. It is a photogenic little island and it’s worth spending a day there. Staying in Tikal is more expensive and you’re more reliant on the hotel as there is nothing else around. If you do decide to stay inside Tikal make sure you arrange for return transportation to Flores. If you arrange it there it will be a lot more expensive. I was happy to return to Flores after a full day in Tikal. Although Tikal is spectacular, 1 day is enough and I enjoyed having dinner in town when we came back. I would consider staying in Tikal though to do some astrophotography with the ruins. I’ve heard really great things about the jungle lodge so that might be an option for next time!
We stayed in Hotel peten express. I think it was great value for the price even though I usually pick something that feels less like a hotel and has a little more character. It did have the perfect location and a clean room.
Cost of visiting Tikal
Transport to and from Flores: 70 quetzal / €9
Guide: 30 quetzal / €4
Entree: 150 quetzal / €19
Extra entrance fee for sunrise or sunset: 100 quetzal / €13
Totaal: 350 quetzal / €45 /$50
Places to eat in Flores
So I’ve seen that cool beans is recommended a lot, but I found that the food there was very mediocre. There’s a lot of places with better food out there. If you’re looking for something cheap head over to the local market on the westside of the island. They start setting up just before sunset. If you want to have a nice sit down dinner there are plenty of places there overlooking the water. We liked San Telmo the best for breakfast/lunch and terrazzo for dinner. Terazzo has a nice rooftop terrace which is perfect for watching the sunset.