The breathtaking ruins of Tikal in the jungle

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When you travel in Mexico and the rest of Central America, you are bound to hear wonderful stories of the ruins in Tikal, Guatemala. The Tikal ruins are worth visiting (entrance Q150and) all the hoo-haa and fuss tourists make about the sunrise and sunset over Tikal is justified.

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The picture above shows Dirk on a pyramid in one of the ‘lesser’ complexes. There are so many pyramids and ruins to explore and climb! We spent 4 hours one day and 6 hours the next day (including a sunset and sunrise) walking in the National park, and I could easily spend another day marvelling at the jungle and ruins.

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The pictures above and below were taken on top of the pyramid. The stairs sure look steep from high up there.

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Some pyramids are covered and overgrown like a hobbit’s house:

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We arrived at Tikal around 4pm. This meant that the entrance ticket we bought was also valid for the next day. We quickly organised our campsite – right inside the National Park – and with our four other travel companions, who we crossed the Belize border with, went to explore the amazing ruins.

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Our monkeylike friends on a pyramid:

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The most striking aspect of the ruins for me, was all the plants and vegetation that grew over and around the man-made structures.

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There were many of these blocks of stone shaped like tombstones:

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Walking between the different groups of pyramids was an adventure in the jungle with monkeys swinging in the trees above us and toucans flying overhead.

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Behind us is one of the taller important temples in Grand Square:

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To the other side of the grand square all these other structures stood and you could climb and walk to any place within your reach:

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This magical tree welcomed us nearby the entrance of the park:

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Stone steps and ornaments on walls:

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Because there are so many different pyramids the amount of other tourists didn’t bother us.

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Can you see the face next to the staircase:

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Some parts of the pyramids were beautifully restored, while other parts were rough and overgrown.

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Below is a picture of the temples in a row next to the square of the seven temples:

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There were a few bridges and arches to pass under.

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The Tikal National Park covers 576km² and is an important natural and cultural reserve for the great variety of fauna and flora and of course the remains of the Mayan civilization located there. The earliest occupation of the site is believed to date back to 800BC. The last found constructions date 900AC, meaning that the site was occupied for more than1500 consecutive years.

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The park officially closes at 6pm, but if you buy a sunset ticket, you can stay until 8pm and watch the sunset. The other people in our group paid a guide for the ‘sunset tour’, but Dirk and I decided to just stay on and see if we get chased away by guards. At around 5:30pm people gathered on top of the highest temple, Temple four, and waited as the light darkened and night came closer. This breathtaking view over the treetops was a perfect end to a long day of border crossings and shuttle rides:

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Nobody asked to see our tickets on the pyramid, and the guards didn’t tell us to go home. People with a sunset ticket were allowed to cross over to the other side of the pyramid to see the sun set. Many of them returned to our side, because they couldn’t see anything behind the trees, and the view from this side was better.

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The moon rose behind the clouds and hung over the jungle. We descended the pyramid by wooden steps, before it got too dark – the sky from the top of the pyramid is a lot brighter and lighter than when you are below the trees and need to find your way to the exit. Rumour has it there are jaguars that live in the park. Not wanting to be lost at night in the jungle, Dirk and I hurriedly followed a tour group on the road. We stopped so that Dirk could take this photo of the moon behind a temple:

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After a delicious dinner in a restaurant near our campsite and a well deserved sleep, we woke up before 4am, to pack up our tent and enter the park to see the sunrise. We paid the extra Q100 that allows you to enter the park before opening time and walked by the light of our headlamps, again to Temple four. We were the first people on the top of the pyramid, but soon after us many other tourists arrived.

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Everybody was in a spiritual and quiet mood, listening to the howler monkeys and birds waking up, when a rowdy group of four Israeli’s arrived at the top of the pyramid and proceeded to annoy everyone else by talking as loud as possible and spoiling the atmosphere. Many people told them to shut up and made schuss noises, but they ignored the other tourists and just continued being disrespectful. This is what our first glimpse in the morning like looked like:

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Sadly the mist didn’t clear, so we didn’t technically see the sun come up, but it was still a magical experience.

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At sunset and again at sunrise this creature climbed the steps of the pyramid looking for a snack:

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