Why Everyone Needs to Visit Tikal

Why everyone, not just Guatemalan adoptees, should experience the magic of Tikal

If you haven’t already been, chances are the Pantheon and the Colosseum in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens are on your list of bucket list trips. But what about the ancient city of Tikal? 

I have been lucky enough to explore the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Acropolis, and Tikal in my life. By far, Tikal left me more wonderstruck than any other historical site. While you walk the streets of Athens and Rome, you’ll come across a ruin, a city built upon a city, built upon a city (and that is amazing in its own right!). At Tikal, you walk through the rain forest and out of densely packed trees, a temple appears. I have never been so in awe of humans, stood in wonder of the natural world and its ability to cover up this great ancient city, and seen the vastness of the universe than while sitting at the top of a temple watching the sunset and the stars glisten trillions of miles away than at Tikal.

Located in the deep rainforest of Guatemala, Tikal National Park (Tikal), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the ruins of what is believed to be the center of the most powerful Mayan civilization. The monolithic temples that have been uncovered in Tikal are far older than those of their Greek and Roman counterparts. And recent evidence indicates that the city was 2 million square miles, that’s a city almost four times the size of Houston, Texas today.

Why is Tikal less well known than its Western counterparts? I have three theories.

One, our society has long put a stronger emphasis on the teaching and lands of Western cultures, but it’s time for that to stop. The Mayans, their culture, and their teachings deserve to be given respect.

Two, Tikal is surprisingly challenging to get to. To get to Tikal you need to fly from the U.S. to Guatemala City (the easiest part of the journey, a three hour non-stop flight from Houston). From Guatemala City you can theoretically take a bus (it is a 10+ hour drive where safety can be a challenge. I’ve never done it, and most Guatemalans I know wouldn’t recommend it). The better of the two options is a short 45 minute flight from Guatemala City to Flores via TAG Airlines in a small plane (your baggage size is limited). Then it’s an hour drive from Flores to Tikal. But the drive is just the jump start to the awe; according to a guide I work with regularly and has worked in the travel industry in Guatemala for decades, all the “hills” you see from the airport to Tikal National Park are now believed to be covered ruins of the ancient city. Yes, I’ve spent the entire drive looking out the window thinking of all the people and what their lives were like – and it’s just the beginning of that feeling.

Three, once you arrive in Tikal, it’s hot and humid (I know I’m doing a great job of selling Tikal to you aren’t I?). You’re in a rainforest, so it’s rainforest hot and humid. I’ll be real – I’ve never been hotter in my life…but, somehow, that’s part of the fun and the experience.

Case and point, here’s a (slightly embarrassing) view of my sweat drenched back while watching the sunset from the top of a temple in Tikal. Yes, my back is sweat drenched, at sunset, but you see those trees below me? That’s the rainforest below me, while I sit at the top of a temple and watch the sunset and stars come out…that is the most important part of that sentence and the experience, not the darn sweat. I’m so sure of this, I’ve convinced my husband, who has lived most of his life in Colorado and HATES heat and humidity with a fierce passion to go to Tikal (it doesn’t hurt his nerdy heart that Tikal also has a connection to Star Wars, see below).

So, why go to Tikal? To feel inspired! To gasp in awe at human civilization. To bow at the temple of the natural world and the universe. Because nothing more will change your perspective of yourself, the human race, of nature, and of the universe.

And if that’s not enough for you, George Lucas thought Tikal was so cool he used it as a filming location for Yavin 4 in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

Ready to book your bucket list trip to Tikal? Join us and other adoptive families this December to explore the wonders. The trip also includes New Years in Antigua, another one of Guatemala’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and the option to spend Christmas making the Holiday special for children living in a hogar (orphanage). It’s truly a bucket list trip! Oh, and did I mention the scorpions? There are scorpions.

Not ready to commit but want to learn more? Request our itinerary and information packet about the trip.

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