tikal The Rainforest Ruins of Tikal
reathtaking Maya ruins, lush jungle and
spectacular views of the Guatemalan highland
in Tikal and nearby Uaxactun and Yaxha

For the location of Tikal see our MayaMap page.


One of the most famous and beautiful of Maya sites, Tikal’s massive and steep pyramids (one is over 200 feet high) loom above the lush jungle of the Peten where one can observe spider and howler monkeys and numerous bird species such as toucans, parrots and macaws in the towering ceiba trees.

With a history beginning at 600 BC when farmers settled in the high ground above the swamps of Lake Peten, at its peak Tikal was home to an estimated 100,000 people and the site has over 3,000 structures within a six square mile area. Well preserved glyphic texts tell of a dynamic written historical record spanning over 1,800 years, including a very old long-count inscription date of 292 AD.  For your maximum enjoyment of Tikal, climb the highest pyramid, Temple 4, and get a birds-eye view of the site above the jungle canopy.

An important part of the history of how Tikal became one of the great empires of the ancient Maya world was its conflicts  with nearby Uaxactun. Tikal and Uaxactun are so close to each other (just 12 miles apart) that they engaged in a long period of  struggle for domination of the region.  To quote Schele & Freidel in A Forest of Kings: "Their competition ... was resolved violently in AD 378 by means of an innovative type of warfare we call Tlaloc-Venus war, or sometimes simply "star wars".  This new method of warfare was borrowed from the central Mexico civilizations and had a great impact on the wars between the kingdoms of the Peten region.  Again, to quote Schele & Freidel: "With the advent of this new kind of warfare, a new concept was incorporated into the Maya culture:  the idea of empire". Unlike former wars that were ritualized combats for personal glory and to capture captives to sacrifice to the gods, this new warfare had much higher stakes -- if you lost the war you lost your kingdom.

Also near Tikal are the Maya ruins of Yaxhá ("Green Water"). On the banks of a beautiful lagoon, in ancient times Yaxhá was the third largest Maya city in the Peten (after El Mirador & Tikal) and has an unusual layout for the region. Its twin pyramid complexes, 9 acropolis', plazas and more than 500 structures are connected by sacbés (ancient elevated roads) in a manner similar to Maya sites in the Yucatan. The views of the jungle from the 30 meter high Structure 216 are breathtaking.

The archaeological site of Uaxactun. Uaxactun (“eight stones”) got its name from archaeologist Sylvanus Morley who called it that because of an inscription he deciphered on one of the stelae there. Archeologists have determined that the four major structures there were probably used for astronomical studies as they are aligned to the sunrise on equinoxes and solstices. Uaxactun is located in the 1.65 million hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve, which is part of the largest body of intact tropical forest in Central America.

MayaSites Travel Services Excursions to Tikal:

Classic Maya of the Rainforest in Tikal -- 3 nights
Tikal with sunrise/sunset tour of the ruins, Uaxactun, Yaxha, Tayasal on Flores Island and more!

Classic Maya of Tikal and Copan -- 6 nights
Tikal with sunrise or sunset tour of the ruins, Uaxactun, Yaxha, Tayasal on Flores Island, National Museum of Archeology & Ethnology, The Popol Vuh Museum, Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing, Copan, Quirigua and more!


Tikal is a very good connecting point for these other parts of the Maya world:

-- By boat you can visit the sites on the Passion River such as Aguateca, Ceibal, Cancuen, El Peru (Waka), Dos Pilas and Altar de Sacrificios
-- By land and boat you can cross over the river to visit Yaxchilan, Bonampak, Palenque and Tonina.  See our Palenque/Tikal combined tours.
-- By land or air you can travel to Quirigua and Copan in Honduras. See our Tikal/Copan combined tours.
-- By land you can travel to Belize to visit Xunantunich, Caracol, Cahal Pech, Lamanai and numerous underground caves.  Tikal & Belize combined tours.
-- >By air or land you can go to Guatemala City to visit the museums and the Highland Maya villages of Antigua, Atitlán, Chichicastenango and Santiago de Atitlan (to name a few) and ancient Maya archaeological sites at Ixmiche and Utatlàn.  See our Guatemala Highlands tours.
-- By helicopter you can fly to the newly excavated El Mirador and nearby Nakbe.  Only available on limited dates unless you charter a 'copter for your group.

For more information call our U.S. office at our toll free number 1-877-620-8715
Outside of the U.S. (country code 1) 505-255-2279
Or, e-mail us at
[email protected]. See you soon!

All photographs and text Copyright 2000-2014 by MayaSites Travel Services. All rights reserved.