Unlike the most popular ruin of Mexico -- Chichen Itza -- the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala are rarely barricaded or roped off from visitors. At most, a sign says not to pass.

Tikal

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The pyramids at Tikal are my new favorite Mayan ruins. Palenque previously held this title over Kabah and even over the world-famous Chichen Itza for many of the same reasons that I now call Tikal the best. Set in the jungle and rolling hills of northern Guatemala, the Tikal ruins sprawl over enough land to keep even the swiftest of visitors occupied for an entire day. Where the Maya ruins on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula occupy very flat and open areas, often bound by ropes and other restrictive barriers, these ruins in northern Guatemala are unobstructed and raw. They dot a rolling landscape, thick with jungle. At times, it’s difficult to tell the difference between flora and human construction. Hundreds of years of natural reclamation have turned the site into an extension of the towering trees and gigantic palm leaves that truly call this place home.

Do visit Tikal. Do stop ahead of the park’s entrance for a chat with the very friendly Milton at Canopy Tikal. Buy a tasty Guatemalan beer if you have the desire. Camp in the park beneath one of the tiki structures. And go for a hike. The park’s 100 kilometers of trail will surely keep you busy, and mystified, for as long as you wish.

A hummingbird washing in a puddle.

A hummingbird washing in a puddle.

The ruins of Tikal are very similar to those of Palenque -- tucked away into the jungle, quiet, and majestic.

The ruins of Tikal are very similar to those of Palenque — tucked away into the jungle, quiet, and majestic.

A fox hunts the ledge.

A fox hunts the ledge.

The urban planning of the Maya is sometimes unexplainable -- steps to nowhere is the running theme.

The urban planning of the Maya is sometimes unexplainable — steps to nowhere is the running theme.

Steps, steps, and more steps!

Steps, steps, and more steps!

Sometimes, hidden passageways beneath the steps.

Sometimes, hidden passageways beneath the steps.

Animales!

Animales!

Unlike the most popular ruin of Mexico -- Chichen Itza -- the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala are rarely barricaded or roped off from visitors. At most, a sign says not to pass.

Unlike the most popular ruin of Mexico — Chichen Itza — the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala are rarely barricaded or roped off from visitors. At most, a sign says not to pass.

Monkey business.

Monkey business.

The north side of the pyramid.

The north side of the pyramid.

The grand plaza.

The grand plaza.

This is my second time being pretend terrified of a tarantula.

This is my second time being pretend terrified of a tarantula.

At the top of temple number four.

At the top of temple number four.

Temples poke through the forest canopy and give scale to the size of Tikal.

Temples poke through the forest canopy and give scale to the size of Tikal.

Palm fronds as big as barn doors.

Palm fronds as big as barn doors.

The inside of a temple.

The inside of a temple.

Visitors through the years have scratched things into the soft limestone walls.

Visitors through the years have scratched things into the soft limestone walls.

 

Brian

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