While on a trip to Belize, my friends and I decided to do a full day trip to Guatemala. In a country brimming with archaeological sites, one of the most memorable experiences was exploring Tikal, an ancient Mayan citadel in the Guatemalan rain forest!
Site: Tikal, Guatemala
Date of discovery: around 1853
Famous for: being one of the largest archaeological sites of pre-Columbian Maya civilization
Dates back to: 4th century BC
We started the day bright and early and traveled across the Belize-Guatemalan border with relative ease. Read more for Guatemala visa requirements.
Approaching the rainforest, our guide said we’d be doing a little hiking. I definitely did not come prepared – expecting the site to be a touristy spot that was relatively easy to get to…
To make things more interesting, during our trek through the jungle it started POURING. I’ve never been more drenched in my life! If there’s one thing I learnt, it’s that my white Keds are surprisingly waterproof.
An hour or so later of hiking, we came across clearing in the trees. I pushed aside the branches, revealing a huge temple that looked like something out of Indiana Jones! It really made me wonder how it must’ve felt for the explorers back then who discovered these ruins. Our guide told us this was Temple V, believed to be a burial site.
The rain slowed to a light drizzle, and at Temple IV we climbed a rickety wooden staircase along the side of the structure that led up above the canopy. Per our guide, this pyramid was constructed as king Yik’in Chan K’awiil’s burial site, and his tomb remains undiscovered beneath the structure.
As we summitted, the drizzle cleared away and a thin layer of mist floated at the canopy level. The view was absolutely stunning.
- Name: Temple IV
- Height: 70 meters, aka the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas
- Views: offers a sweeping panoramic vista of the whole archaeological site and surrounding rain forest, with other structures rising from the trees
- Famous for: used as a filming location for Yavin 4 in Star Wars Episode IV!
- Tip: this is a great place for a picnic if you brought food
Temple I & Temple II
The sun came out, and we made way towards the famous Temple I and Temple II. The two structures face one another in a large square, surrounded by other ancient ruins that were homes and households.
This place is always swarming with tourists, but still really fun to climb around and explore!
Back to Belize
The day ultimately concluded with a drive back across the border, back into Belize. Though I only spent a day in Guatemala, the country left a wonderful impression on me and I hope to be back someday!