We woke up on our first full day in Guatemala in the jungle. We stayed in the Jungle Lodge right at the entrance to Tikal and it’s newly renovated rooms are absolute heaven.
Tearing ourselves out of the huge bed after a decent lie in, we jumped in the outdoor shower to wake up and threw down a simple breakfast before heading towards the Mayan ruins this little pocket of Guatemala is famous for. Tikal’s temples are set deep in the jungle where monkeys swing through the canopy as you make your way towards the huge pyramids which made up one of the most powerful cities of Mayan times. The National Park in Tikal is home to 6 large temples which have been escavated and restored, as well as palaces and plazas all steeped in amazing history.
It took us a full day in the hot sun to cover most of the 16 square mile area and climb all of the accessible temples. The views were incredible and all the walking and adrenaline made for a well earned beer break! We lay back on the grass in the main plaza which has a few little huts selling drinks and snacks.
Before too long the sun was setting casting an enchanting light over the spiritual setting.
We made it back to our hotel tired and sweaty ready for a dip in the pool and a few more cervezas. After dinner, drinks and a few rounds of cards we collapsed into bed to the sounds of the howler monkey dancing in the trees around us.
On our second day in the jungle we took ourselves down the path less travelled to the ancient settlement of Uaxactun, home to the ruins of Mayan observatories.
Not many tourists make it down the unpaved track to these temples, which is a shame but understandable as it’s 25kms of bumps which take almost an hour to navigate in a 4x4 and you can only really include it in your itinerary if you’re staying the night in Tikal like we did - it wouldn’t be worth it or feasible to come all the way from Flores in a day.
We arrived in Uaxactun just as the locals were warming up for their Sunday footbal fixture as we turned off the main square (which is an old airstrip once used by businesses looking to exploit the natural rubber in the jungle trees) and went to have a look around the pyramids which made up the astrological centre used to track the sun and keep the mayan calendar.
Then we drove across the town to check out the views from what would have been the palaces and political buildings around the cities plaza where we met some local kids selling jewellery they'd made, before heading back to their football game which was now in full swing!
On the way back to Tikal we stopped at a jungle conservationists lookout point - it was one hell of a view from the top of the nauseatingly high platform and we could see all the way back to the temples we visited the day before.
Back at our hotel we grabbed lunch before checking out the two tiny museums in the town all about Mayan lithography and ceramics - interesting for the couple of dollars we paid to visit them but not something people should worry about missing.
Tikal was absolutely magical and a place everyone should put on their itinerary when traveling to Guatemala. If you have the time to stay the night, or even two make sure you book the Jungle Lodge. You won't regret it.
Next stop Flores!