Tikal National Park

Welcome to Tikal Ruins and National Park, one of the most significant archaeological sites of the ancient Mayan civilization.

Tikal Ruins

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Tikal National Park encompasses 575 square kilometers of jungle and thousands of ruined structures.

The central part of the ancient city alone contains 3,000 buildings and covers about 16 square kilometers.

Tikal is also part of the one-million-hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve created in 1990 to protect the dense forests of the Peten, which started to disappear at an alarming rate due to population pressures, illegal logging, and slash-and-burn agricultural practices.

Archaeologists estimate that the Maya settled in the area now known as Tikal in about 900 BC.

Over the centuries, Tikal grew into an important ceremonial, cultural, and commercial center. Most of the city’s massive temples were constructed during the eighth century AD when Tikal became the most fantastic city in the Maya world, with a population of perhaps 100,000.

Like Maya complexes on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Tikal fell into decline at the end of the ninth century and was virtually abandoned. The causes of the Maya empire’s collapse remain a mystery, but wars, famine, overpopulation, and resource depletion have all been blamed.

Tikal’s great stone monuments languished for centuries and were gradually reclaimed by the jungle. Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, and his motley band of conquistadors marched by Tikal in 1525. Still, they failed to see its temples concealed by 40-meter-tall silk, cotton, cedar, and mahogany trees.

Spanish friars later wrote of a great city hidden in the forests of the Peten. It wasn’t until 1848 that an expedition sent out by the Guatemalan government officially discovered the ruins. Swiss, German, and British archeologists soon followed to clear debris and begin studying the site.

The Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History restored Tikal’s structures to their current condition during the 1950s and 1960s. UNESCO designated the ruins a World Heritage Site in 1979. Today Tikal is to Guatemala what the Great Pyramids are to Egypt, a national symbol and a source of pride in the past.

Enormous trees still shroud Tikal’s buildings, which cluster in groups reached by wide causeways meandering through the tropical forest, home to toucans, parrots, wild turkeys, howler monkeys, raccoon-like coatimundis, and countless other creatures. Tikal’s grand scale even awes those who have visited spectacular Mayan sites such as Palenque and Chichen Itza in Mexico.

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Opening Hours

Tikal National Park:
Daily from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Tikal Museums: 
Daily from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
(Closed on National Holidays)

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