The country of Guatemala has so much to offer the traveller. From the colonial city of Antigua to the beauty of Lake Atitlan, the coastal town of Flores Guatemala and a highlight for us visiting the Tikal National Park.
Located deep within the lush jungles of Guatemala, Tikal is an ancient Mayan citadel that has captivated travellers for centuries. While its towering pyramids and expansive plazas are awe-inspiring at any time of day, witnessing sunrise over this majestic archaeological site is an experience like no other. As the first rays of sunlight pierce through the mist-shrouded rainforest canopy, they reveal a mesmerizing panorama of temple peaks rising above the dense greenery.
Embarking on a Tikal sunrise tour allows visitors to not only marvel at the stunning natural beauty but also to connect with ancient history as they explore the remnants of one of Mesoamerica’s most significant civilizations.
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Where is Tikal Guatemala
Tikal is located in the Department of El Peten in the Pete Basin in Northern Guatemala. Tikal is 66.5km from Flores, 527 km from Guatemala City and 228 km from Belize City.
Map of The Location of Tikal National Park in Guatemala (Tikal Parque Nacional)
Mayan Ruins Guatemala
The Tikal Ruins is one of the largest pre-Columbian Maya civilisations and in 1979 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was believed to be once called Yax Mutal. The site dates back to the 4th Century.
Tikal meaning: ‘at the waterhole’. Tikal was the adopted name given after it was discovered during the 1840s. Tikal covers 16 sq km and has over 3,000 structures. Tikal National Park covers an area of 570 sq km.
Our Top Tips To Visit Tikal
There are two options on visiting Tikal.
First Option: Day Tour from Flores – Shuttle Bus Transport Only
Spend a day exploring the sights of Tikal without worrying about transport and missing the shuttle bus home with this return private transfer from Flores. Perfect for squeezing in a quick visit to Tikal or enjoying a full day of self-guided discovery around the historic Mayan city, your private driver will pick you up at your accommodation at a time of your choosing, drop you at Tikal, and wait until you are ready to return home.
Enjoy a relaxed journey out to Tikal with a pre-booked return transfer Door-to-door service from your accommodation in Flores to Tikal and back Discover Tikal archaeological site on your own and at your own pace Suitable for private groups of up to three people
Option #2 Late Midday Departure from Flores and Overnight Stay
If you are visiting Tikal from Flores and would like to stay overnight we would recommend organising a shuttle bus that leaves after lunch. There are many travel agencies in Flores that will assist you in booking local transport. You can pre-purchase Tikal National Park tickets after 3 which allows you to book into your hotel and visit parts of the Park itself.
We can recommend staying at the Hotel de la Isla Casona in Flores prior to visiting or ending your journey to Tikal. Hotel de la Isla Casona is centrally located in Flores with a pool. We loved our stay here.
Here what others have said about Hotel de la Isla Casona:
“This place is amazing! We enjoyed the pool and the view! The room was clean and has everything you need.”
We arranged a tour with one of the local guides who had lived all his life in and around the park and knew every detail of the Tikal ruins. He was standing around at the entrance just after our arrival at 3 pm. We like to be able to support local guides when we travel.
When we did a sunrise Angkor Wat tour we also chose a local guide who had lived in and around the complex. Not only are they experienced but we are giving back to the local community.
To Travel Too Tip
We organised a sunrise tour to the Tikal Temples and in the afternoon completed the sunset tour before heading back to Flores. We got the best of both worlds. It can get hot during the day so we would recommend considering either the sunrise or sunset or even both if you have the time.
Our Tikal Sunrise Tour
Our alarm was set at 3.30 am and by 4.00 am we were waiting outside the Jaguar Inn in Tikal. In the cool of the morning and in pitch darkness our guide Alberto arrived. He is a local park guide and does not need a torchlight to find his way through the jungle, his home. Alberto was insistent that we meet at 4 a.m., he wanted us to be the first at Temple IV to view the sunrise and to experience the jungle around us waking up before many other groups arrive.
For more details and the latest prices for the Jaguar Inn in Tikal click here
Read what other guests have said about the Jaguar Inn here:
“Close to park entry, great settings/environment, no internet in the rooms (was nice to disconnect), superfriendly staff.”
Good to know: Electricity is on during certain hours of the day only.
Off We Head Into the Tikal Jungle
Alberto arrived promptly at 4.00 a.m. and produced a small torch for us and off we went following in his footsteps, sidestepping a poisonous black snake within minutes. It was really eerie, not knowing where you were walking or where you were putting your foot as you took off into the blackness of the jungle.
He instructed us to turn our torch lights off as we approached the “Great Pyramid Plaza” or “Lost World” to view the shadows it makes on the surrounding landscape. The shadows were large and creepy and we were so pleased we had Alberto with us guiding us through these ancient monuments.
Suddenly from out of nowhere howling and screeching could be heard in front of us, and we jumped. Alberto chuckled as he enlightened us that it was the Howler Monkeys as they were awakening and calling for their mates.
Alberto stopped abruptly, moved his head ever so slightly to the right, and put his finger to his mouth signalling us to be quiet, there was a jaguar quietly calling out to his mate in the jungle to our right. What had we let ourselves into!
We arrived at Temple IV and climbed the rickety wooden staircase to the top to take a prime position. Alberto did not come with us, he wanted us to experience the waking up of the jungle first before he joined us.
The mist shrouds the other temples in the darkness. There is one other person already seated on the Temple steps setting up his tripod in time for the sunrise. We greeted one another quietly and listened to the sounds evolving around us.
The Howler monkeys continued screeching around us in the darkness and the mist, there seemed like hundreds of them from the noise that they were making. Birds started to wake and we heard their many varied calls amongst the trees and bushes close by. The mist started to clear and we could view Temple III in the distance, then the mist enclosed the temple once more and we sat in near darkness.
Now others had arrived and their chatter was as loud as the Howler monkeys. Alberto appeared silently and with authority said “Ssshhh listen, just listen’. There was silence at last.
The sun tried to break through the mist, and as it did we managed an occasional glimpse of the other Tikal temples. It became clear that a stunning sunrise was not going to happen that morning for us.
As we were just about to leave Temple IV, Macaw birds were sighted on the trees below us, their colourful vibrant plumage showing through the trees whilst their loud calls and screams echoed through the jungle. It was only now that the mist cleared and we were able to get a clearer view of the temples in front of us.
We left Temple IV with Alberto to have a private tour through the Temple grounds, before heading back to the Jaguar Inn for breakfast at 8 am.
Optional Tikal Tours
More Hotel Accommodation Tikal National Park
There are 3 other hotels located in the Tikal National Park:
Review: Knowledgeable staff, easy to see wildlife right from the hotel, easy to set up other tours and shuttles back to Flores, pool is amazing to get into after a hot day of visiting the ruins, staff is amazing and makes sure you are comfortable, each bungalow is surrounded by beautiful flowers.
Review: I enjoyed being on the site of the Mayan ruins and they offered tour guides from the hotel. I like that I had a cottage in the forest with open air windows so you could hear the sounds of the jungle at night. The set up of the room was cozy and had everything you needed. The staff was helpful and kind.
Review: The overall location was amazing, being able to walk to the park multiple times a day is a huge advantage. The bathroom was the best shared bathroom I have ever seen in a hostel.
Tikal RestaurantsClick here for the top 5 Tikal restaurants
Flight Deals to Guatemala
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When is the best time to visit Guatemala and Tikal National Park
The busy tourist season is from January through to March.
The hottest months are June, July and August.
The best months weather-wise is December through to February which coincides with the busy tourist season.
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In conclusion, a sunrise tour of Tikal in Guatemala is an experience that should not be missed. The awe-inspiring beauty of the ancient Mayan ruins combined with the breathtaking views as the sun rises over the jungle creates a truly magical and unforgettable moment. Whether you are a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking adventure, this tour offers something for everyone. It is not only an opportunity to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Mayan civilization but also a chance to connect with nature and witness one of Mother Nature’s most magnificent displays. The memories made during a Tikal sunrise tour will undoubtedly last a lifetime and leave travellers with a deep appreciation for both the ancient wonders and natural splendour found in Guatemala.