Why visit Tikal
The monumental pyramids of Tikal are simply world class. They are arguably the best Mayan site and have blown the mind of every member of the Steppes Travel team that has been there. That is in part due to hugely impressive nature of the site but in no small part due to the way in which we take you around Tikal. Namely, avoiding the crowds. Through the knowledge, contacts and guile of our expert guides we would hope to deliver you an experience of this incredible temple complex that few others can.
Declared a UNESCO site in 1979, Tikal is one of the largest archaeologist sites of the Pre-Colombian Maya civilisation. Located in Peten, in the north of Guatemala, Tikal emerges from the tangled jungle commemorating a powerful Mayan Empire. Exotic animals and birds of all shapes, sizes and colour inhabit the forests that were once home to an astutely developed group of people, irrevocably linked to their environment. Dating back to 4th Century BC, with 33 rulers over 800 years, Tikal was central to the Mayan civilisation politically and economically, trading with much of Mesoamerica until defeated, it is believed, by Teotihuacan in the 4th Century AD. Tikal is as exotic and alien today as it seemed in 1977, when it was cast as the backdrop for the rebel fighter jets in Star Wars episode IV. Notwithstanding this oblique reference, Tikal remains one of the great Mayan, if not the great sites of the world. You ought to visit Tikal and its surrounding sites.
- Climb to the top of Temple IV, for glorious views above the jungle canopy
- Have an exclusive luxury picnic whilst visiting the park
- Head out early morning for some excellent bird watching opportunities
- Visit some of the more remote nearby sites of Uaxactun and Yaxha (see below)
- After visiting Yaxha continue east to Belize and to the Mayan site of Lamanai
Twenty-five kilometres from Tikal along a dirt track through the jungle lies Uaxactun, so named by its ‘rediscoverer’ American archaeologist Sylvanus Morley. Uaxactun is post classical Mayan and predates its famous counterpart Chichen Itza ?in Mexico. The site is believed to contain 17 layers over 1,700 years from 800 BC to 900 AD. Key features are the royal chambers and the astronomical pyramids. However the charm of Uaxactun is that it is not a reconstructed site. The architecture is rough. Mounds covered in foliage and gnarled trees lie untouched. History is under your feet.
Just over an hour away from Tikal is Yaxha, the third largest site in Guatemala after El Mirador and Tikal. Arguably it is famed for its lake causeway and indeed it is the causeway that makes Yaxha a riveting visit of more than three hours. For us, the charm of Yaxha lies in its remoteness and the surrounding jungle and lake.
Beyond the Ordinary
There are many Mayan sites in this area – Tikal, Uaxactun and Yaxha to name just a few - however, if you wish to join a handful of adventurers, visit the site of El Mirador. A hike through the jungle –five days round trip - will take you beyond the ordinary. Alternatively you can visit El Mirador as a day trip by helicopter.