Tikal, Guatemala – About wildlife and pyramids

The big mighty Tikal influenced during its long eventful history the entire Maya world. Farmers already settled 600 BC; first buildings date from 200 BC. Tikal’s sovereign Big Paw won an important military victory in the year 292 AD with spear carriers that were used for the first time and dominated the region for the following 180 years as the only Great Power in these days. 300,000 to 500,000 people lived in the kingdom and fostered economical relations up to Teotihuacán in Mexico. A military defeat stagnated Tikal’s progress, but in 682 the empire experienced a renaissance. Most of the buildings that can be seen today date from this time. The last date display belongs to 879. What lead to the decline of the entire Mayan world is shrouded in mystery. In the meantime there are clues that a 200-years dry spell forced the inhabitants of the big cities to the exodus.

Tikal’s appeal today comes from the impressively high pyramids that tower above the primeval forest – some of them can be climbed on wood stairs – and from the numerous partially excavated small and large buildings as well as from the enormous size of the installation. Especially attractive is that the antique city is located in a tropical jungle that hasn’t been cleared. Instead paths were made through the rain forest that connects the building groups and where there is a chance to watch wildlife. Tikal belongs to the UNESCO world cultural heritage and is embedded into a national park that protects the still intact flora and fauna.

The most peculiar plant is the Ceiba tree that was sacred to the Maya. Characteristic for the hardwood is its high stem with the firm branches that split off horizontally just in the treetop and that are carriers for a lot of orchids, bromeliads, moss, and lichen. In the trees and the hanging liana howling and spider monkeys dash along. Light-blue wild turkeys stalk around, a grey fox rushes into the ruins. Little parrots and different toucan species quarrel in the treetops. King vultures hover above everything. Mosquitoes cover an interesting size spectrum and don’t find DEET 30 (the strongest repellent) to much abhorrent.

The archaeological finding is best to visit in the early morning. Then fog covers the area, there are not too many tourists yet and it is not too hot, since a couple of hours are necessary for the visit. There are beautiful views from the high temples over the endless seeming rain forest and the few buildings that tower the treetops. It is well worth to visit the Maya city, even though it is not inexpensive with 150 Quetzals per person. Camping is possible on a grassy field for 50 GTQ pp, and there are bathrooms and cold showers (N 17°13’29.4’’ W 89°36’40.2’’).

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