If you have listened to my rants on the radio or on some of my new 7 wonders postings, then you’ll know that I disagreed with the selection of Chichen Itza as a new wonder of the world. The main reason for that is because I think Tikal in Guatemala is a better example of the great Mayan Empire and the ruins are much better to see in person and the best part is, you can climb on them!
For me, accessibility is half the fun and at Tikal you can climb up the incredibly steep stairs and see the amazing views of the Guatemalan Jungle surrounding the temple complex. Tikal is in the northeast of Guatemala, easily accessible from the lovely town of Flores. You can fly there from Guatemala City and take a shared van or taxi to the Tikal grounds. There are hostels, and campgrounds right at the site so you can stay over and see Tikal at night for sunset and again for sunrise. Additionally, you can take a taxi to Belize which is just a stones throw away which is what we did.
Walking around Tikal is great and there are just massive areas where there are several temples at once surrounding you and you feel totally insignificant. There are thousands of ancient structures at Tikal and only a fraction of these have been excavated after decades of archaeological work. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large Mesoamerican step pyramids, labeled Temples I – VI, each of which support a temple structure on their summits. Some of these pyramids are over 60 meters high (200 feet). They were numbered sequentially during the early survey of the site.
When you are in Tikal you think of large gatherings for public beheadings and other such torturous sacrificial events. You are glad you weren’t the sacrificial lamb for those events and you actually get sick if you really think about it but again, it’s also very cool to imagine yourself there in that time. Thats the cool thing about going to a place like Tikal, you can really put yourself back in those times and with the background information you have on the site you can make your own conclusions. You can put events in your head in real places that you are standing on or staring at. That is fun to do, to escape modern times and imagine you are there when Mayan rituals were the biggest thing in this spot in the world. You can do this anywhere but take it from me, Tikal is awesome . I will always stand by my claim that it’s a better example of the great Mayan Empire than Chichen Itza and it is an amazing site to boot.