Mini Guide To Tikal Ruins – Guatemala

Are you planning to visit Tikal Ruins on your visit to Guatemala?

One of the highlights of any Central America trip has to be a visit to the magnificent Tikal ruins.

Found in the northeast of Guatemala, Tikal is a huge archeological site. When I say huge, I mean HUGE! The national park covers an area of 350 square kilometres (~220 sq. mi.) and is home to over 3000 structures.

So we put together this mini guide, to sum up how we visited the ancient Mayan ruins and how you can do the same, with minimal effort.

What Time Of Year Is Best To Visit Tikal

The cooler, dry season of the region is from December to February, making this the best time to visit Tikal ruins.

With that being said, we went in December and it was still VERY hot around midday. I can’t imagine how hot it must get in the warmer months.

The rainy season is from April to November. Probably best to avoid these months if you want to keep dry.

A short flat temple in the mist at Tikal

What Time Of Day Should You Visit Tikal

This is a really important decision to make. Depending on what kind of experience you want to have on your visit.

Most tour companies offer multiple start times. The 3 main ones you should consider are; Sunrise, early bird and sunset.

As the name suggests, the sunrise tour sets off super early. Allowing you to enter the park and scale one of the temples, right in time to watch the sunrise over the jungle. Alternatively, the sunset tour gets you there in the early afternoon to explore the park and end with a sunset.

We, however, decided to go for the early bird. This meant we set off at 4.30 am and arrived at the park when it opened. This was perfect for us. We got to see much of the park before the crowds arrived. Experiencing the forest coming to life as all the wildlife starts to wake up and the mist rises, was truly unforgettable.

a black spider monkey hanging in a tree in Guatemala

Do You Need A Guide To Visit Tikal

We don’t often get guides when we travel. We prefer the freedom to explore at our own pace and do our own thing. However, this time we did opt for a guided tour and are really glad that we did.

Remember how big I said the park was? Our guide even warned us not to stray from the paths. It is so easy to get lost and not be found again! Crazy.

Another benefit of the tour with a guide is it made sure we got to see all the main highlights of the park. I’m 100% sure if we had been exploring on our own, we wouldn’t have seen as much as we did. Even with a map.

So yes, I would definitely recommend a guide when visiting Tikal ruins.

a girl standing on top of a temple at tikal taking photos of a temple in the distance standing out above the jungle

How Much Does It Cost To Visit Tikal

We booked our tour through the hostel we stayed at, Los Amigos Hostel in Flores. It cost around $36 each for the shuttle there and back, fees to the park and the tour guide.

If you book with a tour company in Flores you are likely to pay very similar to this no matter who you book with.

If you choose to go solo you can opt to take local buses and do a DIY tour, this will be cheaper but the buses will take significantly longer to get there and times are limited.

Just the entrance fee alone to enter Tikal is around $20 or 150 GTQ.

If you would like to have everything booked ahead of time to save you some stress on your trip, then you can book this guided sunrise tour from Flores online!

Where To Stay When You Visit Tikal

There are 2 main places that you can visit Tikal Ruins from. The easiest and closest is the town of Flores. This is where we stayed. We stayed in a really fun, very sociable hostel. They had great food and were right in the centre of town. The hostel was called Los Amigos and I would really recommend it.

Book your stay at Los Amigos Hostel Here!

From Flores, Tikal is only around a 1.5 hour drive away by shuttle bus.

Alternatively, another popular place to visit Tikal from is San Ignacio just across the border in Belize. If you are visiting Belize and just want to make a day trip to Tikal, this tour was on offer everywhere. But keep in mind everything is much more expensive in Belize and the tour from here was $125 USD per person.

If you are staying in Belize then we have put together an itinerary that you might also find interesting, you can take a look here.

The main temple structure standing tall at Tikal on a very foggy day

Are you heading to Antigua next? Check out our guide on how to get there from Flores.

When You Get To Tikal Ruins

When you first enter the park the buses all stop and this is where you jump out to buy your entrance ticket. Please note that you need ID and CASH to be able to buy a ticket! Luckily, pictures of IDs are accepted.

You will then continue on the bus for another 20 minutes. Until you get to the main drop-off point where there is a basic restaurant and toilets.

As soon as we got off the bus we were greeted by some spider monkeys in the trees above us and a family of adorable Coatis.

Then it’s time to go and explore the main temples. At the entrance building, you can also buy a paper map of the site if you are planning to go solo.

At Tikal ruins you are actually allowed to climb some of the structures. There are just a few that they have fenced off and it’s pretty clear which ones not to go on.

a couple of tall mayan temple ruins standing out above the top of the jungle

They have also built wooden access stairs to allow you to get to the top of the tallest temples, which are too dangerous to climb otherwise. You will find that a handful of the temples are so tall that they peek out just above the tree line. Giving you the most incredible views out over the jungle once you get to the top.

Ideally, you do need to be able to climb several hundred steps to be able to get to the top of the temples. But not to worry, if this doesn’t sound like it’s for you then there is still SO much to see from ground level.

The jungle itself is alive with Howler monkeys roaring to each other and more tropical birds than you can count.

Occasionally locals will also arrive to perform ceremonies, so if you’re lucky you may catch one of these special moments.

a group of guatemalan women wearing traditional clothing doing a ceremony around a fire

What To Take With You To Tikal

As I mentioned previously, even in the cooler months of the year, it can still get very hot. You will also be gone for most of the day so with that in mind we suggest you take these things with you;

  • Plenty of water
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent – trust us, they are relentless here
  • A packed lunch and some extra snacks
  • Passport or ID – they will ask for this when you buy your entrance ticket – pictures accepted
  • Cash, since card payments are not accepted
  • Sturdy shoes – the stones can be slippery
  • Camera – you are going to want to capture every epic temple

It’s good to note that plastic bags are NOT allowed into Tikal. You will see why once you get there. As well as trying to preserve nature, plastic bags have become a sort of calling cue for the coatis. If they hear the rustle they will all come running and that lunch won’t be yours for much longer.

As cute as they are, you are not allowed to feed them. They are already far too confident for their own good. In fact, one of the larger males snuck into our backpack while we weren’t looking and took Guido’s Lunch. Cheeky little fella.

a couple smiling in front of a tall temple at Tikal ruins

Guide To Tikal Ruins – Final Thoughts

Hopefully, all this information we gathered on our visit to Tikal ruins, has given you a better idea of what to expect and prepared you a little more for your visit. If you want to know a little more history of the site before you visit then you can read up on it here.

Visiting Tikal was a magical experience and just like stepping back in time to a world long before our own. You will be glad you went and we hope you love it as much as we did.

If you’re also looking for more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala, feel free to check out our Guide on things to do in Antigua and our complete guide to hiking the Acatenango volcano.