Tikal National Park is one of the best places to visit in Guatemala. Although the journey to get here can be long, bumpy, sweaty, and sometimes grueling, the reward takes you back to another time and place.

Tikal not only captivates you by the awe-inspiring structures but also by the natural beauty that envelops this archaeological gem, making it a destination that seamlessly combines history, culture, and the splendors of the Central American rainforest.

I had the pleasure of visiting Tikal National Park towards the end of my 7 week travels through Guatemala, which was a great way to end my journey. I spent 2 nights inside the park in order to experience all I could, making it easy to write a guide for you to explain what I would and would not do differently.

In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know before you visit this thriving Guatemala national park including which tour to take, best time to visit, what to see, where to stay inside the park, how to get there, cost, and any necessary tips to know before you go.

Tikal Guatemala<br>

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You may be wondering, is Tikal worth visiting? In short, yes, Tikal Guatemala is definitely worth visiting for the convenience, history and grandeur. Situated in the lush Petén rainforest in the northern park of the country, Tikal are remarkable remains of the ancient Mayan civilization.

Encompassing over 575 square kilometers, the park is centered around the iconic archaeological site of Tikal. The park features towering pyramids, majestic temples, ball courts and ceremonial plazas, providing an immersive journey into the heart of Maya culture during the Classic Period (250-900 CE).

Tikal National Park not only preserves the architectural marvels of the Maya but also showcases the vibrant biodiversity of the surrounding jungle. Think howler monkeys, toucans and the adorable coatis.

Standing in Tikal

History of Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park is one of the most significant archaeological sites of the ancient Maya civilization. Tikal was a major Maya city that flourished between 200 and 900 AD, reaching its peak during the Classic Period.

The site features impressive structures and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, recognizing cultural and historical significance. The history of Tikal is deeply intertwined with the rise and fall of the ancient Maya civilization.

Tikal’s earliest known traces date back to the Middle Pre-classic Period, but it began to gain prominence around 600 BCE. Tikal reached its zenith during the Classic Period, becoming one of the most powerful and influential city-states in the Maya lowlands.

The iconic structures of Tikal, including the Temple of the Giant Jaguar (Temple I) and the Temple of the Masks (Temple II), were constructed during this period (600 CE – 900CE). By the 9th century, Tikal experienced a decline. The reasons for Tikal’s collapse still remain a mystery to this day.

Tikal was abandoned and was reclaimed by the jungle. Archaeological exploration and restoration efforts began in the late 19th century and by the mid-20th century, Tikal is recognized as it is today, one of the most prominent and well-preserved Maya cities.

Map of Tikal National Park<br>

 Map of Tikal National Park

Here is a screenshot I took of the Tikal National Park map that I purchased at the front gate. It cost 25Q and I honestly didn’t really want to buy it, as I wanted to be able to just take a picture of it but they wouldn’t allow me to do this.

If I were you, I’d just screen shot the map now, so you can save yourself a couple bucks, unless you really want a copy of the map for a scrapbook or something. Paths are well marked with signs so getting lost won’t be an issue inside the park.

on top of a temple in Tikal Guatemala
Standing on top of a temple in Tikal

Visiting Tikal National Park

Next, let’s go over some basic information you’ll want to know before you venture into the park.

Location of Tikal

📍 Where is Tikal National Park?  Tikal National Park can be found in the northern region of the country. Tikal Guatemala is situated within the Tikal National Park, part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region.

It is surrounded by dense tropical forest. Flores is one of the most popular towns located close to Tikal. Flores is an island in Lake Peten Itza and it serves as a great base to explore Tikal National Park. It takes an hour and a half to drive from Flores to Tikal.

Food Inside the Park

There’s a couple restaurants out front before you enter Tikal. Since we stayed in the park for 2 nights, we had no choice but to eat at these restaurants. 

They were very lackluster but I suppose got the job done. Our meal at the Jaguar Inn was the best meal we had in the area. So if you are planning on eating at a restaurant inside Tikal National Park, opt for the restaurant at the Jaguar Inn hotel or at one of the other hotels.

Animals inside Tikal
Tikal National Park

Animals in Tikal

Tikal is home to a plethora of animals. These are some animals in Tikal that you may encounter.

  • Howler Monkeys – These large, black monkeys are known for their distinctive and loud howling calls that echo through the jungle. We heard them all night from our hotel room in Jaguar Inn.
  • Spider Monkeys – Recognized by their long limbs and prehensile tails, you’ll often see them swinging through the forest canopy.
  • White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys -Identified by their expressive faces and white foreheads.
  • Coatis – These raccoon-like mammals with long snouts are frequently seen foraging for food on the forest floor.
  • Agoutis – Large rodents with a distinctive appearance of short legs and a stout body.
  • Toucans – With their vibrant colors and large, distinctive bills, toucans are often spotted in the treetops.
  • Ocelots – A smaller wild cat species, whom are elusive and nocturnal hunters.
  • Jaguars – Although rare to see, they are the largest big cat in the Americas.
  • Various Bird Species – Parrots, toucans, trogons and various migratory birds.
  • Snakes and Reptiles – The rainforest is home to a variety of snakes, including boa constrictors and venomous species. As well as lizards and iguanas.
  • Butterflies and Insects 
How to Get Tikal National Park Tickets

Tikal National Park Tickets

Okay let’s go over the tickets for Tikal because there always seems to be confusion and lack of communication when buying them.

To enter Tikal Park you need to buy a day entry ticket for 150Q (about 20USD). This grants you entry to the park from 6am-6pm. For this ticket you do not need a guide if you don’t want one, you can explore the park independently or with an audio guide. 

If you plan on visiting Tikal multiple days, you’ll need one ticket per day.

If you plan on visiting Tikal for sunrise you will need to purchase an additional sunrise ticket (entrada amanecer) for 100Q. Just to clarify, this is in addition the 150Q entry ticket. This ticket is valid from 4am-6am.

The same goes for sunset. If you plan on visiting Tikal for sunset you need to purchase an additional sunset ticket (entrada atardecer) for 100Q which is valid from 6pm-9pm.

But unlike the regular entry ticket where you can visit independently, you can only visit Tikal for sunrise and for sunset with a guide. This of course is an additional cost. If you are booking a tour through an agency, you are paying for a guide and transportation to Tikal.

Tikal, one of the best things to do in Guatemala

Where to Buy Tickets for Tikal?

You used to only be able to only purchase tickets to Tikal at the Santa Elena bank in the town of Flores. Thankfully that has changed and you can buy Tikal tickets online or at the ticket office at the front gate.

I purchased tickets online a few days before visiting Tikal National Park. Tickets are valid for redemption up to 30 days after the purchase day. The website was completely in Spanish so know your Spanish or just copy and paste the text into google translate.

Make sure that you purchase the entry ticket for foreigners (boletos para extranjeros) if you are not a citizen of Guatemala. If you buy entry tickets that are meant for Guatemalan citizens (because the price is cheaper), they will not let you in.

You can purchase tickets online with a credit card as well which is convenient. Once you’ve made your purchase you’ll get a email of the receipt showing that you purchased the tickets. 

This is what you’ll show at the gate for entry. I did not need to show my passport to enter, I simply showed them the email, they wrote down the number attached to my reservation and gave me a bracelet based on what ticket(s) I bought. For example, I got 2 wristbands, 1 for sunrise and 1 for regular entry.

If you choose to purchase tickets at the ticket office inside Tikal National Park, it is only open from 6am-6pm and only accepts quetzals, the local currency. If you purchase tickets from the bank in town, they also only accept quetzals.

There is also no cell phone reception inside Tikal so if the ticket office line is long or for some reason it’s closed, then you’ll either have to find WiFi or you’re out of luck. I’d book tickets online in advance to avoid any potential problems.

Temples in Tikal
Exploring ancient Mayan ruins in Tikal

What Temples to Visit

The park boasts several pyramid-temples and structures, each with its own unique significance and architectural splendor. While the entire archaeological site is a treasure trove of ancient Maya civilization, some temples stand out as must-visit landmarks.

Temple I, also known as the Giant Jaguar Temple, is an iconic pyramid and one of the most recognizable structures at Tikal. Standing at about 47 meters, this is one of the three temples in Tikal that you can climb.

Temple II, the Temple of the Masks, faces Temple I across the Great Plaza. Temple II is slightly smaller but equally impressive. The two temples create a stunning architectural composition.

Temple III, also known as the Temple of Jaguar Priest, features intricate carvings and is situated to the north of the Great Plaza. It is part of the complex that includes the Central Acropolis.

Temple IV is the tallest pyramid at Tikal and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding jungle. This is the temple that you will climb and wait for sunrise.

Temple V was constructed later than the other temples and is part of the Great Plaza complex. It stands near the North Acropolis and is notable for its well-preserved stelae and altars.

Lost World Complex includes Temple IV and other structures. It is named the “Lost World” because it was not rediscovered until later. You can also climb this temple, which I suspect is the best temple for sunset.

While not a single temple, the North Acropolis is a complex of structures featuring inctikrcate stelae, altars, and burial chambers. It offers insights into the religious and ceremonial aspects of Maya society.

Finally, Complex N is a group of structures that includes Temple 33, which is famous for its hieroglyphic stairway.

Sunrise in Tikal?

Sunrise or Sunset?

Let me start this section by stating that you need a guide to visit Tikal for sunrise and a guide to visit Tikal for sunset, no exception or they won’t let you into the park. So yes, on top of both tickets, you also need to pay for a guide.

Sunrise in Tikal means a very early wake up call. Since we stayed inside the park we met our tour guide in front of the hotel at 430 am. If you are coming from Flores, you’ll leave at 3am to make it to the front gates by 430am.

After presenting both tickets (the entrance ticket and the sunrise ticket that I discussed in the previous section), we fumbled through the jungle for an hour to climb Temple IV in preparation for sunrise.

I felt like we were running through the jungle, slipping around in mud, trying to navigate the trail with the lights from our phones only to get to the top of the pyramid at 5:20am when the sun didn’t rise until 6:35am. 

By this point I was sweaty and my hair was disarray. We then preceded to sit in the cold fog and get rained on. The picture above was what we saw on sunrise.

If you choose to do the Sunrise Tikal Tour,  definitely bring a headlamp and rain jacket or warm long sleeved jacket. It gets cold real quick sitting that high up.

Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t get a ray of sun for sunrise, or that we had to book a guide through our hotel last minute because I was unaware that we needed a guide (so the prices were very inflated) but I did not think that watching sunrise in Tikal was worth it for the price.

I do believe you should get to Tikal when it opens at 6am though. We were able to explore Tikal after our lackluster sunrise and we had the whole park practically to ourselves for several hours.

I wanted the full experience when visiting Tikal, so I also purchased tickets for sunset. We ultimately decided to not do the sunset tour because it was rainy and overcast all day plus we didn’t want to be apart or pay for another guided tour.

I also can’t really imagine what the tour would consist of after sunset. I read stargazing and that was for sure not happening with our weather. 

At the end of the day I felt slightly ripped off that we had to pay for additional tickets for sunrise and sunset as well as a separate guide for both experiences.

Temples in Tikal
How to Get to Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Tour Guide or Go Independently

I briefly talked about this in the section above but you have a few different options when it comes to tour guides in Tikal. These are the 4 different options:

  • Go on a guided tour via collectivo (bigger group)
  • Go on a private tour
  • Get a tour guide at the gate
  • Download an audio guide and explore at your own pace

Going on a guided tour via collectivo is the most economical option for sunrise in Tikal or sunset in Tikal. You can book a tour at any of the travel agencies in Flores or prebook a Sunrise Tour here.

If you are visiting the park from 6am.- 6pm, you will have the option to go with a guide or go at it alone. If you go alone, make sure you download an audio before you get to Tikal as there is no service inside the park. Either way, you’ll be paying for transportation to and Flores which you can book here.

If money is no issue for you, a Private Tour of Tikal would be the way to go. You’ll get specialized attention, all of your questions answered and can go at your own pace.

Here are some top Tikal Tours to check out:

Jess and Joe in Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park Cost

Tikal is one of the more expensive attractions in Guatemala. These are the costs to visit Tikal National Park. *Note most the tours I quote will include transportation to and from Flores in the price.

  • Entry Ticket from 6am-6pm – 150Q (20USD)
  • Sunrise Entry Ticket 4am-6am – 100Q (13USD)
  • Sunset Entry Ticket 6pm-9pm – 100Q
  • Sunrise Tour – 250Q (32USD)
  • Early Bird Tour (getting there when the park opens) 100Q
  • Morning, Midday or Day Tour 125Q (16USD)
  • Sunset Tour 175Q (22USD)
Tips to visits Tikal National Park<br>

Tips for Visiting Tikal National Park

  • Buy your ticket in Flores before arriving at the park if you plan on doing sunrise.
  • You can now purchase tickets online. You can do that here.
  • There is no reception inside the park but I did get reception atop Temple IV.
  • You NEED a guide to visit for sunrise and/or sunset.
  • Where comfortable walking shoes, Tikal is a large park.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Wear bug spray.
  • You might need a hat for sun protection.
  • Book Sunrise for an amazing experience during April and May.
  • Passport – I did not need to show my passport upon entrance but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have it on you just in case or at least a picture of your passport on your phone.
  • Stay inside the park to beat the crowds and for an intimate experience.
  • Download a Tikal Audio Guide before you get to the park.
  • No Drones allowed.
  • Screenshot the map I posted in this post to save money on buying your own map.
  • There are no ATM’s inside Tikal National Park.

What to Pack

  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes
  • Water
  • Headlamp if you’re coming for sunrise or sunset
  • Rain Jacket – I got rained on as we were waiting for the sun to rise and of course I was not prepared with my rain jacket.
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Tripod

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Best Time to Visit Tikal, Guatemala

The best time to visit Tikal is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to April. The weather is drier, with sunny days and lower humidity. This season is much more comfortable for hiking and exploring the expansive site.

Just keep in mind that Tikal is a popular tourist destination in Guatemala, so during dry season and around major holidays, visitor numbers increase. If you want a less crowded experience, the shoulder months of November or April are best for that.

April and May are the best months for watching sunrise in Tikal, just prepare for the heat.

At Jaguar inn inside Tikal
At Jaguar inn inside Tikal

Where to Stay in Tikal, Guatemala

Where to stay when visiting Tikal will depend on a few different factors like your budget and what you must do when you are here. There are plenty of places to stay in Flores but for a more intimate experience, it is possible to stay inside Tikal National Park. There are 4 hotels in Tikal National Park where you can stay and get an early jump on exploring the park.

Hotels in Tikal National Park

Camping Tikal National Park

You can camp inside Tikal National Park which I think is pretty cool.  This is the cheapest option for staying inside the park. You need to buy a camping ticket at the National Park entrance for 50Q pp and then another 50Q if you need to rent a hammock or 100Q if you need a tent.  You can also purchase a camping ticket online.

The camp-site provides your basics such as a toilet and even a shower which I think is pretty rad. There is no safe drinking water but there are a few stores where you can buy water and snacks, as well as the restaurants inside the park.

If you opt for camping make sure you bring a headlamp and warmer clothes. Be ready to be immersed in the jungle and don’t be surprised if howler monkeys wake you up in the middle of the night.

Flores Guatemala Travel Guide
Flores Guatemala Lake Peten Itza

How to Get to Tikal, Guatemala

It takes about an hour and a half to get from Flores to Tikal. Getting to Flores however is the journey. Tourist shuttles to Flores are frequent and leave from all major towns in Guatemala.

 This is a long and exhausting journey though but the most economical option.

How to get to Flores from Guatemala City? If you are traveling from Guatemala City, you can fly domestically to Mundo Maya International Airport (FRS) in Flores. This is the quickest option but also the most expensive.

If you’d like to read more about my experience traveling to Flores via bus, check out the article below.

🛵 Read Next: How to Get to Flores, Guatemala (coming soon)

Tikal National Park Travel Guide

What I’d do if I were to Visit Tikal Again

If I would do this again, here’s what I would do. I would stay the night inside Tikal for only 1 night, not 2 like we did. I would book the 430 am tour for the day that you plan to stay the night. 

This will put you at the gates at 6 when it opens for the single day entry ticket. Drop your bags at the Tikal hotel of your choice (Jaguar Inn, Hotel Tikal Inn, Hotel Jungle Lodge Tikal or Jungle Lodge Tikal Hostel) and go explore the park.

This will give you several hours to explore the park with very little people and it will still feel like a secluded adventure. After 3 or 4 hours you will feel satisfied on all that you’ve seen. Plus by 10am it starts to get hot.

Head back to the hotel, have breakfast, enjoy a beer or coffee and wait until your room is ready. By this time you’ll be ready for a nap.

Go back into the park around 430pm to make it to the top of the Lost Pyramid for sunset. I was visiting Tikal in December and the sun set at 530. This will give you enough time to watch sunset and make it back out of the park by 6ish.

This will save you a ton of money as well since you won’t have to pay for a guide for sunrise or sunset nor have to buy the extra entry tickets for those times.

If you’re super keen on experiencing sunrise in Tikal, you can arrange a tour for the morning after you stay the night inside the park and be on your way back to Flores by 10am.

Tikal National Park Travel Vlog

Would you rather see for yourself what Tikal National Park looks like? We filmed a vlog of our experience exploring Tikal Guatemala.

Check it out after you read this post and please subscribe or give us a thumbs up. It doesn’t cost you anything and really helps us be able to continue creating free content for you to enjoy 🙂.

Birds inside the Mayan Hotel in Chichi
Birds inside the Mayan Hotel in Chichi

Other Guatemalan Ruins to Explore

Tikal is the most famous ruins in Guatemala, but there are many other Guatemala ruins to check out.

  • Antigua – While not ancient Maya ruins, the city offers colonial-era ruins, such as the Santa Catalina Arch and various churches.
  • Iximché – Situated near Tecpán, includes ceremonial plazas, ball courts and temples.
  • Yaxhá – Located north of Tikal, Yaxhá is another Maya site known for its temples and pyramids.
  • Quiriguá – Famous for its intricate stelae and zoomorphic sculptures. It showcases Maya art and architecture and is also a UNESCO site.
  • Copán (Honduras) – While not in Guatemala, Copán is easily accessible from the Guatemalan border and features extensive Maya ruins.
  • Aguateca – Known for its well-preserved structures, including palaces and defensive walls.
  • El Mirador – One of the largest Maya cities and can only be seen via a 5 day trek through the jungle or via helicopter.
  • Takalik Abaj – Situated on the Pacific slope, this is an ancient Olmec and Maya site.

I spent 7 weeks traveling around Guatemala so check out the guides below for aid in planning your trip through Guatemala.

Guatemala Travel Tips

📍Plan your Trip:

🗺 How long to travel Guatemala? 1-3 Week Guatemala Itinerary

🛺 How to Get Around:

  • Guatego for shuttles throughout the country
  • Uber or tuk tuks for shorter distances

🛂 Visas: Up to 90 Days on arrival for most countries.

☔️ Best Time to Visit: Dry season which typically spans from late November to early April.

💰 Average Daily Budget: Expect to pay 50-60 USD’s a day for basic accommodations, sit down meals and entrance fees.

⛺️ Guatemala Accommodation Guides:

🪂 Highlights

🧳 What to Pack: What to Pack for Guatemala

🎥 Watch our Guatemala Series on YouTube

📧 Get on my Email list to see what I’m up to and all the best travel content!

More Guatemala Travel Guides ↓

Best Things to do in Flores

Border Crossing Flores to Caye Caulker (coming soon)

Best Day Trips from Guatemala City 

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Tikal guatemala Travel Guide<br>
Tikal guatemala Travel Guide
Tikal National Park Travel Guide<br>
Visiting Tikal National Park | Tikal, GuatemalaVisiting Tikal National Park | Tikal, GuatemalaVisiting Tikal National Park | Tikal, Guatemala
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