[:en]We caught the early bird tour to Tikal at 4 am. Believe it or not, you can go even earlier if you want to watch the sunrise, but since there was a lot of cloud cover that week we decided to save 100 Q fee for early park entry. The shuttle took us about an hour and a half outside the small city of Flores into the national park. Peering out the window we looked in awe at the dramatic change in scenery, towering trees rose above our heads, swathed in deep green vines and vegetation. Out of the forest came deep growling sounds. My first thought was that it was dinosaurs, the place looked so much like Jurassic park. Naturally it wasn’t, the roaring, we found out, was the less exciting, but still exotic calls of howler monkeys.
The guide led us into the park shortly after sunrise, warning us to stick to the paths. Apparently, there have been several cases where people were lost for days. I believe it, the park is mile after mile of dense jungle, only broken by small paths and the clearings surrounding the excavated ruins.
After about half an hour of walking, we reached Tikal’s main attraction, the Great Plaza. It is a spectacular sight, a large clearing bordered on all for sides by uncovered ruins. On two sides, opposite each other, are quintessential Mayan pyramids, one is a temple to the gods, the other is a tribute to the wife of one of Tikal’s rulers. The remaining sides have massive expanses of ruins that look like they were once elaborate, yet very functional buildings full of room after room.
After going to many ruins throughout the Yucatan peninsula, Tikal ranks as my favorite. It has a magical feeling about it. There are barely any tourists there since is remote and requires a level of fitness since it takes several hours of walking to get to all the ruins. Chichenitza for example, has its own resort and airport right next to it, so you get thousands and thousands of people visiting everyday. Unfortunately, you also get a high density of my least favorite countrymen, the fat American all-inclusive vacationers. The closest airport to Tikal is Guatemala City, and there are no luxury hotels for miles. The other main difference is that you can walk on most of the ruins in Tikal. We climbed through the maze of buildings in the Great Plaza, the heritage of thousands of years underneath our feet, looking out at what was once the capital of the Mayan world. I had mixed feelings; I was awed considering I was probably one of the last people that will be able to walk on the ruins before they are closed to tourists. I also felt sad thinking that my grandchildren will not get to see them like this, as the soft lime stone is slowly worn away by each footstep.
We ended our magical day by climbing to the top of the tallest temple in Tikal. The four of us, Oscar, our two friends from the UK Martin and Luke, and I sat on the temples highest steps, looking out across the expanse of jungle. From way up there the only sign that Tikal ever existed are the four peeks of the tallest temples, just barely poking up through the tree cover. It’s a sight I will never forget, and one I highly recommend going to see before the lost city either becomes a tourist hub, or is forever closed to the outside world, leaving the legend of an ancient civilization to be reclaimed by the forest.

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