Tikal is the largest Maya city discovered until present date. The Tikal site forms part of the 575 square kilometer National Park Tikal and is enclosed by vast and pristine rainforest. The jungle with a never-ending variety of trees, plants and wildlife is as impressive as the temples and sculptures.
More than 4000 items have been uncovered, ranging from plazas, temples, palaces over small pieces of pottery but most of Tikal still needs to be excavated.
The central theme in Tikal’s architecture consists of destruction and construction. Each new ruler had all the work of his predecessor destroyed and the remains were then used as a foundation for the new buildings and by doing so; the spirit of the former ruler would be kept alive.
The main attraction is the Gran Plaza; this ceremonial square is the heart of Tikal and is surrounded on all sides by temples. In the east by the 45 meter high Temple I, also known as Temple of the Great Jaguar and in the west by a smaller but nevertheless Temple II.
To the north of the Plaza we find the Acropolis which groups smaller size temples, stelaes and masks and is certainly the most complex structure in Tikal. The Central Acropolis, a maze of palaces and inner plazas, is situated south of the Central Plaza.
TempleIV, Temple of the Two Headed Snake, is the biggest and tallest, 64 meters high. The top can be reached through climbing various stairways and your effort will be rewarded by a breathtaking view of the jungle which appears never ending.
Yaxhá has a long history of occupation but one of the most astonishing facts is that it kept on flourishing between 12th and 14th century (Post-Classic period) long after the abandonment of all other classic era sites. Yaxhá consists of two sections with different architectural structures, placed in such a way that they form a web of streets and plazas.
This spectacular site is hidden away in the jungle on the shores of Lake Yaxhá, towards the border with Belize.
El Ceibal, situated along the banks of the Rio Passion, was built during the Classic Period and due to its location it played an important role as an interaction point during trade and transportation activities with other Mayan cities.
Its structures are not as impressive as the ones found in Tikal but the exotic jungle surroundings make El Ceibal a very mystical site. The archeological attractions, excavated by Peabody Museum and Harvard University, include plazas, temples and magnificent stelae that still hold very detailed carvings.
The best and also the most adventurous way to reach El Ceibal is by a one hour boat trip up the Passion River followed by a 30 min walk through the jungle.