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Situated in the El Petén region in the north of Guatemala, the Tikal National Park covers a huge area, and to this day is still the largest site to have been excavated on American soil. The park is home to some of the best archaeological remains of the Mayan civilization that inhabited the area until the 4th Century AD.
- The ruins of the city of Tikal, Guatemala lie in the Tikal National Park, which has a total area of 570km2. The ruins were revealed in 1955 and in 1979 the park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Restoration of the city of Tikal is still ongoing today, and due to the abundance of tropical rainforest that covers the park, new ruins and artefacts are being unearthed all the time
Following the Mayan abandonment of Tikal over a millennium ago, the city became hugely overgrown by a vast rainforest, and it was not until 1858 that the city was rediscovered by Ambrosio Tut. Prior to this, due to a lack of solid evidence, the existence of the Maya population in this area of Guatemala was merely a myth. As expected however, after Tut’s viewing of the tops of buildings above the trees was published in a report in 1853 by the Berlin Academy of Sciences, it was not long before scientists, scholars and archaeologists from all over the world descended on the site to see this amazing discovery first-hand.
The park itself covers a vast area, and there are numerous trails for visitors to explore. Monkeys and glorious birds inhabit the forest, surrounding the old city center, and while walking on a trail it is very easy to feel at one with the world, with nothing but trees and wildlife for company. The centre of the Tikal National Park is where the ancient city can be found. Despite many buildings still being covered in vines, it is still an impressive site, and the vines in fact help protect the ruins from further decay.
On entering the ancient city of Tikal you will first reach a former market square, which leads to a plaza. Surrounding this area are several temples, although only one of them exhibits the original Mayan lintel, as the others have been removed and distributed to museums around the world for historical and preservation reasons. Due to the high standard of preservation of the remains, it is very easy to imagine what the Mayan city looked like in its prime.
Another important feature of the Tikal National Park is the Bat Palace which has many connected rooms and vaults in the ceiling; it is one of the most memorable buildings on the site. Another of which is the Temple IV which is the tallest building in the park, and visitors can climb up and enjoy the breathtaking views of the whole site. There are also many trails around the park, and interestingly many of them are named after the explorers that originally helped to discover and uncover the site. This huge area is linked by causeways, and given enough time – and energy! – visitors can explore the whole expanse of the park.