Tikal is in the Petén Basin in northern Guatemala, its Mayan ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s all accessible from Western Guest House. The ruins lie among the tropical rainforest of Guatemala that formed the cradle of lowland Maya civilization. The city itself was located among fertile upland soils but had no water other than what was collected through rainfall and stored in ten reservoirs one of which was refurbished in the 20th century by archeologists for their own use! The magnificent site of Tikal lies amidst the lush rainforests of northern Guatemala in the heart of the region known as the Petén. Here, where the forest canopy today towers up to 50 and 60 meters (150-180 ft.) in height, a city of 60,000-70,000 people surrounded by verdant corn fields once bustled with activity.
Tikal has long been regarded by archaeologists as the “capital” of the Maya, although for a people whose political organization did not evolve beyond the level of the city-state, this may not be a totally accurate characterization. In any case, it does represent one of the most impressive architectural achievements of the Maya civilization, being dominated by five sky-scraper-like pyramids each exceeding 60 m (200 ft.) in height. Although its history spans the entire “Classic Period” (indeed, its earliest dated monument (A.D. 292) has often been cited as the beginning point of that epoch), its hey-day was reached in the eighth century A.D. when the five imposing pyramids were constructed, all within roughly a fifty-year span of time. Scarcely less than a century later, Tikal, like most of the other Maya city-states, was abandoned and the jungle began to encroach on its temples and palaces.