Tikal National Park is only a half-hour drive from El Remate, which made getting there in time for sunrise a little easier than it would have been from Flores, where most tourists stay. It’s not always easy to wake up at 5:00 a.m., especially when you’re on vacation, but in the case of Tikal, it’s well worth it. Sunrise is the best time to visit the park.
Sunrise is the best time because the air is cool, there aren’t many bugs (or tourists), and the tropical forest is full of life. For example, we didn’t make it more than a couple minutes into the park before we spotted spider monkeys in a tree tall above. Plus, we could hear monkeys howling in the distance all morning.
Best of all, at sunrise the temples are (or at least they were on the morning we visited) covered in a thick fog, which makes them all the more mysterious.
While the park is gigantic, so large we didn’t see it all in six hours despite never resting, there are a few temples that truly stand out. The one pictured below was the most memorable for me. I don’t believe it was the tallest (don’t know for sure, as we didn’t hire a tour guide), but it was certainly the steepest. I was genuinely frightened during the climb up and down. Not so much at the top, though, were I was mostly in awe of the vista.
I knew that Tikal would be amazing. It’s often billed as the greatest of all Mayan ruins, and it’s located in the midst of a protected tropical forest. However, even with high expectations I was impressed. The ruins were mind-boggling (who? what? when? why?) and the temperature was comfortable for most of the morning. Only toward mid-day, once the sun had risen well above the forest canopy, did it begin to get uncomfortably hot. Mosquitoes also. But for most of the morning it was nicely comfortable.
View the entire Tikal gallery.