Tikal – Gateway to Exquisite Mayan Ruins
The sparsely populated, lowland department of El Petén, in northern Guatemala, is the gateway to exquisite Mayan ruins, lush stretches of jungle, and abundant wildlife. The crown jewel among the Peten’s 13,000 square miles is Tikal, a sprawling archaeological complex consisting of more than 3,000 structures. Countless more ruins still lie shrouded by dense forest overgrowth in the region, which also contains over 800 species of trees, 57 species of reptiles, and 500 species of birds. Tapirs, peccararies and jaguars still roam the emerald forests.
Viaventure offers a unique experience to camp within the jungle community and archaeology site of Uaxactun
The quiet island town of Flores, on Petén Itzá lake, was once the Mayan city of Tayasal—the last Mayan stronghold to fall to the Spaniards, who destroyed all evidence of its pyramids and temples. Today, Flores—which is connected to the mainland town of Santa Elena by a narrow causeway—is an island of red-tile roofs, colonial-style architecture, and cobblestone streets that run straight down to the lake. Dugout canoes, kayaks, and lanchas (small motorized boats) line its shores.
Most visitors come to Petén department to visit Tikal, one of the greatest of the surviving Classic Maya cities (especially when seen at sunrise or sunset), but there are many lesser-known sites to explore in the area, as well, including Uaxactún, Yaxhá, Ceibal, and Aguateca. In addition to Maya ruins, Petén also offers myriad opportunities to explore native wildlife in parks, forest reserves, and environmental education centers.
One of the most unique activities to do in this area is an experience we developed with one of our guides, Carlos Vivar from the Uaxactun Community. Guests can camp within the jungle community and archaeology site of Uaxactun and learn all about this fascinating Maya temple site as well as what it is like to live in the jungle.