Guatemala Tikal Peten: The area of Petén occupies almost the whole northern part of the country. Large parts of its territory are covered by abundant vegetation, which features a great variety in flora and fauna. This department is considered as one of the “lungs” of our planet, because of which large parts of its territory have been declared “Protected Areas”. The Reservation of the Mayan Biosphere ranges among the most important protected areas, since it contains more than one million hectares of tropical forest.
Petén stands out as being the principal territory of the historic Mayan Culture. Its many archeological remains bear witness to the fact.
The National Park of Tikal was instituted in 1955 and it consists of an area of more than 570 square kms. The Great Plaza forms part of the most surprising architecture in Tikal. In its surroundings, pointing to the four cardinal points, different structures arise: to the north a group of Ceremonial buildings called “Acropolis of the North”, to the east the “Great Jaguar” is found; to the south is situated a group of buildings like palaces that are called “Central Acropolis”, and finally to the west there is the “Temple of the Masks”. As a magnificent detail in the architecture of the Great Plaza, to the north, just before the buildings of the Acropolis of the North, there are a series of stales, sculptured with information about the Mayan Empire.
Tours from Antigua Guatemala to Tikal
Places to Visit
The oldest building in Tikal is the “Great Pyramid”, more than 35 meters high. It is located in The Plaza. This building, which is found some 300 meters to the southwest of the Great Square, is part of great complex dedicated to Astronomy.
During the late Classic Period (please look for more information on this period in the pages about the “Maya” in the Arts and Culture Section) six of most important buildings in Tikal were built:
It is called “The Great Jaguar” and is located to the east of the Great Plaza. With a height of 45 meters it is the most famous temple of all. In the summit of this temple you can appreciate the sculptured face of a jaguar.
Called the “Temple of the Masks”. It is located to the west of the Great Square, like “The Great Jaguar”. This temple was built 700 A:C: and is 38 meters high.
Also called “The Great Priest”. Reaching a height of almost 50 meters. It is located to the west side of the “Temple of the Masks”. In this third temple you can still appreciate an original lintel made of wood.
It was built in the year 470 A:C: It is situated to the west side of the Great Plaza. The “Temple of the Bicephalous Snake” is the highest structure in Tikal with a height of 65 meters. Visitors of the park can ascend to the top of the pyramid and enjoy a magnificent view of Tikal.
It is found to the side (toward the south) of the Central Acropolis and measures more than 55 meters.
This temple is called “Temple of the Inscriptions”. This temple is famous for the inscriptions that were engraved on its top. They constitute the longest hieroglyphic text discovered in Tikal.
The Mayan Biosphere
The Mayan Biosphere consists of more than 1 million hectares of protected thick subtropical jungle. Only about one-third of this area, classified as “multiple use”, has human activity.
Located to the east of this Reserve is the largest National Park of Central America, “Laguna del Tigre”. There, in addition to an extensive system of lakes and lagoons of worldwide significance, the rare Xavier stork and the Scarlet Macaw are found.
In the north of the Petén Itza lagoon, next to the famous Tikal National Park, the El Zotz Biotope is located. It contains Mayan ruins of astrological character. Exemplary conservational work has been carried out here by the University of San Carlos. This area, because of its scenic beauty, caves and swamps, is much recommended for visits by groups. Also it can be explored on horseback starting from the Dos Aguadas intersection. Further to the National Park “El Mirador” and “Río Azul” can be found, which would be called almost legendary because of their remoteness and archeological findings. The “Dos Lagunas” biotope seems to be without doubt the heart of the jungle. One can observe all kinds of animals, like snakes, exotic birds, jaguars, pumas, Tizana eagle, boas with white lips, and crocodiles. To access it, one needs a guide and professional preparation.
The smallest preserved area close to Flores is the Biotope Cerro Cahui. This place has many advantages. It is located halfway between Flores and Tikal, and is about 4 kms. Away from the intersection leading to the archeological site of Yaxa, in the direction towards the border of Belize. Along the asphalt road lies the village of El Remate. Its population of about two thousand people, lives from the production of wooden crafts and tourism, because of which, it counts on safeguarding professionals in Bio-diversity.
The village of El Remate, at the rim of the famous lake Petén Itza, offers a spectacular sunset. Take a tour on horseback, or in a boat, observe water birds or hike to the Cerro Cahui Biotope, which is less than 1 km away.
All these activities can be done with or without a guide, and you are sure to enjoy an incredible panoramic view. The Biotopo was founded in 1980 in order to protect the last dense forest around the lake, and a small population (about 10 specimen) of howler and spider monkeys. Currently, thanks to the extraordinary protective work, there exist more than 15 groups of monkeys. Everyday they can be spotted with more and more facility.
Being in these jungle covered mountains, at the shore of a crystalline lake, 3 kms away from Tikal, there is no doubt that one is experiencing something unique. Relaxing and rejuvenating, this typical area is cared for by the same people as El Remate, with small hotels and restaurants.
The department of Petén contains the largest Protected Area of Tropical Forests in Central America. These forests, lakes and rivers, through the assistance of various Conservation Organizations, are still pristine and untouched.
Eco-tourism projects have brought Organizations benefits to various communities at the rim of the Mayan Biosphere, which El Remate is definitely the most beautiful of all encountered at the shore of lake Petén Itza. This permits tourism to fully explore this outstanding biological reserve.