Our last stop in Guatemala was an island called Flores; made famous for two reasons; the location is the main tourist stop off for the amazing Mayan ruins at Tikal and also because (now connected by a bridge to the mainland) Flores is a quaint colonial type town nestled within a huge stretch of water.
Our journey from Semuc was very interesting to say the least! We opted for a slightly cheaper bus than the one ran by the hostel and unluckily we paid for that cheaper privilege in the end! Each time the bus stopped and stalled it had to be pushed to get the engine jump started again, and then we had not one but two tyre blow outs! Jumping the van and the blow outs all, in a weird way, add to a crazy travelling experience!
The time we spent in Flores we had a browse around town, few drinks in the hostel (which was one of the nicest we'd stayed in yet) and tried a local bbq but the main reason for the visit was Tikal.
We opted for a day visit as the sun rises and sun sets hadn't been great recently and also for a local guide. The ruins didn't disappoint, they were amazing!
The Tikal Ruins are huge! They have the largest Pre-Colombian structure in the Americas and flourished mainly between 200 - 850AD but the site dates back to the 4th Century BC! The area is surrounded by jungle and as such much of the city is still under thick forest, very slowly with the help of external funding more and more of the site is being uncovered. In terms of the Maya, this site was also one of the most powerful and important in their ancient civilisation.
The size of the structures (especially because of their age) and the size of the area is breathtaking! The site is over 6.2 square miles and has around 3,000 structures! Considering the age of the civilisation that once occupied Tikal they were very advanced with complex pyramids, purpose built reservoirs that collected and stored rainwater to serve the population and a detailed layout of areas for trade, social, religious and residential use. In terms of wildlife these ruins also help to keep preserved massive areas of Guatemalan forest so really good when much is being logged in other local countries.
During the tour we walked a lot of the areas we could, climbed the structures and learned a lot about the Maya history. One of the pyramids is so high it also gives you a view over the site where you can just see a few of the highest pyramids coming out of the top of the canopy.
It was the second (and much larger) Mayan site we'd visited after Copan and well worth it. The next stop would be a short trip through Belize and then onto Mexico!