Discover the wonder of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, the soaring temple-city of Tikal, a majestic site surrounded by a jungle full of scampering monkeys and colorful tropical birds. En route to Tikal, enjoy a visit to the mysterious and lesser-known Maya site of Yaxha, set on a beautiful lagoon. Accommodations are at Villa Maya, a quiet retreat in a private natural reserve, or delightful La Lancha, a stylish ecolodge set on a lake—your choice.
Pook’s Hill / Tikal
After a morning birding walk at Pook’s Hill, we depart the Maya Mountains and head to the border, venturing deep into the Petén rainforest of Guatemala to explore the seldom-visited Maya ruins of Yaxha with a guide. Set on the northern shores of a lagoon, this Mesoamerican archaeological site was discovered in 1904 and is spread across nine plazas. This once great ceremonial city was occupied between 600 BC and 900 AD. Shrouded by rainforest, it hints at what Tikal may have looked like prior to its restoration. (Yaxha may look somewhat familiar—it was the setting for season 11 of the TV reality series, Survivor.) We continue to our accommodation, either Villa Maya, a quiet retreat located on the shores of Petenchel and Monifata lagoons, or La Lancha, a stylish ecolodge developed by Francis Ford Coppola that overlooks Lake Peten Itza...BL
We wake early for our full day tour of Tikal, the most magnificent Mayan ruin in all Central America. Tikal is one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world, a vast lost city dominated by five steep-sided stone pyramids that rear 20 stories out of the dense Petén rainforest. Around these massive buildings are literally thousands of other structures—the remains of temples, royal palaces, residences, and administrative buildings. The most famous is Temple I, known as the Temple of the Grand Jaguar. It is the tomb of Hasaw Chan K’awil, the powerful divine ruler of Tikal from 682 to 723 AD. Temple IV, the tallest pyramid at Tikal (230 feet) and also the largest of the Maya world, marks the reign of Hasaw Chan K’awil's son. Scholars have still not discovered the mystery that caused the eventual abandonment of this city around 900 AD.
In this great Mayan capital, with its dawn and dusk serenade of troops of howler monkeys and the calls of birds, we walk the steep central stairways of the pyramids, explore the ball courts and great plazas, and marvel at the sheer scale of the setting. Tikal today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected within Parque Nacional Tikal, which is set on the edge of the huge Maya Biosphere Reserve. We enjoy a picnic lunch near the ruins, and at the end of the day we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight...BL
Transfer to the airport in Flores and board departing flights, either through Guatemala City or Belize City, depending on your post-trip plans...B