You'll Never Guess Where You'll Find the Best Mayan Ruins
Full Disclosure here...
I had no idea what to expect as I was flying into a new Central American country.
Honestly, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear Guatemala? For me, my first thought was: “One more stamp! Let's roll!”
Then it dawned on me: I didn’t know the first thing about this country or what I’d be experiencing in exchange for this new stamp.
A little hardcore travel research later (googled Guatemala), I realized this little country has so much to offer and I started coming across pictures like these...
A little more reading turned up articles that consistently ranked Guatemala among the top 10 happiest countries in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to live in another one of those top 10 countries so this obviously sounds like something right up my alley.
Fast forward to flight day
Flight day started off like any other day of travel... until it didn’t.
I arrived at my terminal and decided to start chatting up the cute Guatemalan girl sitting next to me. First question: “Estas viajando solo?” aka “Am I traveling solo?” I’m used to this question, “yep” I respond with a hint of pride in my voice (I’m very lucky to have the best job in the world).
Her befuzzled look was one I was also used to.
Next question from cute Guatemalan girl: “Estas visitando familia?” aka “are you visiting family?”. “Nope, all solo” I responded. The look on her face was unmistakable and basically said: “you crazy gringo”.
Now, I’m pretty used to this reaction. I live a fairly unconventional life.
What caught me off guard was the look of sheer concern on her face. As if I was about to fly into a civil war and forgot to check the news.
I did extensive research on Guatemala (you know, Google) but did I miss something? What the hell was I getting myself into? Why the judgmental look from cute Guatemalan?
As I take out my phone to do a little last minute search... “We’re now boarding group 1 for Guatemala City”.
Welp, f*ck it.
By this point I’ve been all over the world so I know I’m not going to get fooled into a shitty situation. At the same time I was imagining all these apocalyptic scenarios as I landed in Guatemala City... Oh how wrong I was.
I land in Guatemala city. Surrounding the airport I see modern high-rises, friendly smiles, and a very non-apocalyptic looking city. Woo!! First imaginary scenario defeated.
Next, taxi’s in Central America. This can be a fun challenge. Some countries have no "official" taxi system. Which makes it pretty difficult to figure out whether you’re hopping in a car with a taxi driver or a dude who’ll end up robbing you.
I step out of the airport, moment of truth… an official taxi system!! Yay no one’s robbing Eric today!
During my quick drive over to the next terminal, I glance around the city and it looks like a fully functional, stable, Central American city...
Anyway, I safely make it to my next flight that takes me to Flores, Guatemala which is the jumping point for the Mayan Ruins in the area.
Flores is a small, safe, and charming little island. You can easily do a lap around the island in under an hour.
What an awesome, cozy little place.
There were street food vendors, local fishermen offering lancha rides around the lake, and of course, countless backpackers. Such an eclectic mix of people on a small little patch of land.
Onto the highlight of the trip, the highlight of the area, the big daddy...
Tikal National Park
Let me start by saying that in the past year I’ve been lucky enough to see the archeological sites of Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, and Tulum.
That being said, Tikal could very well be my favorite.
Let me begin with the vastness of this park.
Tikal is a 222 square mile national park. In other words, the park is HUGE. Unlike the other archeological sites you will run into very few crowds in Tikal.
At it’s height, Tikal was a city and home to around 200,000 Mayans and there’s proof of this everywhere.
It seemed like everywhere you turned there was a new structure, whether it was fully exposed or buried under hundreds of years of mother nature running its course. Some of my favorites were the ones that were half exposed and half buried.
What I really loved about this place was that you are literally walking through a massive ancient mayan city. And you’re actually allowed to climb some of these structures that date back thousands of years.
It was a hell of an experience and if you want to be blown away by an archeological site this is it.
Oh and if none of that does it for you… part of Star Wars Episode 4 was filmed there.