Few spots on Earth so beautifully combine a diversity and abundance of rainforest
birds and mammals with outstanding archaeological ruins. Only at the ruins of Tikal, protected as a national park, can one quietly stalk an Ocellated Turkey or a
party of Crested Guans among magnificent temples and palaces still mostly
enveloped by forest. Only at Tikal can one go at dawn to a forested plaza and
find it occupied by a band of White-nosed Coatis while a troop of Central
American Spider Monkeys crashes through the canopy overhead. Only at Tikal
can one sit at the top of a Mayan pyramid, above the forest canopy, and watch
White Hawks and King Vultures circling above and see unbroken forest in all
directions to the limit of vision.
One of the largest cities of the ancient Maya, Tikal had its origins around 600
B.C. During its cultural peak in the Late Classic Period (around A.D. 800), it supported a population of 50,000 to 75,000. By A.D. 1000 the city had been deserted, to be reclaimed by forest and forgotten for a millennium. Rediscovered
by mahogany hunters in the twentieth century, Tikal has been tastefully and selectively restored, and the main plaza, with its majestic temples, palaces, stelae, and altars, is one of the loveliest settings in the world.
Days Six and Seven