The Maya city of Tikal is located in the rainforest in the lowlands of Guatemala. Flores on Lake Petén is just a hop away. When the Spaniards conquered the highlands of Guatemala, they were also aware of the presence of this ancient city here in the lowlands.
Strange is that, Cortez who must have come close during his expedition to Honduras, didn’t mention the city. But the knowledge of Tikal’s existance seems never got lost completely. Nevertheless, after several expeditions had been undertaken to investigate the area, it took until the 1950s to start the systematic inspection of the site.
The colonization of Tikal began in the pre-classic period around 900 BC. The first architectural traces are dated from 200 BC. This period also marks the first golden age of the city.
Tikal avoided the general decline that began at the end of this period, and reached a new size during the classical period. Nevertheless, the city was abandoned around AD 900.
During this second peak, the area of Tikal might have provided habitat to about 200,000 people, a number bigger than for any town in Europe at this time. The city covered an area of 65 km². So far, 6,000 buildings have been identified. However, it is believed that another 10,000 buildings are waiting to be discovered.
The most remarkable buildings are located in the center of the city, which has an area of 16 km². The temple pyramids have no special names and are numbered with roman numbers as Temple I to Temple VI.
Alongside other great temples and palace buildings, Temple I and Temple II flank a large central square, the Plaza Major.
The Temples III to VI can be found on the margins of this central area or even completely outside.
The Temples I and II have a remarkable height for Central America with 40m and 47 m, respectively. Even more impressive are the Temples IV and V. They reach a height of 65 m and 58 m.
Tikal can be reached easily by public transport. If you stay in Flores then you can start at the bus station in Flores / St. Elena. From El Remate you can simply stop a colletivo. The ride in the collectivo takes less than an hour. Good shoes and sufficient drinking water are recommended for the tour to this location. The routes within the site are relatively long. Be prepared to walk a lot.
A very nice description including stunning photos of Tikal can be found on the website of Saphire & Elm: