Guatemala – Fact Check

There's still much to discover in precious Tikal

Attracting around 1,500 visitors a day in peak season, Tikal National Park is well-recognized as one of Guatemala's tourist hotspots. But much still remains to be excavated of a civilization that was at its height in the eight and ninth centuries and had a population of as much as 90,000 Maya.

Photo by Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy

Guatemala – Fact Check

There's still much to discover in precious Tikal

Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by thick jungle, is one of the best-preserved sites of Mayan civilization.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

Few of the 1,500 daily visitors in peak season see a fraction of the awe-inspiring temples and palaces, as well as more than 3,000 other buildings, but they reflect only a part of the city.

Much still remains to be excavated of a civilization that was at its height in the 8th and 9th centuries and had a population of as much as 90,000 Maya. In addition, it is thought that there were perhaps 425,000 people living within a 25 kilometers radius of the center.

The city is surrounded by Tikal, a national park that is the largest area of tropical rainforest in Central America, with at least 300 species of trees. The park's rivers, lakes, swamps and flood-lands form one of the most extensive wetland systems in Central America, vital to migratory birds.

As well as being home to at least 400 species of birds, it also protects a wide range of mammal species, from monkeys and anteaters, to pumas and jaguars. The extensive swamplands were unsuitable for habitation or agriculture and make the scale of Tikal at its peak even more impressive.