Tikal is an astounding sight!
Abandoned by the Maya almost two millennia ago, it was then swallowed by the jungle. Today, only 20% of this ancient city have been excavated. The remaining 80% are hidden under layers of soil, trees, and shrubbery. The former palaces and temples are hidden under mounts – some quite gigantic! The excavated buildings around the main plaza dwarf you, as you stand by the altar, feeling tiny like a bug. It’s easy to imagine how magnificent the site looked, when the pyramids were plastered, painted in bright colors (mainly red), and decorated with reliefs. If I squinted my eyes, I was transported back there, one of the Mayans now, standing on the plaza, looking up at the ruler in his magnificent attire and the priest in his ceremonial robes cutting the heart out of a live man with an obsidian knife to sacrifice him to their bloodthirsty gods.
Down the road, there is the tallest temple in the complex. It stands 230 feet high, but only about 30 top feet had been freed from the encroached jungle.
They made it easy for you to climb these temples: no struggling up steep stone stairs here. You can just leisurely walk up the wooden staircase built alongside the temple, and then sit back and take it all in: the jungle punctuated by several lonely pyramids reaching up from its midst.
What is so special about this site is how uncrowded it is! Where Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu are mobbed at any given time of day, the main plaza this morning had a crowd of twelve, and the awesome Temple #5 stood alone in the jungle, with not a soul but us gaping at its majesty.
It’s hot and humid in this part of the country, and it’s the end of the rainy season now. So when the rain started falling, we escaped to our hotel on the lake, Las Lagunas. One very advantageous thing for us is that in developing countries we can afford to stay in amazing accommodations that cost a fraction of what similar accommodations would cost in the first world. So here we are, in another amazing hotel, with an amazing view of the lagoon, getting ready to eat dinner.


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