The beat of ancient drums hangs in the sauna-like air and the same stars the Mayans used to mark their mysterious calendars shine brightly through the towering canopy of northern Guatemala’s lush jungle. Peeking from between the verdant curtain of giant ceiba and mahogany trees are some of the most spectacular ruins from the ancient Mayan world—the temples of Tikal.
Imposing yet desolate pyramids and crumbling blocks of stone are all that are left of this once bustling metropolis, whose name fittingly means “place of echoes.” In its heyday, between 500 and 900 CE, Tikal’s population was pushing 100,000, but all that remains today are the eerie screams of distant howler monkeys.
Our enthusiastic guide led us through the flora and fauna infested jungle, stopping for an excited soliloquy each time he spotted a rare bird or exotic lizard. Monkeys walked the tightrope of temple walls with tails held high, while local men wielding hand sized tarantulas skulked among the trees ready to offer photo ops to the bravest among the tourists.
Warning! Do not scroll down if you are scared of spiders!
I’m not kidding when I say hand sized…
I have never claimed to be brave, but when the rest of my little tour group took a turn, I decided to gather my courage strictly for the social media worthy photo opportunity!
The surreal surroundings of Tikal are an ideal place to play Indiana Jones, and we scampered up the steps of each temple with ever increasing shortness of breath. Our guide taught us that temples were constructed strictly on the four cardinal points: south and west representing water and earth, and east and north representing air and sun, respectively. Don’t accidentally exit through the south door though…that leads to the underworld.
After catching my breath, I took a seat at the top of the ancient Mayan world, gazing at the temples poking out from the carpet of treetops like the wily rodents in Whack-a-Mole.
My fiancé Steve’s always been the one fascinated with ancient ruins, but after my visit to Tikal, I think I may finally see what all the fuss is about.
Where’s your favorite place to play Indiana Jones? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.