I am now in Northern Guatemala and while I have been here, I have visited Tikal, one of the most famous ancient Mayan cities in Guatemala. The Mayan empire that covered part of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and the rest of Guatemala.
The pyramids of Tikal are some of the largest in the region. The city of Tikal was at its zenith between 1800 and 1100 years ago. It was a ceremonial centre and bustling city in its time.
Tikal is now surrounded by a tropical rainforest that has been declared a national park. It is very biodiverse, with many species of trees and plants, including huge Ceiba trees, mahogany and cocoa, massive fan palms and many other species. There are also different kinds of animals, including Jaguar and around 300 species of birds. When I visited Tikal it was early in the morning and it had just rained - so a perfect time for seeing many different types of birds. I was pleased to see a toucan while I was there, I've been hoping to see one on my whole central american trip. There are also lots of other creatures in the area, including spider monkeys that swing nimbly through the trees and the bellowing calls of howler monkeys echo through the site.
At the grand plaza the huge pyramids face each other. To one side is a ball court. There are also royal residences, a sarcophagus, an observatory and many stone stelae (carved stone plinths covered in figures and hieroglyphics), altars for ritual sacrifices. At the centre of the grand plaza is a round urn, which had been lit with incense, the grand plaza is still used for mayan traditional ceremonies sometimes. From the grand plaza, it is a short walk to the next temple, which it is possible to climb up, and from there enjoy the amazing view over the rainforest and other temples, which rise out of the rainforest.
On the way back I visited the little museum at the entrance to Tikal. It featured photographs of the early archaeologists from the 1800's that had begun the excavation of Tikal. The lush jungle of the area would have quickly covered the buildings and pyramids after they were abandoned. When the first excavations in the 1840's, the pyramids of Tikal used to be barely visible underneath hundreds of years of jungle growth. Before and after photographs showed that after much machete usage, they were visible once more. There were also photographs of the excavations of the burial sites of Kings and Queens from inside the pyramids. One of the burial sites contained an ornately carved wooden lintel that was on display in the museum. It had previously been used to cover the entrance of a doorway to a tomb.