A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

Visiting the Tikal ruins in Guatemala was definitely the highlight of my road trip in Guatemala. It’s truly one of the most impressive sites in all of Central America. 

I visited Tikal as part of my extended trip in Latin America. I rented a car in Guatemala and drove all around the country, checking some of the coolest attractions in Guatemala. If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, you should also check out my comprehensive Guatemala travel guide to help you plan your trip.

Getting to Tikal wasn’t easy. And there are some things you need to know about Tikal, the famous ruins of Guatemala, that I will tell you about before your visit so that you make the most out of it. 

Hopefully, you will put Tikal on your travel bucket list after reading this Tikal guide. If I missed adding any details, please feel free to contact me. 

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)
Powered by GetYourGuide

Tikal guide in video format

Before getting into this Tikal guide, I just want to mention that I have also posted a comprehensive video about Tikal on my YouTube channel.

If reading isn’t your thing, go over to my video to enjoy some really cool shots from Tikal and hear all about visiting Tikal + my best tips.

Powered by GetYourGuide

How to get to Tikal ruins?

Firstly, it depends on where you are coming from. But here are the main options for getting to Tikal, Guatemala:

  • Bus from Guatemala City
  • Plane from Guatemala City
  • Car/Day tour from Belize

If visiting Tikal is part of a bigger trip around Guatemala, then you will probably land in Guatemala City airport. From there, many foreigners choose to visit Antigua for a couple of days, and then those who have more days in Guatemala plan a trip to Tikal.

From Guatemala City you can either take a overnight bus or a 1-hour flight to Flores.

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

Bus from Guatemala City to Flores

The overnight bus from Guatemala City to Flores should take about 10 hours, but it isn’t comfortable. After driving in Guatemala to reach all the best attractions in the country, I would advise against driving at night or being on a bus at night. 

Most roads are in the dark, drivers are reckless, and buses drive very fast. However, if this is your only option because of budget or whatever the case is for you, then do it. If you have the time, I recommend splitting the journey into a few different legs. 

For instance, stop for a day in Puerto Barrios (a bit of a detour), then Rio Dulce, and then get to Flores. You can also skip Flores and go directly to El Remate, a smaller village but closer to Tikal, where you will find plenty of hotels and accommodations. 

Flight from Guatemala City to Flores

If you decide to get a flight from Guatemala City to Flores, then this is the best way to save time and not expose yourself to the chaotic driving experience in Guatemala. If you have no interest in seeing anything else on the way there, and you are short on time, I strongly recommend to get on this flight. There are daily flights between Guatemala City and Flores. 

Then, from Flores, you either get a cheap shuttle bus and then follow all the info I have in this Tikal ruins guide, or if you don’t want to be bother with anything else, you book a Tikal day trip from Flores.

Powered by GetYourGuide

From Flores and El Remate, you will find many shuttles to get you to Tikal. If nothing pops up, just ask at your hotel and they will point you into the right direction. You pay for the shuttle transport on the spot. 

Day trip from Belize

Many also visit Tikal from Belize. There are many tour agencies offering this day trip to Tikal from Belize.

Powered by GetYourGuide

If you are coming from the US and just want to visit Tikal, then you should fly to Belize. From there, it’s much easier to get to Tikal. You can either rent a car, go on a day trip with a tour agency, or simply get a bus there. If I were to go back, this is the option I would choose. 

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

How to visit Tikal from Flores? The easiest way

The absolute easiest way to visit Tikal, if you are already in Guatemala, is to fly from Guatemala City to Flores.

From Flores, join a tour to Tikal, which includes a local guide, round-trip transport and tickets.

Powered by GetYourGuide

Renting a car in Guatemala

If you are a true adventurer, like myself, and want to explore Guatemala at your own pace, then renting a car in Guatemala is the best way to do that. 

I did an amazing 10-day road trip in Guatemala, which I recommend to any adventurous travellers who likes exploring everything Guatemala has to offer for first-time visitors.

I also wrote a comprehensive guide about driving in Guatemala, which you should definitely read before deciding to rent a car in Guatemala

But, if you are used to driving in different countries from around the world and have plenty of experience driving, then you’re up for the job. 

I find that driving gives me so much liberty to create my own schedule and also carry all the stuff I need in the car. 

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

I try to avoid going on guided tours, especially when you have the option to rent a car.

However, I strongly recommend that you get the full insurance the car rental will offer you. While in most countries, that seems excessive, it is not so in Guatemala. This is not a joke. 

It’s not that you’re not a good driver; it’s because others drive like crazy people with no regard for local traffic laws. 

If you want to avoid the chaotic driving around Guatemala City, you can also fly to Flores and rent a car from there. This is the best way to avoid stress and visit Tikal ruins at your own pace if you don’t want to depend on local shuttles between Flores and Tikal.

Things to bring with you to Tikal

Tikal is located deep in the rainforest jungle, where the climate feels exactly like you would experience in any jungle. It is hot, humid, extremely sunny, with lots of bugs around. 

To make your visit to Tikal more comfortable, I strongly recommend having the following with you:

  • A big bottle of water 
  • Sunscreen for the face and body
  • Insect repellent (spray it and don’t wait to see the bugs)
  • Sun hat 
  • Comfortable walking shoes or sandals 
  • Some snacks

Inside Tikal park you will find some spots near the popular temples where they sell some snacks (think of chips and packaged stuff) and cold water and soda (no beer). They only accept cash. There are also toilets. 

However, it is very hot, so you will drink a lot of water inside. So bring water with you from the start. 

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

Buying tickets for Tikal

Buying Tikal tickets online 

You can buy tickets for Tikal entrance online here – https://boletos.culturaguate.com/boletos-extranjeros/ (Tikal entrance tickets for foreigners). This is the official website from the Guatemala Ministery of Culture. 

Note there are a bunch of different tickets, but you need to buy the Tikal Extranjeros (Entrada al parque (Extranjeros)) ticket, which is the last option on the page. As of May 2024, the price for this ticket is 150 Q (about $19.36). 

Buying Tikal tickets at the gate 

You can also buy them directly at the gate. However, in March 2024, they only accepted cash at the physical ticket office. 

I didn’t have enough cash to get two tickets, so I ended up buying them online, as I was parked just in front of the gate and tourists buses were passing by. 

To avoid any delays, I recommend that you also buy your Tikal tickets online. After completing the purchase, you will receive a confirmation email, and in the attachment, you will receive your tickets in the form of a PDF. Download that PDF before you get to Tikal because data service isn’t great in that area. 

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

The process of getting inside Tikal

1. Stop at the first get to check for tickets

They will stop you at your gate (in the shuttle or individual car) to check if you have a ticket. The staff at the ticket counter will not let you pass unless you have a ticket. This is done at the first entrance. 

Here, some local tour guides might ask you if you want a guide. If you are truly into history, have a lot of time and energy to walk around and want to ask a lot of questions about the Mayan culture and civilisation, you might consider hiring a guide. 

There are some other guides at the entrance after you park the car. I didn’t hire a guide, but I believe they have to be paid in cash, and you will negotiate with them their pay. So plan accordingly. 

However, even after I told them we didn’t want a guide, they were super helpful in helping us get our tickets online, and one of the guides made a hotspot from his mobile to help us get the tickets because our internet wasn’t working. 

They made sure we were on the right website and advised us not to spend our last cash on the tickets because we needed it in the park to get water or snacks. They were right. Once again, the locals in Guatemala were really nice and helpful, not trying to trick us into getting extra money or anything like that. 

A guide also sold us a map of Tikal here for 25Q ($3.23). He didn’t insist; just asked us politely.  You can get the same map at the entrance, after you park the car, for the same price (cash only). 

From this point, you still have to drive 17 km (about 20 minutes by car). 

2. Drive for 20 minutes to the parking lot

You are not allowed to stop on this road, as it is a rode through the jungle, and there could be dangerous wild animals. I saw signs for jaguars, and I certainly didn’t want to encounter one on that road. 

As you pass by the first gates, where the ticket counter is, you will be given a small piece of paper with the time of your entry into the park. 

That paper needs to be given at the end of this road, as they check the total time you need to drive on that road. That’s how they check your driving speed. The speed limit is 40 km/h. 

3. Park right next to the entrance

After arriving at the parking lot, park where you want; the parking is free (it was free in March 2024). 

Around the parking lot, you will see a tourist information desk, some restaurants and three hotels. 

4. Walk to the entrance and enjoy your visit to Tikal

After you park the car, you can simply walk to the entrance, where you have to present your tickets once again, and they will write your time of entry in a registry.

I assume they do this to make sure everyone gets out at the end of the day. Tikal isn’t the kind of place where you want to spend the night. 

A Complete Guide For Visiting Tikal Ruins In Guatemala (2024)

Where to stay at Tikal?

There are many hotels and accommodations in and near Tikal. You can basically choose between three different locations, popular for all tourists visiting Tikal. 

Stay at Tikal ruins

If you want to stay right next to the entrance, basically inside the park, you can stay at one of these three hotels:

The downside of staying inside the Tikal Park is that except for the hotel’s amenities and the few things nearby and the entrance to the park, there isn’t much to do. I would stay there for a night or two, but that’s about it. 

Stay in El Remate

However, you can also stay in El Remate, a big village about 1 hour away from Tikal, right on the shore of the Peten Iza lake. 

The village has plenty of accommodation options, to suit all budgets. This is where I stayed, at Casa Aleman, which had the most gorgeous view of the lake and it truly felt like we were staying in the jungle, while the village had everything you needed (market, restaurants, ATM). 

Here are some great hotel options in El Remate:

Stay in Flores

Another option is to stay in Flores, which is an additional hour away, but this is a small town, and it has an airport. 

It’s also on the shore of the lake, and many choose to stay here because they have direct shuttles to Tikal from here. Also, bigger towns are better connected through regular buses to other parts of Guatemala. 

Here are some great hotel options in Flores:

Tips to make your Tikal visit memorable

Visiting Tikal was the highlight of my trip in Guatemala

But let’s not forget that Tikal is located deep in the jungle, where nature is left almost untouched, as it should be. 

The humid environment is not something most of us are used to. And what you see to look great in photos will not feel so great in reality. 

Feeling sweaty and hot is not my cup of tea, and walking all around Tikal will take you anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours, depending on how fast you move and what you want to visit. 

To try and make your visit to Tikal as pleasant as possible, I have a few tips for you:

  • Buy your ticket online. You will save time that morning when you get at the entrance. You can show your PDF ticket on your mobile. They also only accept cash at the entrance, and you should have cash for other purchases within the park. 
  • Try to get there early. Tikal opens at 6 AM and closes at 6 PM. I don’t think it gets too crowded, but the later you go in the day, the hotter it gets. 
  • The sun is no joke, make sure to cover up and bring sunscreen. 
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid sunstroke. There are free toilets in the park. 
  • Buy the map at the entrance. 
  • You can visit the entire park in 4 hours if you hurry and 6 hours if you take your time. 
  • The only place where it gets crowded in Tikal is the main plaza. Some people might start clapping there, as there is some sort of resonance. But the rest of the temples get only a few people at a time and you might even be the only one there. 
  • Bring some cash to buy water and snacks inside the park. They don’t accept card payments. 
  • Nobody checked my backpack, so you should bring snacks because you will spend a few hours inside. However, there is a restaurant in the Park, somewhere close to the entrance. You will find it on the map. 
  • You can also eat at the restaurant right next to the entrance when you get out. It’s next to the souvenirs shops. They do accept cards. 
  • You don’t need to arrange your transfer to and from Tikal in advance. There will be shuttle buses going from the villages around to Tikal and back. Just ask the locals or the tourist information point. 
  • Everyone working at Tikal Park and around has been very nice and friendly to me. Nobody tried to scam me. However, it really helped because I spoke Spanish. I wrote a complete Guatemala travel guide to help you navigate your first trip to Guatemala.
  • There are tour guides at Tikal that speak English (which is rather uncommon in Guatemala). 
  • Be a good citizen and leave no trace behind in Tikal Park. The park is really well maintained, so do your part and leave it just as you found it so that future visitors can enjoy it as well. 
Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

View stories