Most visitors to Tikal stay overnight in Flores and do day trips to view the Tikal temples. Flores is a quaint little island town that is an obvious choice to base your expedition to the Tikal and Petén regions. If you want to have a little bit more of an intimate experience, it is worth considering a stay in Tikal National Park. We have some suggestions if you’re searching for Tikal National Park accommodations on-site.
To learn more about Tikal, read Exploring Tikal – Highlights and Tips. Here are things to know if you choose to stay inside the Tikal National Park complex.
How to get here from Flores
Tikal’s pyramids are located about 70 km or one hour away by a car. The easiest way to get to Tikal is by joining one of the many organized Tikal tours or to use transport from tour agencies in Flores. The price of this journey varies. It’s around GTQ 80-100. Ask for a discount if you are traveling in a group.
There might be a semi-regular public bus service that you can take to Tikal ruins, but several highway robberies get reported on this route that especially target foreigners. You’ll see a lot of soldiers in full gear protecting this touristy stretch of road.
You can reach Flores from either the capital Guatemala City or Belize City. Many visitors opt to fly to Belize City, which is a closer distance to travel. Read How to Get from Belize City to Tikal.
The National Park is open from 6 am to 6 pm everyday. The admission fee is GTQ 120 (or GTQ 25 for locals). It’s valid for the whole day, regardless of your time of arrival. I heard that, unofficially, if you obtain your ticket after 3 pm, you can ask the park ranger to date and stamp your ticket with the next day’s date, so that you can also use it for two days.
In my case, and in almost every noon shuttle leaving Flores, the tour operator collects the admission fee and asks for your itinerary. If you’re staying at the park, he’ll ask for additional GTQ 25 for the “bribe” – though it seems it goes into his own pocket. But it’s only the equivalent of $3.50.
Sunset/Sunrise Tour: worth it?
If you stay in Flores, you can do the sunrise tour. Be ready for your journey by 3 am so you can arrive at Tikal National Park by 4:30. Don’t forget a flashlight or headlamp! These are more dependable than your phone’s flashlight. The cost for such tour varies, but expect to pay of GTQ 250 which includes transportation and the entrance to Tikal National Park.
It is a memorable moment to observe the expansive universe in the sky above, only occasionally obstructed by a gigantic pyramid structure in the dark. While you’re sitting on top of Temple IV, the highest point in the park, witnessing the jungle waking up is magical. You can hear the howling monkey and many birds chirping, while the sky gets lighter.
All of a sudden, the thick jungle with ancient Mayan ruins appears before your eyes. This is the best way to experience the famous Guatemala ruins!
If you associate Tikal with Star Wars, this is where you want to be. If you’re an avid fan, you’ll really appreciate the view, as this was the set for Yavin 4 in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope.
Tikal National Park is big. Even if you don’t do the Sunset or Sunrise tour, joining any tour during your stay in Tikal is highly recommended. You’ll learn so much more about the structure and culture of the park, as well as how to navigate the park efficiently.
Why stay in Tikal hotels?
The park officially opens at 6 am and your entrance ticket covers this. However, the park rangers arrive at 4:30 and only organized tours are allowed enter the park. These sunrise tours pick up visitors from hotels in Flores at 2-3 am. This is the only way you can enjoy the sunrise at the top of Temple IV inside the park, if you stay in Flores.
However, if you already have Tikal National Park accommodations and, therefore, are staying inside the park, you can spare yourself the 1 hr drive from Flores and wake up in your comfortable bed. Then, simply meet your tour guide at the entrance just a few steps away from your hotel.
Typically, the sunrise in Tikal is at 6:30 am. To get to Temple IV from the main entrance, you have to walk for about 40 minutes. It’s possible quickly run through the park to catch the end of the sunrise with your 6 am general admission ticket. But it requires knowing your way around the park. Good planning is crucial.
Tikal National Park Accommodations
There are only three hotels you can stay at inside Tikal National Park.
- The Jungle Lodge Tikal
- The Jaguar Inn Tikal
- The Tikal Inn.
The price varies greatly according to your bed arrangement, time of staying, and size of your group. But expect to pay between $50-200 per night.
Budget Tikal National Park accommodations
There are two camping sites that offer excellent Tikal National Park accommodations for budget friendly travelers. The official camping site, which located by the main entrance next to the Ceramic Museum, offers space for GTQ 40 and a hammock for GTQ 50. If you already have your own tent or hammock, you just need to pay GTQ 40). The other option for camping is the Jaguar Inn. It offers a hammocks for GTQ 80. This is a popular option for backpackers, so space is almost always sold out. Book this well in advance.
Illegal Overnight Stay
I’ve heard about experiences in the old days where backpackers bribed park rangers. The rangers allowed them to sneak into the park to make camp for the night. Those days have long gone – and this is no longer the option. You can only stay at official Tikal National Park accommodations – one of the hotels or campgrounds. You will be able to view the magical stars, to hear the howling monkeys, and to spot some tarantulas out from their lairs.
Additional tips for Tikal
Here are a few things to know while staying in Tikal National Park:
You’re in a jungle
Have a sense of adventure and enjoy the rare experience of being in the middle of nowhere. Don’t expect luxury or convenience you can only get from a big city. Hot showers and electricity are limited.
Keep in mind that you are a guest in their home. Expect to see many animals around you, including birds, howling monkeys, and insects. While they tend to stay away from humans, their existence is definitely noticeable. Howling monkeys are notoriously loud, especially throughout the night and during the sunrise Tarantulas hunt on the common paths. Mosquitoes and other insects are plentiful, especially in the summertime, so be prepared with repellant.
Electricity is a limited and rare in Tikal. All of the three hotels enforce green policies and only have electricity during peak hours. The Jungle Lodge Inn operates its electricity only from 1-2 in the afternoon, and from 5-10 at night. None of these hotels are air-conditioned, although rooms have ceiling fans. To cool off, take a cold shower before bed.
It is definitely possible to connect to the outside world with free hotel Wi-Fi, which is password protected. Wi-Fi service is solely for hotel guests. Although operated for 24 hours a day, range is very limited in the public area, such as lobby and restaurants. If you are camping, consider purchasing a Guatemalan SIM Card for connectivity. Otherwise, just enjoy being disconnected from the outside world!
Food and drink
Be prepared by bringing food from nearby Flores. Or, if you opt to eat out, there are a few dining and snack options inside Tikal National Park. Each of the three hotels operates good quality restaurants. They offer typical Western meals like burgers and steak, as well as Guatemalan specialties such as fresh fruit, beans and corn tortillas. There is another restaurant inside the park, the Comidor Tikal. All of these establishments are opens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they close around 8:30 pm. Prices are reasonable. Expect to pay $5-8 for a full dinner.
Morning coffee and snacks
If you are doing the sunrise tour that starts at 4:30 am, you can purchase a small cup of coffee and snack from the vendors right outside the entrance. Your tour guides will be able to show you where they are.
During a hike, you can find plenty of small snack and drink huts inside Tikal National Park. These vendors offer refreshments and an opportunity to rest with seating areas. In theory, food is prohibited inside the National Park compound, but I saw plenty of people with prepared meals and snacks inside.
There are plenty of souvenir vendors inside the park – particularly if you are looking for kitschy things, such as postcards, keychains and fridge magnets. Sadly, the only post office inside Tikal National Park was closed, and I was told that there is no operational post office in the Petén department. You will have to send your Tikal postcards elsewhere.
Leave a comment if you hear otherwise!
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