How to visit Tikal Mayan Ruins – All your questions answered!

What to do when you visit Flores, Peten, Guatemala? / Flores top tourist activities

FAQs about Tikal National Park, located nearby Flores, Peten, Guatemala, including how to get there with shuttle or public transport, what to bring, guided tour information, entrance cost and rules, & more!

No trip to Guatemala would be complete without a visit to the world-famous Mayan ruins of Tikal, one of the largest and most powerful cities of the ancient Mayans. The construction of the site itself is intricate and impressive, and much of Tikal has been restored so you can admire the architectural and natural wonders that surround you. Climb temples for impressive views of the huge city, wander through the jungle, spotting howler monkeys, toucans, coatis, and more tropical animals, and learn about the fascinating history of the Mayan world. 

Did you know? The Tikal ruins have been featured in Mel Gibson’s Apocalyptica and Star Wars: Episode IV and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late 1970s.

Planning your trip to Tikal but have some questions? We have the information you need! Keep reading for answers to all the frequently asked questions about visiting Tikal.

the main plaza at Tikal

What do I need to bring for a day trip to Tikal?

  • Food & water for the day – there is a restaurant at the park entrance, but as Tikal is so large, it can be very inconvenient to find your way back there when hunger strikes! A picnic lunch can be enjoyed throughout the park.
  • Bug spray
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen and/or hat
  • Clothes for warm, sunny weather

Do I need a tour guide for Tikal?

It is not mandatory, however we highly recommend taking one! There is very little written down around the park, so you will get no information on the site without a guide. A guide can tell you all about the history of the Mayans, information on how the temples were constructed, help you spot the wildlife, and let you in on secrets of the ruins. For example, one pyramid was built specifically so that when you clap your hands, it makes the sound of a quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, which you would be unlikely to discover on your own. If you arrange your transport with a hostel or reputable tour company in Flores, it is usually only a few dollars/euros price difference to add a guided tour, and it is really a worthwhile investment that adds a lot to the experience! Also, your park entrance ticket is good for the entire day, so you are welcome to stay in the park after the guided tour, no need to worry about having a time limit.

If you still prefer to go solo, you can absolutely do it via tourist shuttle or public bus. In either case, it always helps to do some research first so you can get the most out of your trip.

If you want help setting up your shuttle and/or guided tour to Tikal, check out our options here!

What languages do tour guides speak? 

All guides speak Spanish and English. 

How much does the park entrance to Tikal cost?

Regular park entrance (between 6am and 4:30pm) costs Q150, which you can pay at the entrance gate when you arrive to Tikal.

For sunset at Tikal, there is an additional charge of Q100, for a total of Q250 per person. If you have not purchased a sunset ticket, you will be asked to exit the park at 4:30pm.

For sunrise at Tikal, there is an additional charge of Q100, for a total of Q250 per person. Sunrise tickets must be purchased in advance at any Banrural bank location in Guatemala, and are valid for 30 days. There is one just a few minutes away from Flores where you can easily get your ticket once you are in town. If you plan on spending the night in a hotel at Tikal, you can also purchase your sunrise entrance ticket the day before during regular operating hours at the ticket gate. Please be aware that you will NOT be permitted to enter the park for sunrise if you do not already have the tickets totalling Q250.

For either sunrise or sunset, you are required to be with a guide.

What time do shuttles/tours go to Tikal?

Tourist shuttles depart Flores daily at 3am (sunrise tour), 4:30am, 6am, 8am, and 12pm (sunset tour). All tickets come with an open return, with options of 11am, 12:30pm, 3pm, and 6-6:30pm (after sunset).

When is the best time of day to go to Tikal?

The earlier, the better! If you can handle the early wake up time, we recommend going at 3am, 430am, or 6am. The park will be less crowded and the animals more active…plus, the later it gets, the hotter it gets! Temperatures usually hit mid-30’s midday.

sunrise in Tikal

Can I get to Tikal by public transportation? 

Yes! However, it is basically the same price as going via tourist shuttle, but you can definitely get to Tikal by public bus/collectivo if you prefer. Here’s how:

  • Head to the bus station inside the Santa Elena marketplace. From Flores, you can walk there in about 20 minutes (or take a quick tuk-tuk for Q5). Buses to Tikal leave around 6am, 9:30am, 12pm, and 2pm. As always with collectivos in Guatemala, the schedule is somewhat flexible so you should arrive early but also expect to wait. 
  • The trip costs about Q40-Q50 per person, one way (Q80-Q100 round trip). Keep in mind that Tikal is a national park and a destination solely for tourism, so the price is higher than for other public transport trips, even for locals. There is no negotiation once you are on the shuttle, so ask the price before you board if you want to be sure.
  • The bus is direct and takes about 2 hours. 
  • Optional: once at Tikal, depending on your timing, you may be able to grab a guide or join a scheduled tour as it starts. Expect to pay Q50-Q70 per person for a guide.
  • The last bus returning to Flores leaves around 5pm, but be sure to ask for the schedule before you enter the park to account for any daily fluctuations.
  • Follow the other guidelines for what to bring and park entrance fees.

Can I spend the night in Tikal?

Yes, there are hotels at Tikal where you can spend the night, however they are located just outside the park grounds. Basically, you will spending the night nearby Tikal, in a great position to enter early the next morning, but not actually inside the park.

Camping is also possible on hotel grounds, but again, not inside the park itself. You have to pay a camping permit fee, and you can also rent camping equipment if you need it.

Want to experience actually spending the night inside a Mayan ruins site? You can camp overnight at Yaxhacontact us for more info.

If I arrive to the park in the late afternoon, is my entrance ticket good for the following day?

No. In the past, this was allowed after a certain time so there is some old info about it floating around the internet, but it is not currently allowed (and has not been for quite a while). You will need to purchase the standard Tikal entrance ticket for each day you plan to enter, plus a ticket for any sunset or sunrise that you wish to see.

Still have questions? Please feel free to contact us for any help you need planning your trip!

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