Tikal National Park, the oldest and best known of Guatemala’s national parks, is a wildlife preserve covering 222 square miles of primary tropical forest. The Tikal ruins are among the more outstanding in the Maya world. They have been excavated and restored extensively, but what you’ll see is only a small part of what is still buried and unexplored in the rainforest.
Getting to Tikal from Belize
Flights to Flores, Guatemala are available from Belize City, Guatemala City, and Mexico City. Flights from Belize’s Philip Goldson International Airport are scheduled on Tropic Air (US$186 round-trip). The airport in Flores is small but modern. From the airport, there are vehicles to drive you to the ruins.
Most Belize tourists who sign up for a trip to Tikal will have all their transportation taken care of, either in a private shuttle from Belize City, San Ignacio, or directly from their resort or lodge. Independent (i.e., patient and tolerant) travelers should also have no problem piecing together their own route to the ruins, or to any of the nearby towns.
The road in Guatemala is terrible, and it will take about 1.5 hours to reach the entrance to Tikal National Park, after which the road is excellent for the final 30 miles to the site itself. There is no direct public transportation from the Belize border to Tikal (except in chartered taxis and mini-buses, a good option for groups). The only bus that runs from the border is a Guatemala public bus that goes to Flores. You can spend the night here and take the morning bus to Tikal (board in front of the San Juan Hotel). The border-to-Flores bus is usually very crowded with chickens and the works. Or get off at the crossroads in Ixlú, where another northbound bus can whisk you to El Remate or all the way to Tikal.
By Bus from Belize City
You can always go to Novelo’s, catch a local bus to the border, then walk across and go it alone from there, making all your own connections. For a few dollars more, there are private tour companies, all based at the Water Taxi Terminal by the Swing Bridge in Belize City, that offer direct bus service to Chetumal, Mexico, and Flores and Tikal, Guatemala.
They are: S & L Travel and Tours (tel. 501/227-7593 or 501/227-5145, sltravel [at] btl [dot] net, www.sltravelbelize.com), Mundo Maya Deli, Gifts, Travel & Tours (tel. 501/223-1235, mundomayatravel [at] btl [dot] net), and Kaisa International (tel. 501/602-1031).
Daily, direct service is available to both Flores (US$15) and Tikal (US$20). It takes about 4.5 hours to either one, although border hassles can increase that time significantly. From Flores, it’s another eight hours or so to Guatemala City, 12 to Antigua.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition