Tikal – The disappointment of a guided tour


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My plan to cycle to Tikal through the remote jungle trails via the ruins of El Zotz was a failure, but it made for a great adventure. I cycled around the stunning Lake Petén Itza and stayed in the small tourist town of El Remate. For the first time on my journey I decided to forego my independence and take a tour to the Tikal ruins. I regreted that decision.

I visited Tikal 10 years ago. It was one of the most impressive places I had ever seen and I just had to make another trip there. I didn’t expect that the place would have changed but I just wanted to experience the place one more time.

Rain, storms and general bad weather delayed my decision to visit Tikal. I was not in a rush so I sat in the town of El Remate and enjoyed the local food and fast internet for two days. When the weather looked good I made the decision to book a tour rather than cycle the 35km to Tikal.

I booked a Sunset tour. The tour picked me up at around 1.30pm with the promise of watching a nice sunset if possible. Only one problem, apparently, the sunset involved paying the guide a bribe to offer to the security guards. I was pissed off and refused to pay. I was the only person that refused to pay. Now I’m pissed off at my decision to take a tour.

Is this normal? Do travelers just pay a bribe to a guide when they travel? Is this what traveling has become? Do people just accept behavior like this? Not me, I had every intention of staying for sunset without paying a bribe, even if everybody else was going to stay.

Traveling with the group was very slow. I’m a patient person but the guide moved through the site so slowly that it was rather frustrating. We only visited the main 3 sites. I resolved to not taking any more tours unless I absolutely must. Can you tell that I was not impressed with the tour?

First stop was the famed Temple IV which was made famous in the original Star Wars as the home to the Rebel Base. There was a staircase that led to a viewpoint near the top. In the distance were two other pyramids and a far horizon of endless jungle.

Second stop was the Lost World temple. No more climbing up that pyramid due to a death from a fall at the top. We sat and stared at it for 30 minutes.

Finally we made it to the best place on the whole the site the main plaza. It was getting late and we all went our separate ways to explore the various plazas, temples and pyramids. As the sun started to set our guide disappeared. Most of us found a nice place somewhere to watch the sunset in peace.

It was dark by the time we exited Tikal and jumped on the bus back to El Remate. Despite being disappointed with the guide and the tour in general it was still impressed by Tikal. Though I must admit it will be hard for me to take any more guided tours in future. If anybody finds themselves anywhere near this part of Guatemala, it is a must see destination.

Tikal Star Wars
Ever Star Wars? The rebel base was inside these temples in the Movie!
The Lost temple Tikal
The Lost Temple

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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6 thoughts on “Tikal – The disappointment of a guided tour”

  1. Glad you got back to Tikal but sorry to hear that the guided tour was a disappointment.
    My wife and I exchanged our wedding vows on the top of Temple 2 nineteen years ago this coming April. We are looking to get back with our two kids. Btw my 18 year old son and I just returned from Mexico where we climbed Malinche. We had planned to climb Pico as well but weather didn’t cooperate so we cancel the attempt.

    • Wow what a great place to tie the knot. I wonder if it’s changed much. I was there 10 years ago, at the moment most of the temples can’t be climbed. You can still climb temple 2 but only via the wooden stairs at the back. I’m sure it will bring back great memories, it’s a special place, despite the poor experience with organised tours.
      Cool that you both climbed La Malinche. Hope you had great views. Shame about Orizaba but it’s a serious mountain, I’d hate to be there in bad weather.
      Take care.

  2. This is totally amazing… What an adventure you are on. I could only wish!. Thanks for your posts and keep on treking… Awesome…. Be safe. Be Well.


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