Tikal National Park

Department of El Peten
N17 13 0 W89 37 0
Date of Inscription: 1979
Property : 57,600 ha
Ref: 64
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In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. The ceremonial centre contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside.

Tikal National Park is located in Northern Guatemala’s Petén Province within a large forest region often referred to as the Maya Forest, which extends into neighbouring Mexico and Belize. Embedded within the much larger Maya Biosphere Reserve, exceeding two million hectares and contiguous with additional conservation areas, Tikal National Park is one of the few World Heritage properties inscribed according to both natural and cultural criteria for its extraordinary biodiversity and archaeological importance. It comprises 57,600 hectares of wetlands, savannah, tropical broadleaf and palm forests with thousands of architectural and artistic remains of the Mayan civilization from the Preclassic Period (600 B.C.) to the decline and eventual collapse of the urban centre around 900 AD. The diverse ecosystems and habitats harbour a wide spectrum of neotropical fauna and flora. Five cats, including Jaguar and Puma, several species of monkeys and anteaters and more than 300 species of birds are among the notable wildlife. The forests comprise more than 200 tree species and over 2000 higher plants have been recorded across the diverse habitats.

Tikal, a major Pre-Columbian political, economic and military centre, is one of the most important archaeological complexes left by the Maya civilization. An inner urban zone of around 400 hectares contains the principal monumental architecture and monuments which include palaces, temples, ceremonial platforms, small and medium sized residences, ball-game courts, terraces, roads, large and small squares. Many of the existing monuments preserve decorated surfaces, including stone carvings and mural paintings with hieroglyphic inscriptions, which illustrate the dynastic history of the city and its relationships with urban centres as far away as Teotihuacan and Calakmul in Mexico, Copan in Honduras or Caracol in Belize. A wider zone of key archaeological importance, around 1,200 hectares, covers residential areas and historic water reservoirs, today known as “aguadas”. The extensive peripheral zone features more than 25 associated secondary sites, historically serving protective purposes and as check-points for trade routes. The peripheral areas also played a major role for agricultural production for the densely populated centre.

Research has revealed numerous constructions, carved monuments and other evidence bearing witness to highly sophisticated technical, intellectual and artistic achievements that developed from the arrival of the first settlers (800 B.C.) to the last stages of historic occupation around the year 900. Tikal has enhanced our understanding not only of an extraordinary bygone civilisation but also of cultural evolution more broadly. The diversity and quality of architectonical and sculptural ensembles serving ceremonial, administrative and residential functions are exemplified in a number of exceptional places, such as the Great Plaza, the Lost World Complex, the Twin Pyramid Complexes, as well as in ball courts and irrigation structures. 

Criterion (i): Tikal National Park is an outstanding example of the art and human genius of the Maya. Its wealth of architectural and artistic expressions also contains important symbolic elements, such as the concept of pyramid-as mountains that define a universe where human beings coexisted with their environment. It is also an exceptional place of cosmological connotations and was considered to have been a “stage” for theatrical representations. 

Criterion (iii): Tikal National Park has unique elements that illustrate the historic, mythical and biographic data of the Tikal dynastic sequence. These exceptional records span over 577 years (292 b. C. to 869 a. D.) and register the lives of 33 rulers who reigned over a vast territory of the ancient Maya world. The earliest stone sculpture is Stela 29 dated to the year 292 and the last monument sculptured is Stela 11 dated to the year 869.

Criterion (iv): The archaeological remains at Tikal National Park reflect the cultural evolution of Mayan society from hunter-gathering to farming, with an elaborate religious, artistic and scientific culture. The most representative remains show different stages and degrees of evolution in terms of architectural development related to religious activities and ceremonies. They also exemplify the political, social and economic organization achieved, as expressed by the urban layout its palaces, temples, ceremonial platforms, and residential areas and the wealth of monuments decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Criterion (ix): The landscape mosaic comprising savannas, lush forests, wetlands and various freshwater systems is part of the Maya Forest, one of the conservation gems of Central America, hosting a rich diversity of flora and fauna as a result of a remarkable evolution of species and ecological communities. The seemingly pristine ecosystems represent an impressive natural recovery after historic conversion and intensive land and resource use during the many centuries as one of the centres of the Mayan civilisation. The ongoing biological and ecological processes are supported and protected by the large scale of the Maya Forest, and particularly its many conservation areas.

Criterion (x): The Petén Region and the Maya Forest are home to an impressive diversity of flora and fauna across its various terrestrial and freshwater habitats. More than 2000 higher plants, including 200 tree species have been inventoried. Palms, epiphytes, orchids and bromeliads abound in the various forest types. The more than 100 mammals include over 60 species of bat, five species of felids – Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay and Jaguarundi, as well as Mantled Howler Monkey and many endangered species such as Yucatan Spider Monkey and Baird’s Tapir. The more than 330 recorded bird species include the near-threatened Ocellated Turkey, Crested Eagle and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, as well as the vulnerable Great Curassow. Of the more than 100 reptiles the endangered Central American River Turtle, Morelet’s Crocodile and 38 species of snakes stand out. In addition to 25 known amphibian species, there is a noteworthy fish fauna and a great diversity of invertebrates. The property is also known for wild varieties of several important agricultural plants. 

Suggested Bases:

San Benito is a municipality in the El Petén department of Guatemala. It covers an area of 112 km2, and had 29,926 inhabitants at the 2002 Census; the latest official estimate (as at mid 2012) was 59,486 people. It is located adjacent to departmental capital Flores. Deportivo San Benito football club have been playing in the second tier of Guatemalan football since they clinched promotion from the third tier after the 1998/1999 season. They play their home games in the Estadio Alejandro Ochaeta Requena. Deportivo Don Bosco football club have been playing in the third tier of Guatemalan football since 2015/2016 season. They play their home games in the Estadio Alejandro Ochaeta Requena [read more].

Flores is a town in Petén, Guatemala. The town proper is an island on Lago Petén Itzá, connected to land by a causeway, on the other side of which lie the twin towns Santa Elena and San Benito. All three are often referred to as Flores, and are grouped in one article here accordingly. For many, the main reason to visit Flores is its proximity to Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala, or as a starting point for trips around Petén. But the city itself is a wonder — dense with colonial, red-roofed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, a historic church and Spanish plaza, and restaurants that are easy to stumble upon walking the city’s charming streets. Most will find that this island city is more than just a take-off point, but a memorable attraction in itself. Flores is a quiet and peaceful place, and probably one of the safest places in the sometimes wild north [read more].

Puerto Barrios is a seaport and the capital of the department of Izabal on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala. Its population in 2018 was just over 100,000 people. It is also the commercial heart of the region, because it has two ports: Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás de Castilla. Santo Tomás is the biggest port in the country. One of the most visited places is a local river called “Las Escobas”. Its in the cerro San Gil, outside the urban area of Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás de Castilla. The river is famous for its crystalline water and is very cold. It’s in the middle of the jungle, but is very easy to reach it by a road or walking. Now “Las Escobas” has been reconstructed into a beautiful hiking and swimming area. If you’re an adventurer and like to hike, there is a hiking trail, of course you have to be careful with the surrounding for there might be snakes and other amphibians [read more].

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