Tikal is the site of the spectacular ruins from the largest of the ancient Mayan city-states. Located in Northwestern Guatemala near the borders of Belize and Mexico the ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very popular tourist destination. Among all the major Mayan ruins Tikal is the largest, best excavated and most impressive and definitely ranks in my top 10 most favorite archaeological sites in the world and is the only one I have visited twice.
The center of the ruins of Tikal is the Gran Plaza on which the most impressive Templo I sits front and center and across from the only slightly less impressive Templo II. There are several other lesser pyramids and structures excavated around the plaza.
Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centers of the Mayan civilization and was often warring with rival city-state and regional neighbor Calakmul. Though monumental architecture at the site dates to the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, ca. 200 AD to 900 AD, during which time the site dominated the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned, possibly by a conquering force. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century AD.