Braving the heat in the rainforest around Tikal, the ruins of one of the largest pre-Colombian Maya cities, located in northern Guatemala
The North Acropolis by Tikal's central plaza, where some of the rulers of the city-state were buried
The forest around Tikal is full of animal life, like this falcon
An ocellated turkey
Unlike the broad, square, symmetrical pyramids at Mayan sites farther north, many of Tikal's pyramids are tall and steep, with stairs only in the front
The temple space at the top of the pyramid is crowned with a roof comb, which was plastered and painted with religious images
Many of Tikal's structures stand on earthen platforms, so they look taller when you're standing near them
Temple I as seen from the top of Temple II. These pyramids date from the 700s AD.
Tikal was the seat of one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms. The city flourished off and on from about 200 to 800 AD and was home to an estimated 10,000 to 90,000 people.
Because the site is wooded, you don't bake in the sun when you visit Tikal, like you do at some other ruins
The remains of an old tree that split an even older stone.
Everywhere you see mounds that are probably structures that haven't been excavated yet
View from the top of Temple IV. This view was used in the original Star Wars film as the location of the rebels' hidden base.
A leaf-cutter ant
A howler monkey
You come upon Tikal's various ruins as you emerge from the jungle, so you feel like the early explorers must have done
A spider monkey (we saw some of the same species wild at Tikal that we saw at the Belize zoo)
The hard work of reclaiming Tikal's ruins from the vegetation has been going on since the 1880s.
This is the cleared side of the temple seen in the previous photo.
A poster showing what Temple V looked like before excavation . . .
. . . and after
View from the top of Temple V. You feel like the king of the world on top of a Tikal temple. Imagine how a Maya priest-king might have felt, seeming very close to the heavens.
The modern wooden staircase on the left makes for a steep climb, but it protects the original stairs.
A small (2 foot-long) crocodile in the pond by the visitors' center
I think the crocodile was hoping that visitors wouldn't read the sign!
A modern Maya woman weaving at the visitors' center
Coatimundis wandered all over the site
A collared aracari
A blue-crowned motmot, seen from the balcony of our hotel at Tikal, the Jaguar Inn
The motmot posed for us for several minutes!