Many visitors travel to the western part of Belize particularly San Ignacio Town to explore attractions like cascading waterfalls, ceremonial caves, pristine rainforests, jungle rivers, and also visit the spectacular and ancient Maya Metropolis of Tikal in Peten, Guatemala.
Just two hours away from the Belizean/ Guatemalan border, Tikal was once the sprawling capital of the greatest empires of the Ancient Maya and was established well before the time of Christ.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and consists of over 3,000 structures extending over six square miles including temples, palaces, ceremonial platforms, ball courts, terraces, avenues and plazas.
Last year, I had the opportunity of touring Tikal with Marketing Guru David Meerman Scott , author of the bestselling book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.
I had invited David to Belize to deliver a talk on the Future of Internet Marketing to tourism stakeholders after reading his book in an SEO course that I attended in the US the previous year.
But David didn’t only want to educate Belizean marketers about his books; he was also interested in knowing how our Marketing Department at Chaa Creek used his ideas to market Belize and our products so I recommended that he stay at our eco resort to satisfy his curiosity. (see: www.chaacreek.com)
Even though Tikal is in Guatemala, it is one of the most popular tours that we sell so I convinced him that we should definitely explore this ancient Maya city together.
David was excited!
His excitement had to do with the fact that Guatemala would become his 72nd country to visit in the world.
We departed at 7AM from Chaa Creek and arrived around 9AM in Tikal.
Both David and I were accompanied by two of Belize’s best tour guides Joe Awe and Elias Cambranes who were not only passionate about the Maya civilization but were also like a Britannica Encyclopedia in Maya History and Cosmology.
I had visited Tikal in July 2011 with my colleague Lorenzo Gonzalez who was working with me in the Marketing Department at Chaa Creek at the time. Lorenzo and I really enjoyed touring the Mayan site but I think his expectations on Tikal would have been exceeded this time because of the high caliber of guides that were accompanying us.
See: Maya Creation Myth
The Maya began building Tikal around 600 B.C. and at its peak some 1,500 years ago, Tikal was a wealthy metropolis, home to an estimated 100,000 Mayas, as well as an important religious, scientific, and political center, Elias Cambranes told us.
The site is located within a national park that is comprised of 222 square miles of jungle that is home to an abundance of wildlife – such as coatis, pacas, tyras, armadillos and ocellated turkeys.
Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya Civilization added Joe Awe, as I pointed a troop of howler monkeys hanging out on a giant cedar tree to David.
We spent the entire morning exploring the national park and learning about the ancient Maya civilization.
Both David and I were astounded at the remarkable and scientific achievements of the Ancient Maya especially in astronomy, architecture, agriculture, and engineering.
“In agriculture for example, the Maya were able to figure out how to grow crops like corn, beans, and cassava in inhospitable places” said Joe as we stared at the temple of the Great Jaguar (Tikal Temple 1) which rises 154 feet high and dates back to approximately 732 AD.
Joe Awe and Elias Cambranes concluded the tour by indicating to David and me that despite the Maya’s remarkable achievements, their culture began to decline in the 11th century and the cause and scope of the decline was a matter of debate today.
“The demise of the ecology was perhaps the number one reason for the domino effect of the decline but war and disruption of trade routes can also be two other plausible theories to explain the culture’s demise” asserted Joe Awe.
This was one of the most educational and interesting tour I have been I told David as we were walking to the local Guatemalan Restaurant where an assortment of delicious Guatemalan meals consisting of black beans soup, grilled chicken, steam veggies and hot corn tortillas awaited us.
“Indeed, it was. I really enjoyed it”, declared David as we started to munch our delicious Guatemalan lunch.