Exploring Guatemala | The Ruins of Tikal and Monkey Island
Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel is located in the heart of the Petén, the lowlands of Guatemala that are covered by lush forest and Mayan ruins, so a trip would not be complete without a visit to Tikal, the largest preserved site of this ancient civilization. About an hour drive from the hotel, Tikal is best visited in the early hours of the morning when the heat and humidity are at its lowest, or at sunrise or sunset for the most picturesque experience.
Declared a UNESCO site in 1979 and abandoned around 900 AD, there are over 4,000 structures that span this forested area with many buildings still hidden beneath thick vines, colorful plants and deep rooted trees. As you make your way on a short hike through the forest, you will be able to spot howler monkeys hanging from the trees, families of coatimundis (a raccoon-like creature) trailing the ground for insects along with a variety of birds like the Toucan—if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse.
When the forest opens up, the buildings of the great plaza majestically appear in a blaze of white stone. Many of these structures have been cleared of vegetation, but a few of the buildings that have begun to crumble have small patches of nature emerging through their cracks, as the jungle has begun to take over. To gain an elevated view of the area, there are a number of astrological towers and temples that can be climbed for an incredible view of the highest Mayan structures breaking through the forest canopy
If Tikal is not enough to quench your thirst for adventure, tours of other Mayan ruins and nature reservations like Yaxha,Topoxté, Ceibal and Peten Itza can be booked through the hotel. To see a full list visit of all available tours visit the Las Lagunas website to learn more.
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One of the most unique experiences of staying at Las Lagunas is the Nature Reserve, where many rescued creatures native to the Central and South American rainforests now call home. Through the work of Arcas and Conap, two animal and environmental protection programs, animals who no longer have the ability to live in the wild such as a jaguar and a variety of talkative native birds, Here they can live in the safety of enclosures that blend into their natural jungle habitat. Seeing and interacting with these animals up close is an incredible experience that leaves an everlasting impression on the importance of preserving and protecting the forest and the animals who live in it. Each day, a tour by ATV takes place at 2:30 p.m. and should not be missed and is best booked a day in advance. If you wish to experience more of the natural beauty of the wild, Las Lagunas also offers a birdwatching adventure where you will explore three different habitats of the Petén with a chance to see an array of brightly colored birds native to Guatemala. This tour can be booked directly through the hotel concierge and is open to both professional and beginner birdwatchers.
Located in the middle of Laguna Quexil, two small pieces of land known as Monkey Island, serve as natural sanctuaries to a group of playful, rescued spider monkeys who like to “monkey around” with guests of hotel. Through a daily cruise to the island, you will be able to watch these long-limbed creatures swing from the thick, forested trees to steal a treat of fresh fruit or vegetables as they dangle above the boat by one arm or leg. The bravest of the monkeys, a female named Margarita, hops on and off the boat after a short trip to the other side of the island, making friends with guests as she enjoys her daily excursion. The tour lasts about an hour and is also a wonderful way to enjoy view the hotel and surrounding jungle by water. It is best to book this tour a day in advance and for an additional fee, a small lunch can be arranged by the hotel.
Photography by Monica Picca