Northern Guatemala Attractions

The northern part of Guatemala is still largely tropical rain forest with a great variety of bird life. More than 2,000 years ago, lowland Mayan civilization was centered here and the impressive ruins of Tikal can be seen.

Maya Biosphere Reserve

The Maya Biosphere Reserve's 1,844,900ha/4,500,000ac covers approximately half of the El Petén department and borders Mexico and Belize. The Maya Biosphere Reserve is an important refuge for large mammals such as white-tailed deer, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, and monkeys as well as smaller rodents.
It is home to migratory and non migratory birds of prey and numerous bats. The Río Escondido forms the largest sweet-water wetlands in Central America during the rainy season.
Within the reserve's boundaries are the important Mayan archeological sites of El Mirador, El Zotz, Piedras Negras, Tikal and Uaxactún.

Tikal National Park

This large park protects old-growth forests which are home to monkeys, a wide variety of snakes, and numerous bird species.

San Miguel-La Palotada Biotope

The San Miguel La Palotada Biotope is mainly a dense old-growth forest containing unique habitats and ecosystems.
The Palmar Lagoon and other swampy sections are a sanctuary for many bird and reptile species as well as for the tapir and other large mammals.
The bat colonies in the caves in the central area of the San Miguel-La Palotada Biotope provide a unique show at dusk when bats by the thousand depart as one to begin their nightly activities. This phenomenon gave the area its name: Zotz, which means bat in the majority of Mayan languages.


Located in the jungles of Petén is the Mayan site of Uaxactún where the oldest date of the Maya Classic Period was recorded, engraved on a stele in the year 320 A.D. The orientation of Uaxactún's temples to the sun reveals that it was an important astronomical center. The building known as the observatory has a staircase beautifully decorated with stucco masks.

Rio Azul

Río Azul is a Mayan city of the little-known Early Classic period that reached one-third the size of Tikal.
The site is unique in the amount of sacred temples and tombs discovered there. The ruins were discovered deep within the forest in the early 1960s.

Rio Escondido Biotope

Within the Río Escondido Biotope is the largest sweet-water wetland region in all of Central America and it gives refuge to many migratory and non migratory birds.
In this remote area comprising 46,300ha/114,000ac is diverse vegetation and an abundance of large mammals especially white-tailed deer.

Piedras Negras

Piedras Negras is a ruined city of the Mayan Classic era. Reaching a peak of sculptural achievement in the 8th C, Piedras Negras developed some of the finest pre-Columbian stonework. Its name means "black stones".

El Ceibal

The Mayan city of El Ceibal was once a great Mayan trading center. Inscriptions found here indicate that El Ceibal flourished and reached its peak during the greater part of the 9th C, while other Mayan sites such as Tikal and Copán were already in a state of decline.
El Ceibal includes notable stelae, altars and zoomorphic statues.

Lake Petén Itzá

Río Naranjo

The waters of the Naranjo River run down from Guatemala's highlands along the volcanic chain and offer class II and III rapids for rafters.

Sayaxche, Guatemala

The town of Sayaxché is a good starting point for visiting the nearby Mayan site of El Ceibal.

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