Tikal, San Ignacio
At Clarissa Falls, Mark will arrange the entire trip to Tikal--just tell him when you want to go---its about $100 per person. He drove us to the border, walked us over, and introduced us to the driver. The driver was really nice---a/c shuttle van, a HUGE PLUS! The ride is about 2 hours over, we stopped at a great souvenier stand to shop/use facilities. Our tour guide, Luis, was also great---we basically walked all over Tikal with him for 4 hours. The lunch that was arranged was good too. There are pretty good souveniers at Tikal and the prices weren't bad. Warning, it looked VERY CONFUSING to try to arrange a trip from Belize to Tikal on your own---its pretty far from the Belizean border and was basically in the middle of no where. The border crossing looked a bit complex---and I have made several land crossings myself (Morocco/Argentina & Uruguay/ Brazil & Argentina) and this by far looked overly involved. Also, there are tons of incidents of tourists getting mugged on the way to Tikal from Belize.
We succeeded in our objective of having a 'sunset' experience while at Tikal National Park. After first scouting out where in the park the best viewing spot would be, we made the half-hour trek there from our accommodations to one of the smaller, but oldest, temples - Mundo Perdido. It is located at the western edge of the complex of structures, a perfect spot for looking eastward toward the other large temples as the west-setting sun bathed them with soft light.
There was only a small crowd atop Mundo Perdido, because all the big tour busses had left prior to the 6 PM sunset time. It was great to be perched above the jungle canopy, with only the huge main temples and very large Ceiba trees managing to poke themselves through the canopy. We all sat there in the fresh breeze and listened to the sounds of the jungle as we watched many different kinds of tropical birds flit from tree to tree in the soft light. Once the sun finally does go down in the tropics, the light does not last long, so everyone quickly descended and hit the trails leading back to the hotel area. It was totally dark by the time we made it back, but it had been another great experience!
After further explorations the next morning, we were picked up by the driver who had dropped us off and we were back at the Trek Stop by early evening. We then had one more day exploring San Ignacio, followed by a trip to 'Belize City' for our flight home. Our three weeks in Belize passed in a blur!
In addition to exploring a Mayan cave, the other main objective of our stay on the western border of Belize was to work in a trip to Tikal National Park, not too far away in Guatemala. We talked over the options of how this could be done with the Trek Stop owners as well as with other guests who had already done it. We could have booked a day-trip with the Trek Stop (US$80 each I believe) but we really wanted to experience either a sunset or sunrise while atop the temples, so that would not work. In the end, we decided to just take off on our own without any prior arrangements. The Trek Stop was very helpful even with that, they said we could leave our large backpacks in our cabin at no charge for the night we were away!
The next morning we headed out early to get across the border, find transportation of some sort to Tikal and then see if there was any accommodations available. In the end, it all worked out fantastically well (see my 'Tikal National Park' page for the full story)! We had a great time taking in as many of the sights as we could during our two half-days there. Temple I (the Great Jaguar) and the surrounding complexes are probably the most impressive structures, but there was so much to see it was hard to believe. We certainly got our exercise in as we trudged up and down hills and temples in the boiling heat of the day. It is a great National Park, set in the middle of the jungle all by itself - the generators go off at night and it is lights out from 10 PM to 6 AM!
Maya Walk Tours in San Ignacio will offer a great tour to neighboring Guatemala's Tikal Mayan Ruins. Ask for Jimmy (San Ignacio's most well known resident and unofficial mayor) to help arrange your tour. A day trip will consist of a bumpy 2 hour van ride each way a 3-4 hour hike through Tikal with an experienced Guatemalan guide, and lunch provided. Bring a camera, snacks and something to drink.