Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal National Park

In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. The ceremonial center contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside.

Guatemalan archives mention that local people lived in Tikal in the 18th century, but the first official expedition to the ruin wasn't until 1848. Even "Tikal" is a relatively recent name, derived from the Mayan word ti ak'al, or "at the water hole."