Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petan Basin in what is now northern Guatemala.
Situated in the department of El Petan, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, ca. 200 to 900 AD.
During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD.
Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the sites abandonment by the end of the 10th century.
The closest large modern settlements are Flores and Santa Elena, approximately 64 kilometres (40 mi) by road to the southwest. Tikal is approximately 303 kilometres (188 mi) north of Guatemala City. It is 19 kilometres (12 mi) south of the contemporary Maya city of Uaxactun and 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of Yaxha.
The city was located 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of its great Classic Period rival, Calakmul, and 85 kilometres (53 mi) northwest of Calakmul's ally Caracol, now in Belize.