Tikal (tēkälˈ) [key], ruined city of the Classic Period of the Maya, N central Petén, Guatemala. The largest and possibly the oldest of the Maya cities, Tikal consists of nine groups of courts and plazas built on hilly land above surrounding swamps (which may have been lakes in former times) and interconnected by bridges and causeways. The main civic and religious center of the city covers about 500 acres (200 hectares). Temples and palaces rise above the plazas. The design of the buildings is for the most part monumental and static and utilizes harmonious combinations of solid masses. The tallest structure, a temple, is 229 ft (70 m) high. With a backdrop of lush tropical vegetation the abandoned city is an impressive sight.