The heart of the Mayan World. Towering metropolis in the highlands and in Petén and the cultural richness of the living legacy of the Mayans
Guatemala invites you to learn more about the mythical Mayan culture, from the monumental legacy of the ancient civilization to the spirituality that exists today in its communities. In the highlands, between cloud tops and green canyons, the Mayan culture is experienced from the mountains of Chichicastenango to Lake Atitlan and is reflected in the cuisine, colorful crafts, and daily customs.
The great cities of the Mayan empire have been hidden in the jungle for centuries. Today mythical places such as Tikal, Yaxha or Ceibal surprise the traveler with its undeniable magnificence. Climb to the top of the temples that stand between the ceiba, and which accompany you in your discovery of the sound of the orioles and the bustle of the monkeys.
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This is formed by the two large groups joined by a road. Its earliest occupation dates back to the year 900 B.C. and reached its zenith in the Late Pre-Classic period, approximately around the year 200 A.D. The site was abandoned at the start of the Early Classic period and was not reoccupied until the Last Classic period, when it appears to have been allied somehow to the Tikal dynasty.
The conflicts between this site and the so-called Dos Pilas site brought the latter to fight Ceibal, defeating them and making them their servants. A later attack would once again bring freedom to Ceibal until the year 830 A.D., when it was conquered by a Lord from Ucanal, a site allied with Caracol (Belize), an old ally from Kalakmul (Mexico), who would erect one of the most complete historic records through several monuments.
The site is to the south of Petén and is accessed by river from Sayaxché.
El Mirador - Río Azul
El Mirador is the largest Mayan city dated to the Pre-Classic period and is where the largest and most enormous buildings of the entire Mayan area are found. Due to its grandeur, it is thought that there were already very complex state societies in the Late Pre-Classic period, contrary to the popular thought that the Pre-Classic period was a formative period. As in the majority of cities in its time, El Mirador contains observatories for the sunrise, which are known as Group E. The Leon Group is one of these, which is of an enormous size. The other is found on the base of the Danta Group, the largest one in the site. The other architectural complexes, such as El Tigre, Pava and Monos, also constitute examples of the so-called Triadic Groups, which are groups of structures with the same purpose. There are usually a main pyramid and two small ones, symbolizing the concept of creation according to Mayan mythology and which may be associated with the start of the calendar cycle known as the Long Count.
It is located 60 kilometers to the north of Carmelita.
The site was founded at the breaking of the alliance between the Kaqchikeles and K'iche's and was established on a plateau surrounded by ravines. This natural protection was supplemented by a moat that controlled the only access to the site. In this place, you can see remains of mural paintings on one of their structures.
It is located 5 minutes away from Tecpan.
This site was the large metropolis of Altiplano. It had been occupied from the Pre-Classic period until the start of the Post-Classic period. The site is currently found in an advanced state of destruction due to the advancement and growth of the current Capital City. In the past, it had over 250 structures, of which some 30 have survived to this day. The preserved area is referred to as La Palangana -its ancient acropolis- while other mounds survived the destruction in disparate manners. The site's occupation dates back to the start of the Pre-Classic period until the Middle Pre-Classic period.
The ceramic from this place was exported to almost all of the regions in the Altiplano area and to the south, Escuintla. Extensive irrigation canals were constructed and the Culebra Mound was erected, an elevated canal that supplied water to the site and which constitutes the largest building in Mesoamerica, reaching some 5 kilometers in length.
The site is composed of a large plaza and a fully restored acropolis. Its occupation dates back to the early Classic period and may have been founded by the Copán dynasty (Honduras), the site which replicates its settlement pattern or urban planning. It remained active until around the year 900 A.D.
This site was a control post for the commerce that went by the Motagua River, one of the main transportation pathways for obsidian and jade. The site is found in Morales, Izabal, approximately 4 hours away from the Capital City.
This was the capital city of Kiche', founded in 1425 by the king Gukumatz and destroyed by the Spanish in 1524.
The site is located in a small plateau surrounded by deep ravines with the intention of protecting the houses of the four main groups or supporters. It has a central plaza where the temples now known as Tohil, Awilix and Jakawitz are found.
The site was testament to the highest expansion of the kingdom during the governance of K'iq'ab, as well as the separation of the Kaq'chikeles as their ancient allies (1470 A.D.).
The archaeological site is divided into three main large groups, two of which have been excavation centers and restoration works (Central Group), established on a layered plateau. The Central Group is open to the public and contains one of the earliest dated monuments of the Mayan area, Stela 5, and is an example of a steam bath.
During its first occupation (800-400 B.C.), the site shows connections with the Olmec culture and forms part of the commercial network that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of El Salvador. Around 400 B.C., the site was involved with the Mayan tradition linked to Altiplano and which lasted at least until 150 A.D. During the Classic period, their relationships were oriented toward Chiapas, remaining aligned to the coastal traditions at its height. During the Early Classic period, revitalization movements occurred on the site and construction began to rise again. Finally, during the Post-Classic period, the advanced K'iche' took control of the site.
Tikal is the largest and most important city in the Mayan's Pre-Hispanic history. Its occupation spans almost 1500 years, starting from the Middle Pre-Classic period (800 B.C.) until its abandonment in the 9th Century A.D.
In the Middle and Late Pre-Classic periods, Tikal had a solar solstice and equinox observatory (Group E Temples) in what is now known as the Lost City, whose observation point was the so-called Grand Pyramid.
To date, Tikal still has the oldest date in the Long Count among the Mayan Lowlands (Stela 29, 292 A.D.), thereby indicating that it was the first, or one of the first, Mayan cities to found a dynastic government that recorded its kings on stone stelae with hieroglyphic inscriptions. Therefore, Tikal recorded a dynastic sequence of 33 successive kings.
The site is composed of three main groups (A, B and H). The site was an important Pre-Classic center with significant development of the monumental art (stucco figures and friezes - the site has the largest figures in the Mayan area, open only during the field season). Until the end of the Pre-Classic period and during the transition to the Early Classic period (250-300 A.D.), the site suffered a drastic change in its main settlement, which was transferred from the banks of the Bajo to the nearby hills, where a new center of power was opened (Groups A and B), while the original settlement fell into abandonment (Group H).
It is a site occupied from the Pre-Classic period (approx. from the year 500 B.C. to the Terminal Classic period, approx. 950 A.D.). It is part of the Baktunes route due to the fact that it is the site where the architectural complex known as Group Type E, or the Astronomic Observation Complex, was first recognized, and which today is still an observation point for solstices and equinoxes.
Yaxha – Nakum - Naranjo
This is one of the largest Mayan cities in Petén and the second most restored city after Tikal. Although little is known about its dynastic history, archeology has defined occupation dating back to the 8th Century (Middle Pre-Classic period) until the Post-Classic period.
The site contains several acropolis groups connected by roads, as well as two ball courts and 31 stelae. The presence of two Group E-type collections, which were used for commemorating solstices and equinoxes, should be pointed out as part of the J'aab solar calendar (Plazas B and F), as should the presence of a Twin Pyramid Complex, which is the proper architectural group of Tikal. These architectural complexes served to commemorate cycles known as K'atunes (approximately 20 years) that are part of the calendar system known as the Long Count.
Aguateca, or the Resplendent Cleft Mountain in the Mayan language, was a Late Classic Mayan city characterized by its location on the upper part of the slope of the Petexbatum Lagoon, on a strategic point protected by ravines and cliffs, which made access to the city difficult and would protect the city from invasions. The city has over 700 buildings, and currently 11 of them have been restored. When visiting Aguateca, you can see an artificial rock bridge that crosses the natural crevice that divides the site, which remains solid and which has been in use since the city was first occupied.
It was an ancient Mayan fortress, located in the city of Sayaxché, Petén. Aguateca has a viewpoint that provides fabulous views of the Petexbatun Lagoon and River.
This is a cave with a series of chambers with archaeological vestiges. It is also known as La Casa de Piedra ("The House of Stone"). It contains the largest collection of Mayan cave art and inscriptions found to date. Replicas of the various paintings with hieroglyphics, ceremonial drawings and human figures are currently being exhibited in a cave close to the original.
This is known as the lost city of the Mayan world and was discovered in the year 1905. It is now known that it was one of the largest cities of the Mayan culture. Recent studies in Cancuen have revealed the existence of a large buried palace, which is one of the largest ones built by the Mayans. The carved hieroglyphic texts and other monuments mean that this city, located on the shores of the river La Pasión, was very important in controlling commerce between Petén and Altiplano.