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Cities of the Ancient Maya

Crossroads of the Maya World

The jungles of Guatemala's northern Peten Basin cover the remains of dozens of ancient Maya cities and settlements. The most famous and accessible of these is Tikal, but many other sites are just as rewarding.

Yaxha, Topoxte and Nakum
Located 62 miles northeast of Flores on a jade-green lagoon, Yaxha (yahk-shah) is the site of more than 500 ancient structures, including two ballcourts, nine temple pyramids and 40 stelae. The site is still under excavation, allowing visitors to observe archeologists at work.

Topoxte (toe-poke-shtay) is an island site located across the lagoon from Yaxha. Its central plaza is flanked by three Post-Classic Period temples. Signs of human sacrifice have been identified at the Building C pyramid.

Nakum (nah-koom), eleven miles north of Yaxha on the Holmul River, is rarely visited. The city was rediscovered in 1905, and excavations are incomplete. Among the city's highlights are ornate temples, 15 stelae, a 44-room palace, and an astronomical observatory.

The city of Uaxactun (wah-shock-tune) is located 14 miles north of Tikal. The cities were rivals until Tikal subdued Uaxactun in 378 AD. The ruins at Uaxactun are clustered in five groups. One of the temples, E-VII-Sub, is thought to have a foundation dating back 4,000 years. Visits to Uaxactun can be arranged in conjunction with tours of Tikal.

Ceibal, Aguateca and Dos Pilas
The town of Sayaxche, located approximately 40 miles southwest of Flores, is surrounded by fascinating Maya cities, most of which can be reached by boat.

Ceibal (say-ball) is located on the Pasion River east of Sayaxche. The site is famous for its numerous stelae, some of which point to foreign influences.

The Petexbatun Lagoon, southwest of Sayaxche, is surrounded by at least five Maya sites, the largest of which are Aguateca and Dos Pilas. Aguateca, on the lake's southern shore, is known for its stelae and low temples.

Dos Pilas, seven miles to the northwest, is the site of finely carved stelae and a hieroglyphic staircase. Nearby caves show evidence of human sacrifice.

El Mirador
The largest Maya site in Guatemala is hidden deep within the jungle near the northern border with Mexico. Thousands of structures lie within the ten-square-mile city center, most still covered by vegetation. El Mirador's monuments are thought to have been constructed between 500 BC and 150 AD. Among the highlights are the 180-foot El Tigre pyramid and its twin La Danta temple. Far wider at their bases than the temples of Tikal, El Tigre and La Danta are among the most massive ancient structures in the world. Reaching the site is an adventure: a forty-mile trek each way. The round-trip journey from the town of Carmelita and back usually lasts four or five days.


Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel to these locations and throughout Guatemala. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."

Robert Louis Stevenson