Best Mayan Ruins

Guatemala

Why is Guatemala the true heart of the Mayan civilization? Guatemala is located at the center of the geographical region where this civilization flourished thousands of years ago. It has been proven that the Mayan civilization emerged in the exuberant jungles of the North region of the country. This is where the greatest number and concentration of archaeological sites of this civilization are located and where the evolution of Mayan constructions can be established. In addition to this impressive historical heritage, there are still direct Mayan descendants living in Guatemala. Over 50% of the population share this origin and use more than 20 different Mayan languages to communicate. The greatness of the Mayan civilization is evident in this timeline, which details the occupation of some of the main Mayan cities throughout history, comparing it with other cultures around the world.

Temple Two in the main plaza of the Mayan City of Tikal. Central America Vacations

Tikal, Guatemala

The pyramid La Danta in the Mayan City of El Mirador, Guatemala. Helicopter tours

The mayan site of El Mirador

Temple in the Mayan ruins of Yaxha with surrounding jungle. Guatemala Tour Packages. Central America Travel Agency

Mayan City of Yaxha

Elegant Leopard spotted during a Jungle trek to El Mirador

Leopard, Mayan Biosphere

Highlights

Mayan City of El Mirador

The Masterpiece of Tikal

National Park of Yaxha, Nakum & Naranjo

The Mayan site of Quirigua

National Park of ‘Takalik Abaj’

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrival.
Upon your arrival to the international airport of Mundo Maya, a representative will welcome you and take you to your hotel in Flores Island

Day 2. Yaxha Ruins.
These Mayan ruins are located at the core of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. Due to its lagoons and wetlands, the area has been designated as a Ramsar Wetland of Global Importance. It encopasses four amazing Mayan Cities that were very important in the course of this civilization: YaxhaNaranjoNakum, and Topoxte

Topoxte is located on the southeast end of the Yaxha Lagoon, and it is only accessible by boat. The Nakum and Naranjo archeological sites are located 17 and 24 kilometers north. The park contains a significant extension of a tropical forest that is home to hundreds of exotic species of flora and fauna.

Day 3. Uaxactun
Uaxactun Archaeological Site
This is one of the oldest Maya cities in Guatemala and is believed to be the place where Mayans began to develop their calendar.  One of its most notable features is its astronomical observatory, composed of a series of three partially restored temples built from north to south side by side and a nearby temple facing the alignment of these three, all built with impressive precision to align with the sun on certain days of the year. 

Located within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, this important mayan site holds the crumbled remains of temple palaces and  several stelae and altars.  The jaguar and snake stucco masks along the sides of some structures offer an interesting look at ancient Mayan culture. Around the ruins of Uaxactún spreads a small and friendly mayan village, in this remote jungle community locals gather forest products or work as guides to the visitors.  

Day 4. Tikal, the Masterpiece.
Located in the heart of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, Tikal National Park has been declared as a World Heritage Cultural and Natural Site by UNESCO; one of the only three sites in this category in all of the Americas. The National Park is one of the most important cities of the Mayan Classic Period, with striking and exquisite architecture. A stroll through the Grand Plaza is all traveler needs to witness its monumental temples. 

For thousands of years, the city has been safeguarded by a majestic tropical jungle, home to hundreds of Flora and fauna species. A visit to Tikal National Park is for sure a magical and unforgettable experience, not to be missed!

Day 5. El Mirador.
El Mirador is the capital of a powerful Kingdom, which began in the Middle of the Pre-Classic Period, and it is one of the oldest cities of the Mayan world. Its highly-sophisticated monumental architecture contrasts with other cities that were not able to achieve similar development until the Classic Period. There are even traces of early writings. Some of the monumental structures include ‘La Danta’, a pyramid with a volume greater than the Great Pyramid of ‘Cheops’ in Egypt. 

Additionally, The Tiger complex (55 meters high), and the Jaguar Claw Temple, which has two great masks on the sides of its staircase are worth mentioning. Another important component is the frieze depicting swimming in the waters of the underworld, exactly as it is narrated in the Sacred Book of the Mayas. The Kingdom here had great influence and its founding dynasty started at the same time as did the Mayan Civilization.  

Day 6 – 7. Ceibal and Aguateca.
Ceibal Natural Monument & Aguateca Archaeological Site
The first is one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites in Guatemala’s southern lowlands and some of its monuments have a visible outside influence. Ceibal is located in the middle of the forest and its four groups of structures are connected through causeways. This site is famous for its impressive stelae with exquisite carvings, whose state of preservation is partly due to the use of hard stone. In the Central Plaza there are some of the best examples, and adjacent to it you can see temples that have not yet been restored and are covered by dense jungle.

Surrounded by numerous water births, the Mayan site of Aguateca undoubtedly possesses an impressive natural and historical beauty. With more than 700 structures and defensive walls and 14 monuments, among stelae and altars, this site continues to be continuously excavated and restored. One of its biggest attractions is the impressive natural crevasse that runs through the site. Often compared to Pompeii, the quick fall of Aguateca allowed archaeologists to find a wealth of information, here they have been discovered from artifacts such as high quality vessels, bone ornaments, greenstone beads to a great variety of tools like shells, bones, hides and stone tools used to process seeds and grains. In sume a interesting mayan site surrounded by lush vegetation and beautiful natural landscapes.

Day 8. Dos Pilas.
Dos Pilas Archaeological Site
This site owes its name to two natural springs very close to the place that are shaped like piles. Declared a National Monument in 1970, this Mayan archaeological site is mostly unexcavated and receives very few tourists, so you will have the site almost to yourself. It has an immense historical wealth, around 490 mounds that include ancient Mayan constructions, pyramids, stairways, various archaeological artifacts and caves in which archaeologists found evidence of Mayan rituals.

Among its most interesting attractions is the building known as “La Pirámide del Duende” The goblin’s pyramid with almost 20 meters of height, its newly discovered and impressive hieroglyphic steps, stone stairs richly decorated with Mayan glyphs and some of the tallest and intact stelae known in the Mayan world, some over 15 feet tall with extraordinarily detailed and well preserved carvings and of course its proximity to another tourist destination in Guatemala, the beautiful Petxbatún Lagoon.

Day 9 – 10. Quirigua.
This site was a small city from the Classic Period, featuring one of the largest plazas of the Mayan Civilization. Its lack of monumental buildings is compensated by a fascinating array of sculptures. It houses the highest sculpted monument in the region, the famous ‘Stela E’. Due to its striking sculpted temples and the influence of this ancient city, UNESCO declared the ruins a World Heritage Site

Quirigua has close ties with Tikal during the Early Classic Period. It is thought to have been established by Copan (Honduras) as a center to control the Motagua river trade route. For years, the city was governed by Copan, until the year 736 BC, when its ruler established an alliance with the ruler of Calakmul (Mexico) to free the city of the power of Copan. After this, Quirigua led to its maximum architectural and artistic splendor, building palaces, stelas, altars, and zoomorphic sculptures.

Day 11. Drive to Guatemala City.
Today you we will drive to Guatemala City

Day 12. Return home.
Today a driver will take you to the international airport for your flight back home. 

Expenses included

12 days & 11 nights

$2,100 per guest

Private transportation, door to door service

11 nights hotel accommodation: hoteles selected according to your wishes and priorities

Local certified onsite guides

All park entrance fees

Daily breakfast

Taxes

Not included: international flights, personal, travel and cancellation insurance and other expenses than indicated.

Extensions

Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich, Belize. 

The ruins with the most archeological relevance in the country. Established in the lush forest, the site accommodates one of the tallest Mayan temples in Belize. The Castle was constructed on an imposing hilltop overlooking a river. Additionally, the constructions found here are the most complex and intricate of those found elsewhere in the country. Duration: 1 day. Price per guest from: $120

Kayak adventure in Rio Dulce.

Go on a kayak excursion and visit adjacent villages and small waterfalls over the jungle. This spot inside the jungle is absolutely fabulous. Going there by kayak is likewise fascinating. Discover a dazzling river and see a few villages. Not many travelers go to this hidden section of the river. It is a unique experience. Duration: 2 hours. Price per guest from: $25

National Park Lagoon of ‘El Tigre’

An ample wilderness of seasonally flooded jungle cut through by slow-moving rivers, this massive park in the northwest corner of Guatemala models the biggest protected wetlands area in Central America. For most, this kind of deep rainforest, middle-of-nowhere contact is Guatemala at its very best. Birders, nature-lovers, and those travelers looking to bask in the simple things will love it here. Additionally, explore the archaeological site of ‘El Perú’, 20 minutes west down the river, and nighttime observation of the local crocodile, along with the opportunity to fish for the distinguished white fish. Overlooking the broad sleepy river, it is a remarkably isolated destination and we offer you a convenient, eco-friendly jungle lodge. Duration from: 2 days. Price per guest from: $380

Boat tour of Rio Dulce, a boat excursion to the Caribbean.

 One of the most beautiful boat excursions in Central America is a trip on the Rio Dulce to the town of Livingston. The excursion takes you through a protected area with an unbelievable number of exotic birds, mangroves, canyons and pelicans, to the Caribbean Ocean of Guatemala. In Livingston you will discover a quite distinct side of the country. Currently, this town is remote with a fascinating blend of cultures, the Maya community lives here along with the Garifunas. Duration: one day. Price per guest from: $70

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