One of the largest Maya sites in Guatemala, Yaxha is located approximately 18 miles (30 km) southeast from Tikal between Lake Yaxha and Lake Sacnab. Spread out over nine plazas the site contains over 500 structures, including 40 stelae, several pyramid temples and ball courts. Yaxha is one of the few Maya cities to retain its traditional Maya name, which translates as “green waters”.
The complex was discovered in 1904 by Austrian explorer Teobert Maler, who was rowing across lake Yaxha and became aware of an extended chain of elevations in the jungle. Convinced that these were Mayan ruins, he began explorations immediately. The site became only popular recently after the TV reality show Survivor: Guatemala – The Mayan Empire was filmed here in 2005.
Structure 216 at Yaxha, Guatemala. Photo credit: Whirling Phoenix
The relative lack of inscribed monuments found at Yaxhá has made tracking its history difficult, though it appears it was a major player during the Classic period supporting a population of more than 20,000 people. It is believed that Yaxhá was locked into an ongoing power struggle during much of this time with its smaller neighbor, Naranjo, about 12 miles (20 km) northeast. Naranjo eventually overran Yaxhá in 799 AD.
Map of Yaxha
|The map shows the location of Yaxha. The buttons on the left can be used to zoom in or out. Click and drag the map to move around.|
Yaxhá’s highest structure is Structure 216 that has a total height of over 100 feet if the remains of a temple on top is included. The pyramid offers wonderful views of the lakes and forests from its summit.
On Plaza C stands a twin-pyramid complex, the only one known outside Tikal. The pyramid commemorates the end of a Katun, a 20 years period.
Agencies in Flores and El Remate offer organized trips to Yaxha, some combined with Nakum and/or Tikal.
The entrance fee is US$1.80.