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On the Road Guatemala: Yaxhá, Peten, a Gem in the Shadow of Tikal

By Claire Bourgin

My first trip to Petén was back in December 2005, so I decided recently to return to this amazing region during Semana Santa. My friends and I left Flores early on a Saturday to go to Yaxhá, a Mayan archeological site located 30 km SW of Tikal. I had heard about it from a friend and had planned to go for a long time. But going without an organized tour used to be complicated. So when a travel agent told us about a new bus going directly to the site for Q150 per person, I knew it was my opportunity. The bus leaves Flores at 7 a.m. every day (with a 2-person minimum) and returns at 3 p.m. You can buy a ticket at any travel agency in Flores.

Because it’s situated on the Zenith, Yaxhá is an unique religious and ceremonial archaeological site in Petén. The temples were built so that the Mayans could observe the sun from sunrise until sunset. The name means “green water”.

Teobert Maler, a German explorer who devoted his life to the ruins of the Mayan civilization, stumbled upon the covered site during a 1904 expedition. Restoration work began in 1989, and over the years, archaeologists have restored and excavated many of the buildings. Today, the former shape of the city is once again recognizable and has more than 500 structures.

Now back to the trip. After a 2- hour ride, we paid the Q80 entry fee and arrived at the Blue Azul Lagoon. After the crowds at Tikal, we enjoyed the tranquility of the site, listening to the birds singing and the monkeys howling.

Signs explain the history of each temple and point of interest, something very useful for a lazy traveler like me who doesn’t like to read the history section of guide books. You can visit the site in 2-3 hours and finish by climbing Temple 216, which offers an amazing view of the two lagoons Sacnab and Yaxhá , as well as the temples surrounded by forest. It’s a good place to see the sunset but we didn’t hang around long enough to see one. 

I definitely preferred Yaxhá to Tikal – it’s less touristy and the lagoons are beautiful. You can camp there for free, which is something on my ‘to-do’ list for Guatemala. Maybe I’ll see you there!

For more information on Yaxhá, check this Web site: www.yaxhanatural.org/eng/eng.htm.

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