Yaxhá – Pyramids, Temples, a Lake and the Jungle
Yaxhá means “blue-green water” in the language of the Maya. This ancient city of the Maya culture can be found in the lowlands of Guatemala in the state of Petén. The border to the neighboring country of Belize is just a few kilometers away.
The city was built in the immediate vicinity of the lake Laguna Yaxhá. It is surrounded by a nature reserve covering the original subtropical forest. Besides Tikal and El Mirador, Yaxhá is the third largest Maya settlement in Guatemala. The first report about the city derives from Teobert Maler who has visited the site in 1904.
This Maya city was inhabited during a period of 1500 years, from 600 BC to AD 900. Nine of the more than five hundred previously identified structures are temple pyramids. Over 40 stelae with inscriptions have been discovered here.
In addition to the monuments, the nature surrounding everything is very impressive. About 200 square kilometers are covered by the nature reserve.
Between the buildings, you walk among a tropical forest area resembling a park. It merges gradually into the jungle, the further you move away from the buildings. In addition to exotic plants, orchids, bromeliads and tillandsia, you can encounter different types of subtropical birds, reptiles, mammals and insects and observe them in their natural habitat.
Few tourists find their way to Yaxhá. It is difficult to get there using public transportation. The distance from the main road to the site’s entrance is several kilometers. Therefore I recommend booking a trip in one of the tourist offices in Flores.
If you are a group of people, it might be able to book a taxi for a one-day trip.
I found it very useful to meet Dieter Richter in Flores. He runs a small restaurant called Café Yax-Ha there. Dieter, a German architect, was involved in the investigation and restoration of the ruins and might be able to give valuable advice for visiting this and other Maya sites to the interested traveler and explorer. He and his team organize trips to various other Maya sites in the vicinity.