Archaeological Site in El Petén

Image by Diego Lezama Getty Images

The Classic Maya sites of Yaxhá, Nakum and El Naranjo form a triangle that is the basis for a national park covering more than 37,000 hectares and bordering the Parque Nacional Tikal to the west. Yaxhá, the most visited of the trio, stands on a hill between two sizable lakes, Lago Yaxhá and Lago Sacnab.

The setting, the sheer size of the site, the number of excellently restored buildings and the abundant jungle flora and fauna all make it particularly worth visiting.

During its heyday in the 8th century, it was home to a population of 20,000. Its 400-plus structures included five acropolises, two astronomical observatories and three ball courts.

It takes at least a couple of hours to look around the main groups of ruins. The high point (literally), towering above all else, is Structure 216 in the Acrópolis Este (East Acropolis), which affords magnificent views in every direction. On an island near the south shore of Laguna Yaxhá is a separate, Postclassic archaeological site, Topoxté.

The site is 11km north of the Puente Ixlú–Melchor de Mencos road, accessed via unpaved road from a turnoff 32km from Puente Ixlú and 33km from Melchor de Mencos.