Sunset from top of Temple 216 at Yaxha site.

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El Petén

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.

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3. Twin Pyramid Complex

0.17 MILES

This largely unexcavated complex consists of two identical pyramids facing each other across a lawn. Similar to one of the arrangements at Tikal, it is…

4. North Acropolis

0.19 MILES

The trio of pyramidal temples at the North Acropolis are built atop older structures dating back to 100 BC. Comprising of seven platforms, the…

5. South Acropolis


A complex of palatial structures from which Yaxhá's aristocracy could watch the games going on in the ball court below.

6. East Acropolis & Structure 216


Near the site entrance is the high point of Yaxhá (literally): Structure 216 in the East Acropolis. Also called the Temple of the Red Hands, because red…

7. Lesser Astronomical Complex (Plaza C)

0.22 MILES

Plaza C, the first group of buildings you come to on entering Yaxhá, is one of a pair of astronomical observatories; the Greater Astronomical Complex …

8. Greater Astronomical Complex (Plaza F)

0.25 MILES

To the northwest of the site stands one of Yaxhá's most ancient constructions, the Greater Astronomical Complex (Plaza F). The arrangement includes an…