Parque Arqueológico Takalik Abaj

The Pacific Slope

This 6.5-sq-km archaeological site spreads over nine natural terraces. The rainforest-like grounds boast temple mounds, ball courts and flights of steps paved with rounded river stones, along with an impressive number of stone sculptures. These works include numerous representations of animals and aquatic creatures (some in a curious pot-bellied style known as barrigón), miniature versions of the characteristic Olmec colossal heads and early Maya-style monuments depicting finely adorned personages carrying out religious ceremonies.

Some imagination is needed to picture how the site would have looked when occupied, though there are plenty of helpful (Spanish) information boards. Archaeological work is continuing outside the kernel of the site, which is the Grupo Central on terrace No 2, where the most important ceremonial and civic buildings were located. Classic-era baths and multicolored floors were discovered here in late 2005.

The largest and tallest building is Estructura 5, a pyramid 16m high and 115m square on terrace No 3, above No 2. This may have formed one side of a ball court. Estructura 7, east of Estructura 5, is thought to have been an observatory.

Animal lovers may want to give the site's small zoo of Guatemalan rainforest animals a miss.

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