The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

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Guatemala is the quintessential Mayan country. There are more than 20 Mayan groups and languages. This indigenous culture shows itself in every corner of the country. One of the most authentic experiences is exploring the ancient Mayan cities. There are hundreds in the country and below is a list of the 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala to visit.

I have selected them for their importance in the history and development of the pre-Hispanic Mayan civilization. And also for their accessibility, prices and the organized tours that you can take there.

Map of the best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Mayan Ruins near Guatemala City

1. Kaminal Juyu

The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Kaminal Juyu is located right in Guatemala City. It is an archaeological park with excavations divided into two main areas. An important fact: it is still used as a ceremonial site. You will be able to see what the Mayan ceremonies are like. They are performed at La Palangana of Kaminal Juyu area every day.

Due to its central location, the pre-Hispanic structures were thought to be a key commercial point. Kaminal Juyu is only 10% of what was once an important Mayan city. There are still some unexcavated mounds that are protected within the city. You can see them if you visit the Miraflores area and its museum.

I highly recommend you book the cultural and archeological tour. It includes tour guide, transportation and entry fee. They organize everything for you, and it is the safest way to get to Kaminal Juyu.

Occupancy: Pre-classic to Colonial Period (1500 BC – 1539 AD)

Entry fee: 50 GTQ (6.25 USD) only cash.

Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM every day.

Pros:

  • Performance of Mayan Ceremonies.
  • Easily accessible.
  • There are picnic areas.
  • The entry fee includes a visit to the park museum.

Cons:

  • No private parking.
  • During weekends the entrance to some of the structures is closed.

Mayan Ruins near Antigua

2. Mixco Viejo

The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Mixco Viejo is a fortress city. It is located on the edge of a hill and surrounded by ravines and the walls are stepped stone. It is 52 km / 32 mi from Guatemala City and 62 km / 38.5 mi from Antigua Guatemala. It will take you just under 2 hours by car to reach the site on a well-maintained road. The interesting thing about the road is that you will pass through two indigenous towns: San Pedro and San Juan Sacatepéquez. Making a rest stop in their squares and markets is a good option. Both towns are safe, authentic and well worth a visit.

The tour of the ruins takes a little less than 2 hours. There are 120 well-preserved pyramids and platforms. The weather is quite hot and dry, so I recommend bringing light-colored clothing, sunscreen, trekking shoes, sunglasses, and sun hats. It is best to arrive early in the morning, since in the afternoon the heat is much more intense and most of the tour is in the open, without any shade. Also bring your own snacks and beverages

Occupancy: Post-classic to Colonial Period (900 – 1524 AD)

Entry fee: 50 GTQ (6.25 USD) only cash.

Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM every day.

Pros:

  • The site is well-preserved.
  • Free parking.
  • The panoramic views are impressive.
  • It is located near Antigua and Guatemala City.
  • The tour is well-organized in 4 segments, if you follow them in order you will get to know the ruins without missing a thing.

Cons:

  • Free parking, but not extensive.
  • No convenience store or restaurant inside and outside the ruins. Bring your own snacks and beverages.

3. Iximche

The city of Iximche has 6 plazas and the Great Palace area. Here one of the greatest alliances between the Spaniards and the Mayan-Kaqchikeles took place. This bond served to unify forces against the Mayan-Quiche ethnic group.

If you are staying in Antigua Guatemala, visiting Iximche in one day is an excellent option since it is located 55 km / 34 mi away. There are several private tours that you can take from Antigua or even from Guatemala City. If you prefer to do it on your own, the road to the site is in good condition and it is easy to get there following the road to Tecpan.

The weather in the area is cool and sometimes a bit cold, so I recommend you bring a jacket, long pants and trekking shoes. Also, do not forget sunscreen. Although it is cool the sun does not stop shining brightly. The tour takes about an hour and a half.

Occupancy: Post-classic to Colonial Period (1250 – 1524 AD)

Entry fee: 50 GTQ (6.25 USD) only cash. You can take the one-day guided tour that includes the entry fee and hotel pick-up in Antigua or Guatemala City. Below you will find the button for more info and reservation.

Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM every day.

Pros:

  • Free parking.
  • Wel-signposted road.
  • Performance of Mayan Ceremonies.
  • The visit to a small museum is included.
  • Convenience store and diners outside the ruins.

Cons:

Mayan Ruins near Rio Dulce

4. Quirigua

Quirigua was a small city where trade routes converged thanks to its proximity to the Motagua River. Its importance lies in the Stelae it has. They were erected every five years and narrate in hieroglyphs the socio-political events of the city, such as the changes of command of its rulers. Here in Quirigua you will see the tallest Mayan Stela in the world. The site has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Tikal in Peten.

This site is located 82 km / 51 mi away from Rio Dulce and 248 km / 154 mi from Guatemala City. From Rio Dulce it is about an hour and a half by car. The route to see the stelae is easily accessible. It will take you about an hour. It is definitely best to do it with a guide. If you go round by yourself, the only way to know its history is through its panels. You can hire a guide at their reception desk. However, you will need some luck to find one available at the time of your arrival.

The area’s weather is extremely hot and humid, so don’t forget your insect repellent and sunscreen. The land is flat and well-connected by wooden paths. It is a good place for people with reduced mobility.

Occupancy: Classic to Post-classic (200 – 1200 AD)

Entry Free: 80 GTQ (10 USD) only cash. Guided tour 250 GTQ (32 USD).

Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day.


PRO TIP:

Take the 2-day tour to Quirigua and Copan from Guatemala City or Antigua. Taxes, guide and transport included.


Pros:

  • It is a well-preserved site.
  • Free parking.
  • Inside there are a craft shop and a convenience store.
  • There is a small museum that you can visit for free.
  • The road to get there is well-signposted.
  • It is a great stop if you are on your way to Rio Dulce or Peten (or back to Guatemala City or Antigua).

Cons:

  • Without a guide you cannot learn much about its history.

Mayan Ruins in Peten

5. El Mirador

The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Besides the famous Tikal, El Mirador in Peten is one of the 8 best Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Its importance for the Mayan civilization was collecting water and managing the drainage system for the area. El Tintal, the second largest Mayan city, is located 20 km / 12 mi away from El Mirador. These ancient Mayan cities had their economic, social and political heyday all at the same time with Tikal. The main attraction is the Pyramid of La Danta. It is the tallest Mayan pyramid (72 mts / 236 ft high).

Visiting El Mirador is an adventure in every sense of the word. It takes 4 days of trekking plus 1 day of rest through the tropical jungle of Peten. The entire path is flat; however, it is necessary to have a good physical condition since it is a demanding trek due to the weather. You sleep in camps organized by the La Carmelita community, the only one authorized to carry out guided tours. In addition to physical preparation, you will need all your own expedition equipment. The best option is booking the 5-day organized tour. They will have everything covered for you: private transportation, meals, camping, and local guides.

During the expedition you will be living together with the wildlife of the Mayan jungle. So, the chances are high that you will encounter with monkeys, jaguars, snakes, tapirs and thousands of insectos and birds.

You can also visit El Mirador by helicopter. It is a great adventure to fly over the Mayan jungle. Below you will find the buttons to book either option.

Occupancy: Pre-classic to Classic Period (800 BC – 900 AD).

Entry fee: 450 USD – 700 USD (tour included).

Opening hours: depending on tour.

Pros:

  • It is the largest ancient Mayan city in Guatemala.
  • It is a complete and authentic experience.
  • You support local community.
  • The local guides are prepared for this type of expedition.

Cons:

  • The tour is physically demanding.
  • The prices are high.

6. Tikal

The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Tikal is a very popular and crowded tourist destination; this already says that it is one of the 8 best Mayan ruins in Guatemala. People from all over the world come to visit. In fact, many come to the country exclusively to visit Tikal. It was an important city for the Mayan civilization since its socio-political power was decisive for the economic development of the populations of the region. Its temple IV is the tallest (70 mts / 230 ft high). And you will find a lot of stelae, tombs, temples and altars.

The archaeological site is 12 km² / 5 mi² in size, so the complete tour will take between 3 to 4 hours. Tikal is much more enjoyable if you get to know its history and the meaning of each of its structures in depth during your visit. For this reason, it is an excellent idea to book the tour in advance. Your expedition outfit, mosquito repellent, a light raincoat and sunscreen will be essential.

Occupancy: Pre-classic to Post-classic (750 BC – 900 AD)

Entry fee: 150 GTQ (18.75 USD). A guided tour 350 GTQ (49.75 USD). Entry fee to the museum 30 GTQ (3.75 USD).

I recommend you take the Sunset Tour for 100 GTQ (12.50 USD) extra. You will climb pyramid IV and the view will be unforgettable as the sun goes down.

Opening hours: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day.

Pros:

  • The visits are well-organized.
  • These are restaurants, shops and museums inside.
  • Free parking.
  • The road to get there is well-signposted and in good condition.

Cons:

  • It is quite busy.
  • You cannot always find a guided tour available at the time of your arrival (book it in advance).

7. Uaxactun

The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Uaxactun is the neighboring Mayan ruin of Tikal. It is located 23 km / 14 mi to the north. Uaxactun was important for its political power and is older than Tikal. These two Mayan cities were in constant territorial conflict during the heydays of Tikal, until Uaxactun ended up losing its independence.

To get to Uaxactun it is necessary to have an off-road car that will have to be authorized at the official entrance of Tikal. This is a quick and free process. Don’t forget your passport, driving license and car rental documents. The 23 km / 14 mi highway is a dirt road through the tropical jungle. Bring your own snacks and beverages because there are no convenience stores inside.

Although you can visit the site by car, the best option is to book a tour that takes you from any of the hotels on the island of Flores. You will visit 8 architectural groups. Several of their structures are still under excavation. It will be a tour of 5 km / 3 mi.

Occupancy: Pre-classic to Classic Period: (900 BC – 900 AD)

Entry fee: 150 GTQ (18.75 SD) in Tikal + 50 GTQ (6.25 USD) in Uaxactun.

Opening hours: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day.

Pros:

  • It is not as crowded as Tikal.
  • Nearby you can visit the indigenous village of Uaxactun.
  • By visiting you support the local community in the area.

Cons:

  • Access can be difficult due to the state of the road that crosses the jungle.
  • There are no restaurants or shops. Bring your own snacks and beverages.

8. Yaxha and Topoxte

The 8 best Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

Yaxha is located between two lagoons, which accounts for its importance and growth. The vast majority of Mayan cities perished in times of drought since they depended on collecting water. However, for Yaxha this was not a problem. For this reason, it was inhabited for several centuries and its commercial development was significant for the region. Its ties to the city of Tikal were, unsurprisingly, strong and convenient.

The site is located 70 km / 43 mi away from the Island of Flores. A fair number of structures have been discovered, and some of them are still being excavated and studied. It will take you more or less 3 hours of exploring. The best way of doing it is during the afternoon and then you can watch the sunset from the top of temple 216. As always, I recommend you wear your expedition outfit for the visit, mosquito repellent, sunscreen and a light raincoat. Bring your snacks and beverages.

From Yaxha you can visit the Island of Topoxte by taking a boat to cross the Yaxha lagoon in 15 minutes. Hopefully you will see crocodiles on your boat transfer. Topoxte is also an ancient Mayan city. It is one of the 8 best Mayan ruins in Guatemala thanks to its surroundings and low numbers of visitors. This site is also still being excavated and studied.

Occupancy: Yaxha: Pre-classic to Classic Period (600 BC – 900 AD). Topoxte: Classic to Colonial Period (900 AD – 1521 AD).

Entry fee: Yaxha: 80 GTQ (10 USD). Topoxte: free

Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day.

Pros:

  • Free parking
  • The natural environment is intact, high chances of seeing wildlife in the surroundings (crocodiles, monkeys, birds).
  • There is a small free museum inside Yaxha.
  • Transfer by boat to Topoxte.

Cons:

  • The last 10 km / 6 mi of the access road are unpaved.
  • There is a beach, but swimming is not allowed due to the crocodiles.
  • There are no restaurants or shops. Bring your own snacks and beverages.

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