Visiting Yaxha from Flores Guatemala

Exploring the town of Flores and Yaxha Archeological Site, Guatemala

After our day trip to Antigua and Iximche, we flew early the next morning to Flores, Guatemala (Mundo Maya Airport), a great home base for visiting the stellar Mayan archeological sites of Yaxha and Tikal, and other more remote sites if you have the time.

The flight to Flores from Guatemala City was short, less than one hour. From the small Mundo Maya airport, it is only a 5-10 minute drive to the town of Flores.

Guatemala plane to Tikal

Our tiny plane for the trip to Flores from Guatemala City.

 

Flores

The main town of Flores is situated on a small island in Lake Petén Itzá, connected by a causeway to the mainland.

Flores, Guatemala

View of Lake Petén Itzá from the town of Flores.

We stayed in Flores where there are a number of boutique hotels along with restaurants that cater to the tourist crowd. You can walk across the island town in about 15 minutes.

Flores, Guatemala

Street scene in Flores.

Guatemala Flores Town1

Our hotel in Flores. It had a nice atrium and breakfast veranda overlooking Lake Petén Itzá from the rear of the hotel.

Since we arrived at our hotel around 8:30 am, our room wasn’t ready yet and so we had a leisurely breakfast and then asked the hotel staff to arrange a tour to Yaxha for that afternoon (and for Tikal the next day), giving us some time to wander the town and prepare for the long (but enjoyable) afternoon/evening ahead.

Yaxha Archeological Site

I am so glad we took the time to see Yaxha our first afternoon before going to Tikal the following day, there is quite a bit to see here and it’s relatively quiet from a tourist standpoint – it felt a bit off the beaten path. Yaxha is growing in popularity, but still does not receive near the visitors that its more famous neighbor does. We were in a mini van with perhaps 10 other tourists. The road to Yaxha was not paved and very rough in spots. In fact, at one point the van could not make it up a hill (due to slick mud) and several passengers had to get out and walk while the driver made a couple more attempts to climb the hill, which he was finally able to do. At the parking lot in Yaxha, we saw just a handful of other tourist vans. The drive from Flores took about 1.5 hours, mainly due to the rough dirt “road” to the site after turning off the main road. This Wikipedia site give some good information on Yaxha, including a map of archeological sites in the Flores region.

The images below are in the approximate order of our visit to the main sites within Yaxha.

Minor Astronomy Complex, Yaxha, Guatemala

This structure is part of Yaxha’s Minor Astronomy Complex (also called Plaza C), near the parking lot.

Yaxha Juego de Pelota del Palacio, Guatemala

This site is known as Juego de Pelota del Palacio, or Palace Ball Game site. The ball court area sits behind this structure.

Yaxha Ruins Major Astronomy Complex, Guatemala

This unexcavated pyramid is part of the Major Astronomy Complex in Yaxha. From the top (called Mirador Lookout, using the stairway), you have a view of Lake Yaxha and some of the surrounding pyramids.

Plaza de las Sombras, Grupo Maler, Yaxha, Guatemala

Plaza de las Sombras, Grupo Maler, at Yaxha. This grouping was the farthest point in our exploration that afternoon, about 30 minutes walk from the parking lot.

Plaza de las Sombras, Grupo Maler, Yaxha, Guatemala

Another big temple structure at Plaza de las Sombras, Grupo Maler, Yaxha.

Acropolis North, Yaxha, Guatemala

You can climb one of the pyramids in Acropolis North, in the distance (called North Pyramid). There were numerous Howler monkeys in this area, and boy are they loud and scary sounding!

Acropolis North, Yaxha, Guatemala

Looking over the Acropolis North, from the North Pyramid. These are probably the most complete set of excavations in Yaxha.

Acropolis North, Yaxha, Guatemala

Another view within the Acropolis North, a huge pyramid on the east side of this complex.

After exploring the Acropolis North, it was time to make our way back to Las Manos Rojas pyramid, part of Acropolis East, to watch the sunset over Lake Yaxha. It is the highest spot in the archeological site.

Las Manos Rojas, Yaxha, Guatemala

The Las Manos Rojas (Red Hands) pyramid (also known as Structure 216), from which we watched a very peaceful sunset over Lake Yaxha. Our tour guide asked everyone to stop talking for about 15 minutes so we could enjoy a little quiet time as the sun set – a great idea.

Lake Yaxha sunset, Yaxha, Guatemala

The sun setting over Lake Yaxha, from the top of Las Manos Rojas pyramid. There is a stairway down to the lake if you wish to reach its shore.

We felt that a half day in Yaxha was sufficient, we were able to see everything we wanted to in that time and still have plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the evening quiet that comes over the remote jungle (once the Howler monkeys decide to go to bed!). Our entry tickets, transportation and tour guide all came together in one price. It was a long but perfect day (since our flight had left Guatemala City at 7 am and we didn’t get back to Flores until about 8 pm that evening). But what a way to spend one of our 4 precious days in Guatemala!