While the city must have become quite isolated during the collapse of the Maya civilization between AD 800 and 900, it continued to function well into the 1500s, and their sophisticated builders left behind some 500 structures. Among the highlights are nine temple pyramids, two ball courts, and 40 unusually carved stelae. Climb to the top of Temple 216 for remarkable views over the lakes and rivers. Most day trips leave from Flores and explore a good chunk of the Yaxhá-Nakum-Naranjo National Park, which has three more impressive sites: Topoxte, on the south shore of the Lake Yaxhá; Nakum, an ancient port on the Holmul River; and Naranjo, which was Yaxhá’s long-time rival.
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Things to Know Before You Go
- Yaxhá is an ideal spot for history and archaeology lovers.
- Be prepared to hike, with plenty of water and mosquito repellent.
- There is an entrance fee.
- Bring your own snacks and water.
- If staying overnight at the lakeside huts, bring a flashlight.
How to Get There
Yaxhá is located in the Petén region of Guatemala, about 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of Tikal and 45 miles (73 kilometers) from Flores. Driving here requires a 4WD, as the off-road pathway is rocky and can become inaccessible in heavy rains. Buses leave Flores about every two hours and take about 1.5 - 2 hours.
When to Get There
The site is open daily from morning until evening. The climate in Flores is pleasant throughout the year, though it’s best to avoid the rainy season (May through October). Come to the city in the first two weeks of January to experience the Dance of the Chotona festival, a quirky fiesta featuring firecrackers, religious processions, a parade featuring giant dolls made of paper maché, men in drag, and lots of dancing.
The Yaxhá Kingdom Yaxháxa0was already a large city as early as 1000 BC, reigning as an important hub for sacred ceremonies and trade. By AD 250, the city expanded in both area and population, becoming a main trade route in the region, and later, a trading partner of the great city of Tikal. Wars with the kingdom of Naranjo weakened Yaxhá. Although it was able to survive while the rest of the empire collapsed, eventually the city became abandoned.