The archaeological park and ruins at Quirigua contain the largest stelae ever discovered in the Mayan world and many other outstanding monuments. Quirigua is just 94 kilometers from Puerto Barrios in the Department of Izabal, making them the closest location from Guatemala City to see important ruins. It has been designated UNESCO Heritage and is under protection.
Quirigua was one of the smallest Mayan cities, but one of the most notable due to its splendid series of monuments. It was an autonomic capital and inhabited since the 2nd century A.D. It flourished until the 10th century, when it was abandoned for unknown reasons. Nine stelae are arranged around the central plaza, accompanied by altars carved into zoomorphic shapes. The largest of these, Stela E, is eight meters tall. The ruins also include sculpted calendars and are unrestored. Deciphered hieroglyphs from the stelae and altars tell a fascinating story of Quirigua’s relationship with nearby Copan.
The Great Plaza in the center of Quirigua is the biggest public space of the Mayan culture. Visitors can see monumental structures including an elaborate system of pyramids, staircases and terraces around the Ceremonial Plaza and the Plaza of the Temple. Monolithic monuments which are carved in sand show hieroglyphic texts tell about significant dates on the Mayan and calendar and important historic and social events during the creation of Quirigua.