Mayan Ruins in Guatemala
The ruins left by the Maya are the remnants of a civilization going back 5,000 years ago. The remaining constructions are the living testimony of the sophisticated lifestyle they had. The Mayan temples, stelae and ceramic artifacts have an appealing history that attract curious visitors from all over the world. Besides excelling in architecture, the Maya were outstanding astrologers, agronomists, mathematicians, developed an extraordinary writing system (Mayan hieroglyphs) and created an impressively accurate calendrical cycle.
Nowadays, distinctive architecture styles are to be found throughout Mesoamerica. The Mayas lived in independent city-states and were never unified as a single empire. For this reason, the construction methods and temple characteristics vary from one region to the other. Nevertheless, a strong architectural influence from the different pre-hispanic groups is noticeable among the different Mayan cities across Mesoamerica. Most of the pyramids built by the Maya were devoted to their gods. Some of them have a shrine on its peak to make rituals and important ceremonies.
A large proportion of the Maya civilization lived in the Lowland region of Guatemala. Today, the lush jungle treasures a big concentration of temples, stelae, aqueducts, extensive paved roads (sacbeob) and a unique mysticism. Most of the Mayan cities in the area were built using a calcified rock called limestone–a hard stone that allowed them to build the masterpieces that are still standing centuries after their assembly.
Important Mayan Cities
The National Park Tikal is among the world's travel wonders with around 3,000 structures surrounded by lush vegetation. Declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal is one of the few places that inscribed both natural and cultural importance–a powerful city that hosts majestic prototypes of local pre-hispanic architecture.
El Mirador/La Danta
Located deep in the jungle of Guatemala, El Mirador is an important archaeological site that dates to the Pre-classical period of the Maya (2,500BCE–250 CE). The city hosts the temple La Danta which is consider one of the largest pre-hispanic structures in the world. This hidden treasure in the heart of Guatemala’s jungle is only reachable by a 5-day trek with an authorized guide or by helicopter.
This small city was the residency of an important family of the elite during the Classical period (250–950CE). Aguateca's ruins are considered to be the best preserved in Guatemala due to its veiled location in the middle of the Jungle–a perfect combination of waterways and Mayan history!
A tiny but important archaeological site discovered in 1840. Quirigua was a trading center strongly connected with Copan, in Honduras. It excels from the rest because of its enormous stelae and intriguing history. Quirigua hosts the longest hieroglyphic texts ever found at any Mayan city. The archaeological site is also one of Guatemala’s places protected by UNESCO.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Copan in Honduras is known for its outstanding sculptural work. It is considered the most artistic city of the Mayan civilization. Copan worked together with Quirigua and their histories and strongly intertwined.
Located in the pacific region of Guatemala, Tak'Alik Ab'Aj is a unique archaeological site that combines the Maya and Olmec cultures in one place. Unlike the other Mayan cities, Tak'Alik Ab'Aj contains mostly figures of faces made out of river stone–a very strong influence from the Olmec civilization.
Located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, Zaculeu was the capital of the Post-classical Mam kingdom. The city’s architectural style has a noticeable influence of Mexico in the design of its pyramids. Even though is not precisely a popular archaeological site, Zaculeu played an important role during the early Classical period of the Maya.
The Maya made tremendous achievements in several fields of science and arts. Today, their heritage is a big influence in the development of the world. This intellectually advanced civilization left an incredible imprint and Guatemala gives you the opportunity to discover the wonders of the Mayan world. Travel back in time and visit the legendary sites left by the Maya!