Best Mayan Ruins of Guatemala. Why is Guatemala the true heart of the Mayan civilization?
Guatemala is located at the center of the geographical region where this civilization flourished thousands of years ago. It has been proven that the Mayan civilization emerged in the exuberant jungles of the North region of the country. This is where the greatest number and concentration of archaeological sites of this civilization are located and where the evolution of Mayan constructions can be established. In addition to this impressive historical heritage, there are still direct Mayan descendants living in Guatemala. Over 50% of the population share this origin and use more than 20 different Mayan languages to communicate.
The greatness of the Mayan civilization is evident in this timeline, which details the occupation of some of the main Mayan cities throughout history, comparing it with other cultures around the world.
This is the capital of a powerful Kingdom, which began in the Middle of the Pre-Classic Period, and it is one of the oldest cities of the Mayan world. Its highly-sophisticated monumental architecture contrasts with other cities that were not able to achieve similar development until the Classic Period. There are even traces of early writings. Some of the monumental structures include ‘La Danta’, a pyramid with a volume greater than the Great Pyramid of ‘Cheops’ in Egypt.
Additionally, The Tiger complex (55 meters high), and the Jaguar Claw Temple, which has two great masks on the sides of its staircase are worth mentioning. Another important component is the frieze depicting swimming in the waters of the underworld, exactly as it is narrated in the Sacred Book of the Mayas. The Kingdom here had great influence and its founding dynasty started at the same time as did the Mayan Civilization.
Located in the heart of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, Tikal National Park has been declared as a World Heritage Cultural and Natural Site by UNESCO; one of the only three sites in this category in all of the Americas. The National Park is one of the most important cities of the Mayan Classic Period, with striking and exquisite architecture. A stroll through the Grand Plaza is all traveler needs to witness its monumental temples.
For thousands of years, the city has been safeguarded by a majestic tropical jungle, home to hundreds of Flora and fauna species. A visit to Tikal National Park is for sure a magical and unforgettable experience, not to be missed!
These Mayan ruins are located at the core of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. Due to its lagoons and wetlands, the area has been designated as a Ramsar Wetland of Global Importance. It emcopasses four amazing Mayan Cities that were very important in the course of this civilization: Yaxha, Naranjo, Nakum, and Topoxte.
Topoxte is located on the southeast end of the Yaxha Lagoon, and it is only accessible by boat. The Nakum and Naranjo archeological sites are located 17 and 24 kilometers north. The park contains a significant extension of a tropical forest that is home to hundreds of exotic species of flora and fauna.
This site was a small city from the Classic Period, featuring one of the largest plazas of the Mayan Civilization. Its lack of monumental buildings is compensated by a fascinating array of sculptures. It houses the highest sculpted monument in the region, the famous ‘Stela E’. Due to its striking sculpted temples and the influence of this ancient city, UNESCO declared the ruins a World Heritage Site.
Quirigua has close ties with Tikal during the Early Classic Period. It is thought to have been established by Copan (Honduras) as a center to control the Motagua river trade route. For years, the city was governed by Copan, until the year 736 BC, when its ruler established an alliance with the ruler of Calakmul (Mexico) to free the city of the power of Copan. After this, Quirigua led to its maximum architectural and artistic splendor, building palaces, stelas, altars, and zoomorphic sculptures.
This is a very interesting archeological site, since it evidences the historical transition between the Olmec and Mayan Civilizations. The park is located in the Pacific Tropical Savanna, surrounded by organic-coffee, rubber-tree, and sugarcane plantations. The site was a very important commercial center during the Late Pre-Classical period, and its Olmec influence is still evident in the numerous sculptures that visitors can admire at the site.
A distinct feature of this city is the considerable number of round boulder sculptures that include numerous potbellied animal and human representations. During an invasion of the city in 300 AD, the city was ransacked, and most of the Mayan-style monuments were decapitated. The park still remains a site of utmost significance to Mayans from the highlands, who regularly visit it to perform their religious ceremonies.