Complete Guide to Yaxha: Unique Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

In this complete guide to Yaxha, you will find everything you need to know to plan your visit to the Yaxha Mayan ruins in Guatemala. From when to visit and how to get there to its history and what monuments are a must-see, this guide to Yaxha has all the information you need. And if you’re still on the fence, let me tell you that this Mayan site in the Peten region is one of the best things to do in Guatemala and should definitely be included in your Guatemala itinerary.

Guide to visiting the Mayan ruins of Yaxhá in Guatemala

My Experience Visiting the Yaxhá Ruins

Located in the jungle near the city of Flores, Peten in Guatemala, the Yaxha ruins were a truly awe-inspiring experience for me. Yaxha is one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites in Guatemala, offering a unique mix of history and nature. The site is huge, covering over 200 acres with more than 500 structures, some of which have been restored to their original beauty.

It offers a unique blend of natural beauty and ancient history. I love that the site is located next to the Yaxhea lagoon, providing beautiful water views from the top of one of the temples. And because this site is not as big as Tikal, it takes just a few hours to explore. So it’s the perfect addition to your trip if you are already planning on visiting the Tikal National Park.

Best guide to visiting the Yaxhá Mayan ruins in Guatemala
Best guide to visiting the Yaxhá Mayan ruins in Guatemala. (Depositphotos)

One of the highlights for me was climbing to the top of Temple 216. The climb was a bit challenging, but the views from the top were absolutely stunning. I got to see the lush jungle and the beautiful Yaxha lagoon from above. And let me tell you, the diverse wildlife at the site is just amazing! I saw so many birds and animals, from toucans and parrots to monkeys swinging from the trees.

Another highlight was exploring the ancient Mayan ball court. It’s an impressive structure, and I couldn’t believe people played games there over a thousand years ago.

Where is Yaxha National Park Located?

The Yaxha National Park encompasses the Yaxha Mayan archaeological site. This archaeological site is in the Petén department of northern Guatemala. It lies about 30 km southeast of Tikal and is positioned on the north side of Lake Yaxha. The ruins of Yaxha stretch for about 3 km along a hilltop that runs parallel to the lake’s shoreline.

This Mayan site is about an hour’s drive from Flores, Peten, and about an hour and a half from Tikal.

How to get to Yaxhá Ruins in Guatemala

Getting to Yaxha, one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites in Guatemala, is a journey that takes you through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. The following is a guide to help you plan your trip to this incredible destination.

Flight from Guatemala City to Flores Peten

  • By Air. The nearest major airport to Yaxha is Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores, Petén. Flights leave every morning and evening from the Guatemala City airport. Once you arrive at the Flores Airport, you can hire a taxi to your hotel in Flores or Tikal if the hotel doesn’t include a transfer. Then the easiest way to get to Yaxha is to hire a tour. You can also take a tour from Guatemala that includes airfare, transfers and guide as well as hotel, which makes things a lot easier. 
  • By Bus. If you’re on a budget, you can take a local bus from Flores to the nearby town of San Andrés. From there, hire a taxi or take another local bus to the Yaxha ruins. This option is the most economical but also the slowest.
  • By Car. Renting a car is another option for getting to Yaxha. You can rent a car at the Mundo Maya International Airport or in Flores and drive to the site (which takes about two hours). The drive is scenic and takes you through a lush, tropical forest.


Regardless of how you choose to get to Yaxha, the journey is a beautiful adventure in itself and sets the stage for a truly unforgettable experience at the ancient Mayan site. 

What is The Best Time of The Year to Visit Yaxhá?

As is the case with Tikal and the city of Flores, the best time to visit Yaxha in Guatemala is typical during the dry season,  from November to April. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and the conditions are favorable for outdoor activities such as exploring the ruins, hiking, and bird watching. 

What is the best time of the year to visit Yaxha

Additionally, the chance of rain is low, making it easier to visit the site without any weather-related interruptions. The last 15km ( miles) of the road to Yaxha are dirt, and this road may only be traveled on 4 by 4 vehicles during the rainy season.  

Price and Hours of Operation

The Yaxha ruins are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Monday to Sunday. 

The entrance fee is Q40.00 (approx $6) for nationals and Q80.00 (approx $12) for foreigners.

What does Yaxha mean? 

Yaxha is a Mayan word that translates to “green waters” in the Yucatec Maya language. The name is fitting for the site, as Yaxha is in the heart of the Petén jungle of Guatemala, surrounded by lush, tropical vegetation and a stunning lagoon. Best tips for visiting Yaxha ruins in Guatemala

The ancient Mayan city of Yaxha was a thriving center of commerce, religion, and politics over a thousand years ago. It was one of the largest and most important Mayan sites in the region. Today, the ruins of Yaxha offer a unique blend of natural beauty and ancient history and are a popular destination for tourists and historians alike.

Whether you’re an avid history buff or simply looking for an adventure, a visit to Yaxha is an unforgettable experience. So if you’re planning a trip to Guatemala, make sure to add this incredible site to your itinerary and discover the meaning of Yaxha for yourself.

How Does Yaxha Site Compare to Tikal? 

As a lover of ancient history and archaeology, I have had the privilege of visiting both the Yaxhá and Tikal. Because Yaxhá and Tikal are pretty close, many people wonder how these two sites compare. Both Mayan sites are impressive and are located in Petén and surrounded by lush jungles. However, they offer unique experiences, and there are some key differences that set them apart from one another.



Tikal is one of the largest and most well-known Mayan sites in the world, often considered the crown jewel of Guatemalan archaeology. The site covers over 200 square kilometers and is home to towering pyramids, plazas, and temples, as well as an array of fascinating wildlife. Tikal is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Guatemala and is truly a marvel to behold.

Best insider's guide to visiting Tikal

Yaxha, on the other hand, is a slightly smaller site. It is less well-known but still offers a wealth of history and beauty. The site is in the heart of the Petén jungle, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and a stunning lagoon. Unlike Tikal (which can be quite crowded with tourists), Yaxha is a more peaceful and serene destination, offering a unique blend of ancient history and natural beauty.

Yaxha main plaza
Yaxha main plaza. (Depositphotos)

In my personal experience, both Tikal and Yaxha are worth visiting. Tikal offers a glimpse into the grandeur and size of the Mayan empire, while Yaxha provides a more intimate and peaceful experience. But if you have the time, you should definitely visit both. And if you’re looking for other Guatemalan Mayan sites to visit while traveling to Guatemala, don’t miss Iximché and Quiriguá



What Makes the Yaxhá Mayan Ruins Unique? 

The Yaxha site offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and serenity that sets it apart from other ancient Mayan sites. Here are a few of the things that make Yaxha truly special.

The Location

Yaxha is in the heart of the Petén jungle, surrounded by lush, tropical vegetation and a stunning lagoon. The site is set in a breathtakingly beautiful and serene environment, which makes it a peaceful and rejuvenating escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. This unique combination of ancient history and natural beauty is what sets Yaxha apart from other Mayan sites.

The Yaxha Ruins 

The Yaxha site is home to a wealth of ancient ruins, including towering pyramids, plazas, temples, stelae, and altars. The site is one of the largest Mayan sites in Guatemala and offers a glimpse into the impressive scale and grandeur of the Mayan civilization. While Yaxha may not be as well-known as other Mayan sites, it is still a fascinating destination for anyone interested in ancient history.

Yaxha Wildlife

One of the things that set Yaxha apart from other Mayan sites is its rich and diverse wildlife. The lush Petén jungle embraces the area, home to an array of fascinating species, including monkeys, parrots, and toucans. During my visit to Yaxha, I saw and heard the wildlife all around me, making my experience even more special and unique. I love that some of the pyramids are still completely covered in trees, this gives the site a truly magical feel.

Mayan pyramid covered in vegetation at Yaxha in Guatemala

My visit to the Yaxha Mayan ruins in Guatemala was a truly unforgettable experience. The site offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and serenity that sets it apart from other Mayan sites. Whether you’re an avid history buff or simply looking for a peaceful escape, I highly recommend visiting Yaxha and discovering its unique beauty and history for yourself.



Tips for Visiting The Yaxha Ruins

If you’re planning a visit to Yaxha, here are a few tips from my personal experience that can help make your visit even more enjoyable.

  • Plan Your Visit in Advance. Yaxha is in the heart of the Petén jungle and can be a bit difficult to get to, so it’s important to plan your visit in advance. Make sure to check the weather conditions, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain.
  • Hire a Guide. While it is possible to visit Yaxha on your own, I highly recommend hiring a local guide. A guide can provide you with a wealth of information about the site and its history and make the most of your visit. They can also help you navigate the jungle and avoid any potential hazards.

Hiking through the Yaxha National Park

  • Arrive Early. Yaxha can get quite busy with tourists, so it’s best to arrive as early as possible to avoid crowds. This will also give you the chance to see the site in the quiet, peaceful hours of the morning, which is a truly special experience.
  • Bring a Camera. Yaxha is a breathtakingly beautiful site, and you’ll want to capture the memories of your visit. Bring a camera with plenty of free memory and a good zoom lens to capture the stunning views of the lagoon and the towering pyramids.
  • Don’t miss the sunset. Watching the sunset over the Yaxha lagoon from the top of temple 216 was one of the highlights of my visit. Don’t miss this beautiful sight!


Must-See Monuments and Sights in Yaxha Mayan Ruins

As someone who has had the privilege of visiting the Yaxha Mayan ruins in Guatemala, I can say that there are several must-see monuments and sights at the site that you should not miss. Here is a list of the top highlights from my personal experience:

  1. Temple 216. This impressive temple is one of the tallest structures at Yaxha and offers stunning views of the surrounding jungle and the lagoon. The climb to the top of the temple is worth the effort for the breathtaking views.


Yaxha Mayan ruins in Guatemala
Yaxha Mayan ruins in Guatemala. (Depositphotos)
  • Plaza of the Seven Temples. Seven towering pyramids surround this impressive plaza, each with its own unique history and architectural style. It’s a great place to get a sense of the scale and grandeur of the Mayan civilization.
  • The Ball Court. The ball court at Yaxha is one of the largest and best-preserved ball courts in the Mayan world. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the athletic and sporting traditions of the ancient Mayans.
Ball court at Yaxha Mayan site in Guatemala
Ball court at Yaxha Mayan site in Guatemala. (Depositphotos)
  • Stelae and Altars. Throughout the site, you’ll find impressive stelae and altars, each with its own unique carvings and artwork. These monuments offer a glimpse into the religious and spiritual beliefs of the ancient Mayans. 
  • The Lagoon. The lagoon at Yaxha is a truly breathtaking sight. The shimmering water, surrounded by lush jungle and ancient ruins, is a peaceful and rejuvenating escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Yaxha lagoon seen from one of the Mayan temples
Yaxha lagoon seen from one of the Mayan temples (Depositphotos)

There are many must-see monuments and sights at the Yaxha Mayan ruins. Yaxha is a truly special and unforgettable destination and often overlooked. If you’re going to be in the Peten, Flores area or are planning to visit Tikal, you need to add Yaxhá to your Guatemala itinerary!

The History of Yaxhá

Yaxha is one of the largest and most important Mayan sites in the Petén jungle. It offers a window into the past of one of the world’s greatest civilizations.

The Mayan Civilization

The Mayan civilization was one of the most advanced and sophisticated civilizations of the ancient world, and it thrived in Central America for over 2,000 years. The Mayans were skilled farmers, architects, astronomers, and mathematicians. They left behind a rich legacy of pyramids, temples, stelae, and other monumental structures.

Yaxha stelae and altars

Yaxha: A Mayan City

Founded around 600 BC, Yaxha was one of the major cities of the Mayan civilization. The city was an important religious, economic, and political center and home to thousands of people. During its peak, Yaxha was a bustling city filled with commerce, religious ceremonies, and athletic events, a hub of Mayan culture and civilization.

The ball court at Yaxha

The Decline of Yaxhá

Like many other Mayan cities, Yaxha declined and was eventually abandoned around 1000 AD, likely due to overpopulation, environmental degradation, and political upheaval. The city was rediscovered by modern-day archaeologists in the 20th century. Since then, extensive work has been done to uncover its history and uncover its many fascinating structures and monuments.

Where To Stay When Visiting Yaxhá

This guide to visiting Yaxhá would not be complete without recommendations on where to stay. When planning your trip to Yaxhá, you can book a hotel in the city of Flores or stay in a hotel at the Tikal National Park. Both are about an hour away from, Yaxhá. 

I suggest spending a minimum of 4 days and 3 nights in the Peten region. This will give you enough time to tour Yaxhá, Flores island, Tikal, and other nearby Mayan sites and attractions. I will share with you the best hotels to stay at when visiting Yaxhá.  I have personally stayed in all of the hotels recommended below, and I will give you a few options depending on what you are looking for. It’s advisable to book a 2-night stay in the Flores area and 1 night within the Tikal National Park.

Hotel Casona del Lago

A top hotel choice in Flores is Hotel Casona del Lago, offering stunning views of Lake Peten Itza. Despite not being on Flores island, it is conveniently just a short walk away. Book Hotel Casona del Lago here.

Hotel Casona del Lago, best hotels in Flores Guatemala

Hotel Villa Maya 

If you prefer a hotel surrounded by nature that is still close to Flores and Tikal, Hotel Villa Maya in Santa Elena is a fantastic option. Located on the edge of a lagoon and surrounded by a serene private reserve, this hotel is a great choice. Check out my post: Hotel Villa Maya: A Natural Paradise Close To Tikal. See for yourself if this is the right fit for you. Book Hotel Villa Maya here.

Where to stay in Tikal Guatemala, Villa Maya Hotel

Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

If you want to treat yourself to a fancy jungle escape, Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel is the way to go. This stunning hotel in a secluded reserve boasts private bungalows suspended over a gorgeous lagoon. Take a look at my full review of Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel. It has all the info on the fun activities you can do there. Book Las Lagunas Hotel here.

Las Lagunas Hotel Guatemala

Staying At Jungle Lodge Inside Tikal National Park

If you’re considering staying at Tikal National Park, the best hotel in Tikal is the Jungle Lodge Tikal, hands down. Staying at Tikal National Park will allow you to get in early to this park and since it’s only about an hour from Yaxhá, it’s also a good option. Book the Jungle Lodge Tikal here.

Jungle lodge Tikal review

Please take into account that this hotel is deep in the jungle. There is no wifi, and during the day, electricity is only available in the rooms at certain hours. However, the accommodations are very comfortable.

Yaxha is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Guatemala. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just looking for an adventure, Yaxha is a truly unforgettable experience that will leave you inspired and humbled by the ancient civilization that once thrived there. If you decide to go, I would love to know all about your experience!

More Amazing Things To Do In Guatemala

From bustling cities to breathtaking natural wonders, you’ll never run out of things to see and do in this incredible country. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a chance to connect with the local community, you’ll find it all in the following must-visit spots. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and let’s start exploring the best that Guatemala has to offer!

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Lake Atitlán is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Located in the western highlands of Guatemala, the lake encircles spectacular dormant volcanoes and picturesque Mayan villages. It has a relaxed atmosphere, a colorful and rich Mayan culture, and an almost perfect climate.

Best things to do in Guatemala

Best Things To Do In Antigua Guatemala With Kids:

Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Antigua Guatemala is a colonial city rich in history and culture. But finding kid-friendly activities can be somewhat of a challenge. So I wanted to share with you all the best things to do in Antigua with kids. All of these activities are family-friendly but are also great for adults.

Things to do in Antigua Guatemala with Kids
chocolate making at Choco Museum in Antigua Guatemala

An Enchanting River Ride: A Quick Guide To Río Dulce:

One of the most beautiful destinations in Guatemala, Río Dulce is often overlooked. This area overflows with beautiful nature, colonial history, unique culture, and fantastic food. This quick guide to Rio Dulce covers the best things to do, where to stay, and what to eat.

Castillo de San Felipe de Lara in Rio Dulce Isabel Guatemala

Dramatic Volcanic Black Sand Beaches In Guatemala:

If you haven’t walked along beautiful black sand beaches, you are missing out on a magical experience! Some of the best beaches in Guatemala are on its Pacific coasts, places of deep chill, and stunning wilderness. Guatemala’s beaches are full of palm trees to relax with an icy beverage on hand.

Guatemala's black sand beaches in the Pacific coast
Guatemala’s black sand beaches on the Pacific coast

Visiting The Reserva Natural De Atitlán In Panajachel:

If you’re planning a trip to Panajachel, stopping at the Reserva Natural de Atitlan is a must-do. It is a perfect place to enjoy the lush natural beauty of the Guatemalan rainforest. Here you will find the best hiking trails in Lake Atitlán, with hanging bridges, waterfalls, and breathtaking lake views around every corner.

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Reserva Natural, Atitlan

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

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1 thought on “Complete Guide to Yaxha: Unique Mayan Ruins in Guatemala”

  1. Yaxha, you took my breath away! From the moment I stepped foot on this unique Mayan ruin, I was transported in time to the height of one of the world’s most advanced civilizations. I am still in awe of the rich history and culture of the site, made for a truly immersive experience. Thanks for the recommendation!


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