Destinations in Guatemala:

The Mayan Ruins of Iximche

Iximche, a pre-Columbian Mayan site in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, is not as well-known as the major archaeological sites of the Classic Period (250 to 900 AD), but remains a popular site to visit because of its easy accessibility and pleasant setting.

Iximche was founded by the Kaqchikel Maya in 1470 after a prolonged conflict with the Kiche Maya forced them to abandon their previous capital Chaviar (present-day Chichicastenango). The new capital did well in its first decades, but was severely damaged by a fire in 1514. In 1519-20 a major epidemic struck Iximche, killing many inhabitants and prompting many others to flee to the countryside.

Thus weakened, the Kaqchikel welcomed the Spanish conquerers under Pedro de Alvarado with open arms when they arrived in April of 1524 and allowed them to found their own capital nearby. However, the relationship with the Spanish, who at first promised to be a valuable ally against their long-time enemies, the Kiche, soon deteriorated.

The conquerers' incessant demands for gold and the inability of the Kaqchikel to provide it in sufficient quantity quickly led to hostilities that culminated in several Spanish attacks on Iximche.

In September of the same year the Kaqchikel abandoned their capital and took to the surrounding mountains, from where they waged a guerrilla war against the Spanish. The conquerers burned Iximche to the ground in 1526 and were able to defend their own capital for a while, but the raids took their toll. In 1527 the Spanish abandoned their first capital and founded a new one in the Almolonga valley (present-day Ciudad Vieja near Antigua Guatemala).

Undisturbed for several centuries and largely buried under lush vegetation, the ruins of Iximche were finally explored and partially excavated by Guatemalan archaeologist Jorge Guillemin from 1960 to 1972.

Iximche's core is bounded on three sides by ravine walls and separated from the main residential area by an artificial creek. The center consists of four large and two small plazas surrounded by temples, palaces and ceremonial platforms.

The archaeological site of Iximche also hosts a museum, where sculptures, ceramics and other pieces found during the excavation and restoration are on display. The museum is open daily.

Days tours to Iximche from Antigua Guatemala