Traveling in Guatemala:
Mayan Ruins and Archaeological Sites
In its heyday the Mayan empired extended from the Yucatan peninsula to modern-day Guatemala and western Honduras. Many important Mayan ruins and archaeological sites are located in Guatemala, particularly in the department of El Peten.
While some Mayan ruins are easy to access, like Tikal or Copan in Honduras, others are located deep in the tropical jungle of northern Guatemala and just getting there is an adventure in its own right.
- Tikal used to be one of the most important and powerful Mayan cities during the Classic Period from 250 to 900 AD. After the collapse of the Mayan empire, Tikal's magnificent temples and plazas were slowly reclaimed by the jungle and lay buried under lush tropical vegetation for a millennium until they were rediscovered in the 19th century. Beginning in the 1950s, the ruins have been meticulously explored and restored in an ongoing research project, making Tikal one of the most prominent Mayan archaeological sites.
- Copan (Honduras)
- Located in Honduras just a few miles from the border to Guatemala, the Mayan ruins of Copan are a great destination for travelers interested in Mayan culture and archaeology. Copan was the southernmost major Mayan city during the Classic Period and is particularly famous for its artistry and beautifully carved stelae. The ruins have been extensively studied and a good part of what we know about the Maya stems from deciphered inscriptions in Copan.
- While not as famous as Tikal or its neighbor Copan in Honduras, the Mayan ruins of Quirigua are particularly famous for their intricately carved sandstone stelae, which are the tallest stelae in the entire Mayan world. The ruins have been restored in an ongoing research and restoration project and are now surrounded by a beautifully landscaped archaeological park.