Yaxchilan

The city of Yaxchilan in the state of Chiapas is one of the greatest cities ever built by the Mayas. Built along a river, it includes a central plaza, temples, palaces, and hundreds of small buildings.

One main distinction from other Maya sites is that the buildings in Yaxchilan are numbered. The most famous ones include an ancient sauna (building 17), the Gran Plaza, the famous Red Temple (building 6) with its delicate colorful stucco work. Building 33 is maybe the most well preserved monument. It is a large temple, with magnificent carved relief showing scenes of the life of the rulers. The Small Acropolis is located on a steep hill. It is a later complex built around two terraced courtyards at different levels, and contains several structures from one of the city rulers reign.

Yaxchilan is also famous for the many stellae depicting the everyday life of the rulers of the city.

Yaxchilan is almost inaccessible. There are simply no roads to the site. The only 2 options are by private plane or, less expensive and more interesting, by boat along the Usumacinta river. The city can be reached from Frontera Corozal, about 20 miles upriver, or from Tenosique, about 50 miles downriver. Yaxchilan is located around 75 miles south-east of the ruins of Palenque.

The city started as a small hunters and farmers village which quickly increased its power over the area with several kings around 400 AD. It was developed a huge trade center due to its closeness to Usumacinta river. In the mid 500's the city was the main capital of the area, dominating Bonampak and other small cities around. This strength caused war with the rival city of Palenque, in 654. Most of the finest temples and palaces were erected during the years 681 to 771 A.D. Like many other Mayans cities, it's downfall appears in the early 800 for unknown reasons.

The city was first quoted by the explorer Juan Galindo in 1833. Several expeditions followed but being hard to reach in the middle of the jungle, it was not until 1990 that serious excavation works were done by the Mexican government.

Yaxchilan is an ideal spot to discover the lush jungle of Chiapas, boosting with fauna and flora. You will see several monkeys and tropical birds around the site. The site is not completely open to the public as there are ongoing excavations.