Lake Petexbatun, Sayaxché, Guatemala

The basics

Sayaxché is ideally situated to explore several key Maya sites in the surrounding region. Tours to the ruins depart from both Flores and Sayaxché itself. Just a short boat ride and 20-minute hike away from Sayaxché sits Aguateca on the shore of Lago de Petexbatún.

Ceibal, a compact site along the west bank of the Pasión River, is another popular destination, and can be easily reached by boat. Dos Pilas, another Maya site about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Sayaxché, is usually reached by boat and mule, though it can be done by four-wheel drive too.

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Things to know before you go

  • A cruise from Sayaxché is a must for wildlife lovers and travelers with an interest in Maya history.
  • Bring bug repellent: mosquitoes are an irritating presence in the forests around Sayaxché.
  • Because of the long travel time required to reach Maya sites, most tours last at least a full day.
  • Most tours require at least a short hike through the jungle; listen out for the howler monkeys bellowing out from the treetops overhead.
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How to get there

Sayaxché is in the Petén region of Guatemala, just west of El Rosario National Park. Flores-bound minibuses departing from Cobán often stop at Sayaxché.

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When to get there

It’s always hot and humid in the Petén region. The rainy season, lasting from May through November, can cut off access to isolated sites, so it’s better to go in the dry season from December to April. The remote nature of the Maya sites here mean they are never crowded.

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The Maya settlement of Aguateca had its heyday in the 8th century when a series of military victories and expansion projects saw it grow in power and status. Success didn’t last long, however, and by the end of the 8th century, Auguateca lay abandoned in the jungle, forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1957. Set on the southern shore of the forest-surrounding Lago de Petexbatún, the city has been partially restored, and features the remains of temples, palaces, and stelae.

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