Yaxchilan (yax-chee-LAN), which means “Place of Green Stones” in Mayan, is a place of wondrous temples, plazas and story-telling carvings and sculptures. Poised on the banks of Rio Usumancinta in Chiapas (bordering neighboring Guatemala), this imposing compound has been swallowed by its jungle surrounding—ceiba and gum trees are home to chatty howler monkeys and toucans. Yaxchilan is where nature and man meet in inspiring harmony.
When visiting spectacular Yaxchilan, you really feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It is the only well-trodden archaeological center in Mexico that cannot be reached by car or bus: you have to take a boat trip from Frontera Corozal—a small town on the banks of Rio Usumacinta (the river that divides Mexico from Guatemala) or much less commonly, fly in from nearby Palenque or Ocosingo landing on the nearby airstrip. The boat trip is the best bet—more exciting and less expensive, too.
During its hey-day (the Late Classical period of 800 to 1000 AD), Yaxchilan developed into a very powerful and influential urban and trade center on the banks of the Usumacinta River. Over 120 structures made up this city, grouped into 3 main areas: the Great Plaza, the Grand Acropolis and the Small Acropolis
The site is best known structurally for its detailed facades and large ornamented roof combs and its lintels, unusually carved on BOTH sides.
Yaxchilan is within a comfortable driving distance from other popular archaeological sites in Chiapas: it makes a convenient side-trip from Bonampak archaeological site as it’s just 31 miles (50km) northeast there. Palenque is about 118 miles (190km) from Yaxchilan and many visitors to Yaxchilan also take advantage of being the area to visit these two other important archaeological sites.
As you disembark at the site’s pier, you walk up a ramp and into the jungle that stops short on the bank of the river. The entrance to the site takes you through a tunnel under Edificio 19 (Edifice 19), and you break out into the north west corner of the Grand Plaza—an open space overlooking an ancient plaza, surrounded by structures in varying conditions.
On the left as you look across the Plaza from Edificio 19 are a couple of buildings—making up Edificio 17, apparently used in ancient times as a sauna.
A number of Steles (stone blocks) are dotted all over this site as in nearby Bonampak; some of them are carved on both sides and you can see an example of one of these in Edificio 20. These Steles have helped archaeologists to piece together much of the history of the site as their paintings and hieroglyphic inscriptions reveal a lot of information about the life and times of the ancient Maya people who inhabited these lands.
Visit the Steles in the Grand Plaza and continue towards Edificios 5, 8 and 20 on the southwest side of the site; double back to Stele 1, where on the left you’ll see an ancient stairway rising up to a building on the brow of the hill.
The best preserved building in Yaxchilan is Edificio 33, which you have to climb up to see properly and enjoy; there is an ancient stairway to it that rises up from Stele 1. This is the building featured as the main picture of our guide.
There’s a trail that leads behind this building and Edificio 30, and then downhill to the Small Acropolis and Edificios 42,44 & 51; alongside these you’ll also witness some unusual tree formations, where several trees have grown into one!
If you keep walking downhill from here, you’ll end up back on the main trail that led you into the site, beyond the original Edificio 19 that you walked through to arrive on the edge of the Grand Plaza and your tour of Yaxchilan will be complete.
By Air: The closest airport to Yaxchilan is Villahermosa and Tuxtla Gutierrez. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Bus: Although there are some local buses traversing the route from Palenque to Frontera Corozal (the small town where the boats embark), we strongly recommend you take an organized tour or drive here in a car; also see the warnings about traveling after dark. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
By Car: You need to travel to Frontera Corozal on Highway 198 and park your car in town. The town is on the edge of the river Usumacinta, that marks the political divide between Mexico and Guatemala. Also see additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
Boat Ride: To reach Yaxchilan, you must take a boat ride from Frontera Corozal. Frontera Corozal is also an eco-center; there’s a good restaurant here where you can eat and drink well and you can also rent rooms for the night in what is an upscale hostel—ask locally for details. If you arrive here by organized tour (see Practical information, below), everything will be taken care of, otherwise you will need to arrange to hire a boat, and you’ll need to negotiate your arrangements in Spanish. The price is the same for however many people travel in the boat, with a modest surcharge for groups over 5 people with up to a maximum of 10 people per boat; if you are traveling in small numbers, it may well be worthwhile finding another small group and sharing the cost. The boat trip is pleasant and takes around 45 minutes each way. You will see plenty of wildlife and may catch a glimpse and sound of the famous howling monkeys that live here. You might even see the odd crocodile or two.
Yaxchilan Pier: Yaxchilan has a small pier where visitors disembark and re embark on the way back to Frontera Corozal.
Best Visited by Organized Tour: Yaxchilan is close to Bonampak and Palenque, and tours offer the opportunity for visitors to travel from Palenque to Yaxchilan via nearby Bonampak as part of a day trip to these sites. Bonampak and Yaxchilan are situated along the frontier highway with Guatemala, Highway 307. Highway 307 must NOT be traveled on after dark. Tours begin early in the morning and return to Palenque by dusk; if you are traveling independently be sure you follow the same schedule. See Yaxchilan Essentials, below for more details and links to tours.
Opening Days & Times: 7 Days a week; 8 am to 5 pm. Modest admission charges apply and there are concessions for students, children and seniors. On Sundays, admission is free for Mexican citizens and foreign residents (with proof of residency).
Local Tours: Due to their remote locations, Yaxchilan and Bonampak are best visited as part of an organized tour. Tours and activities are organized and run by well-established, professional and fully-insured operators who can help you to get the most from a visit to these archaeological sites. Contact Mexperience to arrange your customized tour of the area
Photography & Video: A permit is required if you want to use a tripod to take photographs at the archaeological site. A small fee is made for the use of hand-held video equipment. Read the section on Mexperience Mexico Essentials about at archaeological sites in Mexico.
Ideal Clothing & Footwear: You’ll need a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes with a non-slip sole – Yaxchilan is an extensive archaeological site. Wear light clothes, carry plenty of water and wear a sunhat – it gets very hot and humid here. Insect repellent is essential as this site is located in the jungle. See Local Climate, below.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Driving in Chiapas – Safety Advice
If you are driving independently in this region, using a rental car or your own vehicle, its important that you heed some special advice.
It’s best to keep off all highways after dark, unless you know them well and have good local knowledge.
The highway from San Cristobal to Palenque (Highway 199) must NOT be traveled on after dark. It is generally regarded as safe during daylight hours. This road cuts through some extremely remote territory, including in the latter stages, sweltering jungle.
The above also applies to Highway 307 between Palenque and Bonampak / Yaxchilan archaeology sites. Most travelers join others and see these places as part of an organized tour, but there are advantages to driving yourself, and if you do, you must take these additional precautions for your safety.
Military Checkpoints: Expect to pass through at least one, but probably several of these on your road trips through Chiapas. Don’t be alarmed, the soldiers may or may not check your car’s trunk; they are polite, respectful and can even provide local advice and directions if you need them.
See Also: Military Checkpoints in Mexico
Major Cities: Mexico City (Closest)
Colonial Cities: Comitan, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de las Casas, Villahermosa, Oaxaca
Nearest Beaches/ Resorts: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres
Other Archaeological Sites Nearby: Palenque, Tenam Puente, Bonampak, Chinkultic
The local climate is the same as that for Palenque, which is jungle weather: extremely hot and humid. Dress with light clothes that enable your skin to breathe. Bring sun screen, insect repellent and a hat. Carry plenty of water and stay well hydrated at all times.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico
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The Mayan art discovered in the jungle. The Ancient Mayan site of Yaxchilan is an adventure to reach and explore. It's worth the effort for the incredible artworks like the famous lintels.What was Yaxchilan known for? ›
Yaxchilán: a significant Maya center
It was a significant Maya center during the Classic period (250-900 C.E.) and a number of its buildings stand to this day. Many of the exteriors had elaborate decorations, but it is the carved stone lintels above their doorways which have made this site famous.
The site can only be reached by boat. A visit is a special experience because it is less visited than other Maya ruins. A beautiful 45-minute trip along the Usumacinta River will take you from the town of Frontera Corozal, to the starting point of your walk around the Yaxchilan Mexico ruins.How old is the Yaxchilan? ›
Yaxchilán was founded in the 5th century AD and reached its maximum splendor in the 8th century AD. Famous for its more than 130 stone monuments, among which include carved lintels and stelae depicting images of royal life, the site also represents one of the most elegant examples of classic Maya architecture.What are some fun facts about Yaxchilan? ›
Yaxchilan was first settled around 350AD: nestled in the curve of the Usumacinta River, it's extremely well protected as it uses the river as a natural moat. The city peaked between 650 and 800AD, when it was locked in a struggle with the city of Palenque for dominance.What culture is Yaxchilan? ›
Yaxchilán: a significant Maya center
Yaxchilán is located on the south bank of the Usumacinta River, in Chiapas, Mexico. It was a significant Maya center during the Classic period (250–900 C.E.) and a number of its buildings stand to this day.
or Yax·chi·lan, Yax·chil·lan.What happened to Yaxchilan? ›
Remains of stone pilings suggest the site once had a bridge or toll gate. Impressive in both architecture and sculpture, the site displays evidence of warfare before its collapse in the 9th century CE. Unfortunately, the buildings of Yaxchilan have suffered from damage and erosion by floods over the centuries.Was Yaxchilan a Mayan? ›
Yaxchilán is a classic Maya urban complex—a perfect expression of the Usumacinta style. Its architecture is covered with hieroglyphs and extensive relief sculpture. Across the Usumacinta River from another ancient Maya city, Piedras Negras in Guatemala, Yaxchilán thrived between A.D. 500 and 700.Who built yaxchilan? ›
This temple was built by Itzamnaaj B'alam II and was dedicated around 732. The sculpted texts from this building provide an account of the 8th century resurgence of the city. Each of the three doorways contained sculptured lintels and two hieroglyphic steps.
To determine where a site might be, archaeologists conduct a survey, which can include walking through a site and digging holes of similar depths at an equal distance apart from each other, known as shovel test pits, as well as GPS, resistivity meters, and ground penetrating radars.Where is one of the oldest archaeological sites? ›
Göbekli Tepe is the oldest significant site for humans to ever have been discovered, beaten in age only by a stone wall in Greece. Its age is only made more impressive by the sheer complexity of the site. Excavations have been ongoing for the last 24 years and experts say they could continue for decades more.What was Yaxchilan made of? ›
|The lintel as displayed in the British Museum|
|Created||Estimated to be 709 AD|
|Present location||British Museum, London, England|
Who built Chichen Itza? Chichen Itza was founded by the Maya, an ancient people native to the Yucatan Peninsula. Historians believe that Chichen Itza was built due to its close proximity to the Xtoloc cenote. Chichen Itza was founded by the Maya, an ancient people inhabiting the Yucutan peninsula.What is the ritual Lady Xoc is performing? ›
In Lintel 24 Lady Xoc performs a blood sacrifice (or bloodletting ritual) by threading a thorned-rope through a hole in her tongue. In Yaxchilan, blood sacrifices were a way for kings to seek help or advice from departed ancestors.What is the oldest Mayan artifact? ›
The oldest and largest known monument built by the Mayan civilisation has been found in Mexico. Called Aguada Fénix, it is a huge raised platform 1.4 kilometres long. Aguada Fénix was built around 1000 BC, centuries before the Maya began constructing their famous stepped pyramids.What is Lady Xook doing? ›
She is engaged in bloodletting—the ritual shedding of blood. Her husband, Shield Jaguar II, holds a lit torch above her. The glyphs (writing) on the top note Lady Xook's titles, and mention that the events depicted occurred on 28 October 709 C.E.What is the story behind Chichen Itza? ›
Roughly all sources agree that from approximately 550 AD to 800 AD, Chichen Itza existed mainly as a ceremonial center for the Maya civilization. The area was then largely abandoned for about a hundred years (no one knows reason ), to be resettled around 900 AD again.What does the name Yaxchilan mean? ›
The ancient name for the city was Pa' Chan meaning “cleft (or broken) sky” but the Mayan name, Yaxchilán, means “green stones.” Today, some Lacandon Maya still make pilgrimages to Yaxchilan to carry out rituals to the Maya gods.How do you pronounce Bronisław? ›
- IPA: /brɔˈɲis.waf/
- Audio. 0:02. (file)
- Rhymes: -iswaf.
- Syllabification: Bro‧nis‧ław.
The Aztecs and Mayans did interact with each other during the 15th and 16th centuries, but at that point in time, the Aztecs were much more advanced than their Mayan counterparts.Is Maya Inca or Aztec older? ›
In short, the Maya came first, and settled in modern-day Mexico. Next, came the Olmecs, who also settled Mexico. They didn't build any major cities, but they were widespread and prosperous. They were followed by the Inca in modern-day Peru, and finally the Aztecs, also in modern-day Mexico.Who is the oldest Mayan god? ›
Itzamna was amongst the oldest and most important gods in the Mayan religion. He was the son of the creator god Hunab Ku and, he was associated with the sun god Kinich Ahau as well as the goddess Ix Chel. There are many stories and myths about Itzamna since he was considered a cultural hero by the Maya.What is bloodletting in Mayan culture? ›
Bloodletting—cutting part of the body to release blood—is an ancient ritual used by many Mesoamerican societies. For the ancient Maya, bloodletting rituals (called ch'ahb' in surviving hieroglyphs) were a way that Maya nobles communicated with their gods and royal ancestors.Can you keep a artifact if you find it? ›
Archeologists excavate artifacts from archeological sites. Artifacts are not souvenirs! Leave the artifact where you found it. Please don't pick it up, move it, throw it, put it in your pocket or your bag, or bury it.Can you keep arrowheads found on private property? ›
Can I Pick up the Arrowhead? The short answer: you can pick it up, take pictures of it, and take a waypoint to share with an archaeologist, but you can't take it home with you, especially if you're like me and mostly hunt on state- or federally-owned lands.What happens if you find an artifact on your land? ›
In the United States, it is legal to collect artifacts from private property if you have written permission from the landowner. Other requirements are dependent on the state.What is the oldest human civilization in the world? ›
1. Mesopotamia, 4000-3500 B.C. Meaning “between two rivers” in Greek, Mesopotamia (located in modern-day Iraq, Kuwait and Syria) is considered the birthplace of civilization.What is the oldest artifact found on earth? ›
Lomekwi Stone Tools – 3.3 Million Years. According to multiple records, the stone tools found at Lomekwi 3, an archeological site in Kenya, are the oldest artifacts in the world today. These tools are estimated to date as far back as 3.3 million years, long before the evolution of humans.What is the oldest man made object in the world? ›
Oldest stone structure in the world, Göbekli Tepe
Dating back to around 9,000 BCE, the Neolithic site is made up of a number of large circular structures supported by huge, richly decorated stone pillars.
This particular lintel (referred to by current day archaeologists as lintel 25) was located above the central doorway of a palace structure (structure 23) in Yaxchilán.What is the lintel 25 from Yaxchilan? ›
Lintel 25. One of a series of three panels from Structure 23 at Yaxchilan originally set above the central doorway. The building is dedicated to Shield Jaguar II's wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook, shown on the bottom right of the panel, conjuring a vision of a Teotihuacan serpent.What was Mayan Armour made of? ›
The ichcahuipilli, known in Spanish as escaupil was a Mesoamerican military soft body armor, similar to the European gambeson, which was commonly used by the Aztecs and the Tlaxcalans. It was constructed of densely packed, unspun cotton stitched between two layers of fabric.Why can't you climb Chichen Itza anymore? ›
Letting tourists climb up monuments has severely damaged the pyramid and other buildings in Chichen Itza. In order to avoid deterioration, Chichen Itza definitely needs permanent maintenance and attention.Who destroyed Chichen Itza? ›
According to some colonial Mayan sources (e.g., the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel), Hunac Ceel, ruler of Mayapan, conquered Chichen Itza in the 13th century.Why did Chichen Itza fall? ›
The fall of the Early Postclassic capital of Chichen Itza is generally described in native chronicles as the result of a widespread revolt of native Yucatec Maya against the Itzá rulers of northern Yucatan.Did anyone survive in The Ritual? ›
The remaining hiker, Luke, is able to escape, but he's pursued by the monster the whole way. Finally, he breaks out of the forest, and the monster is no longer able to run after him. He's free… but now he's gonna have to explain why he went into the woods with three friends and walked out with none. That'll be fun.What does XOC mean in Mayan? ›
A Mayan word for "fish" which may be the origin of the English word "shark"What is the monster in The Ritual? ›
Moder, or also better known as The Creature, is the main antagonist of Adam Nevill's 2011 British horror novel The Ritual, and its 2017 film adaptation of the same name. She is an obscure Jötunn that inhabits a forest in Northern Sweden and is venerated by an ancient group of cultists.Why was Yaxchilan made? ›
The structure was built in honour of the mid-8th century CE Yaxchilan ruler Bird-Jaguar (ruled 752-768 CE) whose likeness appeared in stucco decorations in the centre of the building's roof comb. In front of the building is a carved stalactite which represents a sacred cave.
Yaxchilán's ruling dynasty rose in the 4th century C.E., but its heyday followed several hundred years later (during what art historians call the Classic period), with Lord Shield Jaguar II who ruled for 60 years beginning in 681. He commissioned some of the most famous sculptural works at the site.Who made the Yaxchilan lintels? ›
Itzamnaaj Bahlam II (Lord Shield Jaguar) acceded to the throne at Yaxchilan in October AD 681 and commissioned a series of magnificent buildings. Lady K'abal Xook, his most prominent wife, initiated three extraordinary sculptures for the front doorways of structure 23: lintels 24,25 and 26.Why did the Mayans do bloodletting? ›
The practice of bloodletting was used to open a dialogue with gods or ancestors that could help the ancient Maya, says James Stemp, an archaeology professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire.What is Lady Xoc doing? ›
In Lintel 24 Lady Xoc performs a blood sacrifice (or bloodletting ritual) by threading a thorned-rope through a hole in her tongue. In Yaxchilan, blood sacrifices were a way for kings to seek help or advice from departed ancestors.Where was Yaxchilan built? ›
The Usumacinta Province in Chiapas – Mexico
Yaxchilan is one of many Mayan archaeological sites located along the Usumacinta River, the borderline between Mexico and Guatemala. The area is referred to as the “Usumacinta Province” with settlements sharing architectural features that define the area.
The most commonly used tools for bloodletting includes stingray spines (sometimes not thoroughly cleaned of venom), obsidian blades or knives, thorns, needles, and spiked rope.What is the function of lintel 25 at yaxchilan? ›
Lintel 25. One of a series of three panels from Structure 23 at Yaxchilan originally set above the central doorway. The building is dedicated to Shield Jaguar II's wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook, shown on the bottom right of the panel, conjuring a vision of a Teotihuacan serpent.