The Iximché Ruins

Yesterday, I was able to visit the Iximché ruins, which lie about 4 kilometers from Tecpán and are surrounded by steep ravines.

Iximché was the capital of the Kaqchikel Maya in the 15th and 16th century. The Kaqchikel Maya were allies to the large K’iche Mayan population in Guatemala’s western highlands throughout the 14th century. In the late 15th century, around 1470, the Kaqchikel broke their alliance with the K’iche. Because of this, they built their own capital city at Iximché. Soon after the arrival of the Spanish, the few Kaqchikel Maya that did not die from smallpox were forced to flee from the city.

The ruins are an enormous complex of plazas, temples, altars, palaces, and ball courts. When first excavated, the buildings were covered with extravagant painted murals, but unfortunately they are no longer visible. There is a small museum beside the ruins where you can view some of the artifacts that were discovered buried at the site. There are even a few human skulls, which archaeologists believe are from human sacrifices. Iximché has received relatively little attention from archaeologists, as it is constantly overshadowed by the bigger, more elaborate ruins of Tikal in northern Guatemala. Some of the plazas have yet to be excavated, and there is still much to be learned about the significance of the various temples, altars, and artifacts.

Today, the site receives very few visitors, the majority being local Guatemalans. Iximché remains a sacred site for indigenous Mayans, and they visit to perform spiritual rituals. I was one of the only guests in the entire site, and it was amazing to explore this Mesoamerican archaeological site all alone.

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Looking out over Plaza B of the ruins. The circular rock in the middle is an altar.

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A model in the museum of the full Iximché ruins. You can see the wide variety of temples, plazas, and altars.

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One of the temples in Plaza A of the ruins. Many incense burners were excavated from around this temple.