Yaxchilán Ruins
Chiapas, México

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Tour of Rio UsumacintaYou can't get to Yaxchilán by train, bus, or car. However, you can fly there or swim if you'd like, well, take a river-boat. It's fun though - the boat. The Río Usumacinta divides Mexico and Guatemala. You can hire a boat at Frontera Corozal for a 40 minute ride down-river passing crocodiles and large ceiba trees to the river-front ruins. Unless you are spending the night, the boatman will wait a couple hours for your return.

TempleYaxchilán, "Green Stones," is the real deal, right out of Indiana Jones. A powerful kingdom rising from the river-bank to temples placed strategically atop the hills overlooking the river. To enter the main plaza you may go through a structure called the Labyrinth. Bats fly past your head missing by inches, but it feels natural - not scary at all. With a flashlight you can see how the building got its name, rooms connecting deep into the structure.

BallcourtThe main plaza is studded with stelae and altars with structures lined on either side. The ballcourt stands prominent with its markers still in place. Ballplaying is recorded on monuments throughout the site. So too is sacrifice and blood letting. Lintels and stelae record the events of kingship, war, marriage, and ritual.

Mayan SiteIt's pretty much an uphill walk from the main plaza. As you climb the steps and walk the trails, howler monkeys move through the canopy. You encounter Temple 33 with its carved hieroglyphic stairs and statue. Through a small valley and up to the top to Temple 41 you look out to Guatemala. More jungle trails take you to the North Group then it's back down to the river. The boat ride back up the river takes a little longer, by then, the time to relax is more than welcome.

Maya ruins of Yaxchilan Mayan Ruins Yaxchilan, Chiapas Mexico Archaeology of Yaxchilan