The countries Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico are known for being the ‘Maya region’. Establishing their empire from approximately 2000 BC until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Maya civilization was known for having the only written language of the pre-colombian Americans, excellent mathematics and (thanks to the global fear of 2012 being the end of the world and the related terrible movie ‘2012’) the Mayan calendar.
They also left behind an astonishing amount of impressive architecture in this area. We visited some amazing Mayan sites during the trip. First, we visited Chichen Itza which is just an hour outside Merida in Yucatan, south Mexico. This site has been elected as one of the 7 new world wonders in 2008. The highlight is one large ‘temple’. Although very touristy (there are more salesmen walking around then visitors) the site is beautiful and it’s impressive to see what the Mayans built:
Main temple in Chichen Itza
The original steps, made of stones on the left side vs the refurbished steps on the right.. good luck walking up :)
In Guatemala however, the sites are much more impressive and untouched, and less touristy. On our first day here we visited Tikal, which is a huge area filled with Mayan ruins. There are temples, the tallest structure (temple IV) being 70 meters high – which is on top of a hill overlooking the entire valley.
Temple I (47 meter)
View over the valley from Temple IV (a scene of the first Star Wars movie was shot here)
It was raining so we hired a Guatemalan to keep us dry.. :)
Without joking, many thanks to Mario for being our tourguide!
Historic Mayan symbol
and it was STEEP !!!
On the next day we visited nearby Yaxhá. Although not as big as Tikal, this site was even more untouched – could have something to do with a kilometers long dirtroad leading to the area (yes we got stuck in the dirt). But it was worth it, the ruins in Yaxhá offer an amazing view over the nearby lake:
Some temples are completely hidden under the greens
Old sports field
Then, on the way back, the fun began... Luckily Guatemalans are super friendly and helpful, so when a van full of people arrived the guys stepped out and helped us push the car out of the dirt (while the women were watching and taking pictures)