The small town of Sayaxché, on the banks of the Rio Pasion, is a handy base for visiting the nearby archaeological sites of Ceiban, Aguateca, and Dos Pilas. The complex network of rivers and swamps that cuts through the surrounding area has been an important trade route since Maya times and there are several ruins in the area.
The most accessible and impressive of the sites near Sayaxché is Ceibal, reachable either by land or river. It's easy enough to make it there and back in an afternoon by boat (expect to pay about $50 for up to six people). The boat trip is followed by a short walk through towering rainforest. By road, Ceibal is just 17km from Sayaxché, south of town. Surrounded by forest and shaded by huge ceiba trees, the ruins are a mixture of cleared open plazas and untamed jungle. Though many of the largest temples lie buried under mounds, Ceibal does have some outstanding and well-preserved carving: the two main plazas are dotted with lovely stelae, centered around two low platforms. During the Classic period Ceibal was unimportant, but it grew rapidly between 830 and 930 AD.
To the south of Sayaxché is Lago de Petexbatun, a spectacular expanse of water ringed by dense forest and containing beautiful supplies of snook, bass, alligator, and freshwater turtle. The shores of the lake abound with bird-life and animals (including howler monkeys) and there are a number of Maya Ruins. Aguateca, perched on a high outcrop at the southern tip of the lake, is the furthest away from Sayaxché but the most accessible, as a beautiful two- to -three-hour boat ride (about $50) can get you to within twenty minutes' walk of the ruins. Alternatively, you can head for the village of Nacimientos from where it's a short walk to the site. Extensive restoration is still ongoing at this intriguing site, which is split in two by a natural chasm. The atmosphere is magical, surrounded by dense tropical forest and with superb views of the lake from two miradores (viewing points).
Within easy reach of Nacimientos village is Dos Pilas, where restoration is ongoing, buried in jungle west of the lake. Dos Pilas was the center of a formidable empire in the early part of the eighth century, with a population of around ten thousand. Around the central plaza are some tremendous stelae, altars and four short hieroglyhpic stairways decorated with glyhps and figures. To get to Dos Pilas from the lake shore you have to trek 12km on foot (or by horse).
Location - How to get there? The town of Sayaxche is located in the El Petén department of Guatemala, on the Río La Pasión. The paved, 62-kilometer road from Flores to Sayaxché continues south all the way to Cobán. It is about a 1.5 hour drive to Sayaxche traveling from Flores. Or a 3-4 drive if your traveling from Coban, Alta Verapaz. It takes another 1 hour to 2 hours, to get to the sited (usually by boat). See Google location map below for directions to Sayaxche!
Know before you GO: While the Petexbatún region’s sites are impressive and the jungle scenery in these parts alluring, you may want to inquire with travel agencies in Flores before heading out here. Robberies have been reported and also has a reputation as fast becoming a narco-hideaway. If you have plenty of time to explore Petén, it might be worth visiting here. You may want to limit your time here to that required to cross the Río La Pasión on your way south to the Verapaces or to organize a trip to one of the nearby attractions. It is especially convenient if you are doing a land expedition around Guatemala, and are traveling on the main road from Coban to Flores or viceversa, as Sayaxche is located in between. You can also schedule a day trip to Ceibal or Aguateca leaving from Flores. If you are considering staying overnight in Sayaxche, there are some basic accommodation options. Note that the sites of Ceibal, Aguateca, and Dos Pilas are seldom visited and have only limited administration and facilities. You will most likely not have to pay an admission to either site (only your land or boat transfers), and visiting hours are flexible. Make sure to do an organized trip / guided tour.
Contact us: If you have any questions about this experience, or have special requests (guided tours, transportation, accommmodations in the area, etc) please contact Gofolklore. We will be delighted to assist you!