Photography, Travel

Trip to Guatemala: Visiting the Mayan Ruins

The Last day we were in Guatemala we visit the Mayan Ruins of Iximche. They are located about an hour-or-so outside of Guatemala City. Our earlier flight was canceled or delayed, so we opted to visit the ruins before heading to the airport for our evening flight. We had a wonderful time seeing the ruins. We hired a young man who is knowledgeable about the ruins. Our contact at the company who went with us to the ruins said that he believed the young man to be of Mayan decent. Our guide gave us a verbal history of the ruins. I was able to translate most of it from Spanish for my boss to better understand the history of the place.

It was a  place full of memories. I took a number of photographs of the ruins, but these are my favorites.

We’re getting closer!

Almost there!

“Welcome to the ruins of Iximche”

Just outside the entrance to the ruins.

A model of the ruins as they once stood.

Before visiting the ruins, we stopped in their small museum.

They had a number of artifacts excavated from the site as well as this model.

It shows the size and scale of the city as it once stood.

This poor fellow was not injured by the Spaniards, but by his own kin during a game of Pok Ta Pok.

In the far left corner you can see burn marks on some of the stone where the city was burned to the ground by the Conquistadors.

Entering the ruins. You can feel the energy of the place.

Temple in the ruins. There were a number of temples in the city.

One for the sun and one for the moon… and several others.

Close-up of temple.

Can you can see the burned rock at the top?

That is where the Spanish Conquistadors burned the (wooden structures of the) city to the ground.

“No climbing the structures”

The “Tree of Life”

Tree of Life:

This tree sprouted up from the ruins after the earthquake of ’76.

Our guide suggested that the seed had been buried in the ruins when they were destroyed hundreds of years ago, and that the earthquake made it possible for the seed to grow. It is the only tree of its kind within over 200 miles of the ruins. He also suggested that the Mayans either brought the seed to Iximche or it was a gift from far away.


An Altar

Circular Altar:

Many sacrifices were performed here. Next to this altar there was a small hole almost like a small well. Our guide said that the hole was where the “liquid offerings” were presented. Often the blood from this altar was poured down there.

The threshold into the unknown

Only part of the city was excavated. The man who started excavating the city passed away before further work cold be done…apparently there is not enough funding to continue. The further away you got from the entrance of the city, the more earth covered the rock. They said that over 50% remains uncovered!

Our guide said that the city was home to at least two “ruling families”. They were peaceful people and, he said, that ultimately lead to their downfall when the conquistadors came. They took them for friends and welcomed them. I’m not sure how long after, but they eventually took over the city, killed many of the residents, and burned it to the ground.  Our contact at the company suggested that had the Mayans in neighboring cities not been either too proud or too stubborn, they could have easily banded together to form an alliance and defeat the Spaniards. Unfortunately that was not the case and history happened as it did.



Our trip took us to the countryside of Guatemala. Traveling from Guatemala City to Antigua and the Mayan ruins, we saw many things along the way. I took hundreds of photos on the trip, many of them on the road between the city and the country. Here are a selection of my favorites.

Despite the clouds, you could see for miles.

Driving through the countryside, this is what I thought ALL of Guatemala would be like. I was surprised how quickly the city stopped and the country began. No suburban communities, housing developments. Just city, then country.

Hotel Mayan
A sign on the side of the mountain. Way cooler than billboards!

One of the coolest things about the Guatemalan roads is their busses. Our guide told us that they are school busses that are drivable but no longer up-to-code for driving in the USA. (I guess all those smog tests really do mean something) I could tell that there were emission problems with some of the busses, but most of them seemed to be a lifeline in the countryside communities. The busses are much like the run-of-the-mill city busses in LA. They always seemed full of people when we were on the road. Often, people’s luggage was stored on the racks installed on the top of the bus. It reminded me of Romancing the Stone.

Cool Bus
This custom paint job is excellent! Is “Patzuneria” the buses’ name?

I think my favorite part about the buses is their fabulous paint jobs. Our guide said that sometimes the drivers will either paint the bus themselves or hire an artist to do the detailing.

Cool Bus
This bus means BUSiness!
This one was my favorite. A lot of detail went into this beauty.
A splash of color on a cloudy day!
You can see some luggage up top.

Once we made it into smaller cities outside of Antigua, I saw the Guatemala I had been imagining. The rural areas were full of farmland and shops selling the necessities.

I never did find out who or what “Lider” was.
This looked like a good place to stop where you could get food AND tires for your car.
Hospital de Los Angeles!
A handsome building with overgrowth on part of the roof.
There’s that “Lider” fellow again…
Dispensa Familiar: a superstore (similar to Walmart). I love their logo.
A dentist’s office. Love the painting on the wall!
There were dozens of churches along the road. This one was the only green one that I recall.
“Welcome to Antigua”

Once we arrived in Antigua, our first stop was in a monestary. It was a beautiful space full of beauty and a little mystery.

A Building in Antigua
A cross. By happenstance or was it painted on?
Ruins in downtown Antigua.
I believe that some of the monks were buried in this area to the left.

Our guide said that this was a destination spot for tourists and locals alike. The space housed many private and semi-private areas that would be perfect for parties or even weddings. There was a beautiful garden with all manner of plants and a man who had performing parrots with him. There was a wedding in one of the private areas.

The parrot was not to be bothered by paparazzi.
A small glimpse of the flowers before we got caught in a torrential downpour!

As we were exploring the grounds, an incredible storm rolled through and we made our way to the covered shops. I was able to buy some fantastic coffee and some chocolates to bring home with me. My coworkers purchased some other (fancier) goods from street vendors including a jade jaguar for Paul’s wife and Toni got a blanket for her mother. Both got great deals. I wasn’t so good at haggling, but I did get some trinkets for my family back home.

Sign in Antigua
I tried to find some painted tiles like this, but to no avail…
We had to stop here to get some home-made treats before we headed out of town.

After we purchased (more than our fair share of) treats from El Rosario, we headed on our way to see the Mayan Ruins. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to see them!

Beautiful plants growing on the roof of this building.

And now we begin our journey to the ruins…

To the Ruins
Wonderful signage to point the way to the ruins!