The first Mayan site I visited, Yaxhá was a great half day trip from Flores, and introduction before visiting larger sites. It wasn’t small though, being home to nine plazas and over 500 structures in the immediate site. There are up to 20,000 structures in the local vicinity, home to a population of up to 100,000 people at peak, over a thousand years ago.
It was evocatively quiet and green with less than 20% of the site excavated to date. Odd to think that almost every small hill is a soil and tree covered Mayan structure.
The first structure was built for astronomy, and like many Mayan structures was built on top of over a number of years as new rulers made their mark. From one corner the older structure is clear.
The ball court was home to a tricky game played with rubber balls moved without using hands or feet. At Yaxhá the winner would be sacrificed, the reward for being the best player being a direct passage to heaven.
There were a number of large carved stone blocks, with recognisable features.
The most striking part of the site for me was the three temples of sun, moon and stars, rising up to 35m high. The views from the top of the moon temple above the rainforest canopy were pretty special.
As were those from Structure 216 or the Temple of the Red Hands. It is 37m high but on a nature hill, with sunset views over Lago de Yaxhá, which gives the site its name ‘green-blue water’.
There was also plenty of wildlife around, a few bat falcons, some spider monkeys, and scarily loud howler monkeys.
Flores itself I was a little underwhelmed by despite its scenic setting on a small island (now connected to the mainland by a causeway). It was pleasant enough with some colourful buildings and white church at the top of the hill, but not particularly memorable.
The best thing about it was probably our hotel, on the mainland just across from Flores island by the causeway, home to a rather large iguana.