Only accessible by water, the Yaxchilan (which means “Place of Green Stones” in Mayan) ruins are nestled on a bend of the Usumacinta River surrounded by a lush, bustling jungle that is home not only to this Mayan site but also to holler monkeys. In its heyday (680 – 760 AD) it was led by famous kings such as Shield Jaguar and his son Bird Jaguar. There are around 120 buildings at the site but only around 20% have been uncovered, with most of these being located in the Gran Plaza.
When visiting this site, it really will feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s the only well-visited Mayan site that is not accessible by car or bus. The site is best known for its large ornamented roofs and lintels which are unusually carved on both sides.
Stay at the hotel in Frontera Corozal
Yaxchilan is about 118 miles (190km) from Palenque, and while it is possible to visit this site as a day trip, it would be a very long, full day with tours often leaving Palenque at 6 am and not returning until 7 pm. It is definitely worth the journey and the time it takes to visit this site, but if possible, and to get the most out of a trip to Yaxchilan, we recommend staying over in Frontera Corozal which is the small town where the boats depart.
The town is an eco-centre and has a good restaurant to eat at as well as accommodation which can be booked. On our journey with Miguel Angel Vergara, we will be staying at the Hotel Escudo Jaguar, which means we get to spend two days exploring the ruins.
Go with a tour company
It is possible to visit the Yaxchilan ruins by yourself. You can take a bus or drive from Palenque and wait for a boat at Frontera Corozal, however, it is not recommended that you do this trip individually as some of the highways should not be driven on at night, and it can get complicated or take longer to travel. This is because often you will have to wait for there to be a big enough group of travellers before the public transportation leaves.
We recommend joining a tour of the sites because not only will you have a guide who can provide information while exploring these sacred ruins, but you can also just sit back and enjoy the journey without worrying about arranging your transportation.
It is relatively easy to find tours to these sites, but if you want to visit Yaxchilan as well as several other places in Southern Mexico including Palenque and the Misol-Ha Waterfall with a Mayan master teacher and a group of like-minded individuals, we would love for you to join us on our specially crafted tour to Southern Mexico.
Wear appropriate clothing
The ruins are located in the jungle of southern Mexico and so the climate can be very hot and humid, it is also likely that there will be insects and mosquitos at the site, due to the dense jungle environment. It is therefore highly recommended that you wear light, but long clothing, a hat and sturdy shoes. This will protect you from the sun, keep you cool and mean that you can explore the sites without being bothered by insects or getting sore feet.
To get the most out of a trip to Yaxchilian it is also highly advisable that you bring sunscreen and plenty of water as there won’t be any guaranteed water supplied at the site and it’s important to stay hydrated so you can fully enjoy the powerful energy of these ancient Mayan temples.
Look under the doorways
The structures at Yaxchilan are filled with intricate carvings, usually dedicated to the series of leaders called Yaxun B’alam, and you’ll often see this name and many of the stelae at the site carved with their images. However, if when walking through the doorways to the structures you don’t pause and look up, you’ll miss some of the most amazing carvings and inscriptions that are in large blocks of stone called lintels. Some of them even still have the original paint on them.
So, when exploring the temples and structures of this site, be sure to look up while walking under doorways.
Take part in a sacred ceremony with a Mayan teacher
“This Sacred Ceremonial Center has an extraordinarily high vibration because the elements of Mother Nature are in perfect balance with the Cosmos and Humankind. Yaxchilan symbolically represents “The Sacred Path of the Jaguar Chilanes” the Priests and Priestesses who reached the activation of their spiritual gifts using the harmony in the three levels of a Human Being: body, soul and spirit. They received the sacred wisdom represented in the stone steles at the site with the symbol of the “Cosmic Serpent” as a Vision Quest that guided them to travel to their home in the stars, a representation of the Cosmos and Cosmic Knowledge.” – Miguel Angel Vergara
Not only is Yaxchilan an extraordinary place to visit and experience the ancient life of the Maya, but it is also a sacred and energetically powerful place – as described above by our tour leader Master Mayan Teacher, Miguel Angel Vergara.
While simply wandering around the structures and looking at the carvings is wonderful, to fully experience Yaxchilan and to utilize the potent power of this place, we recommend taking part in a sacred ceremony at the site.
On our journey with Miguel, you’ll take two trips to Yaxchilan where you will have the chance to wander around the site but will also be guided in a ceremony to give thanks to Mother Earth and to honour the ancient Priestesses who awakened their inner Jaguar to give them the courage to fulfil their mission. This is a really powerful ceremony and experience, of which the learnings and insights will last long after you return home.
On your next trip to Mexico, we hope you make time to visit Yaxchilan and we hope that these tips will ensure you get the most out of your journey.