Located at an altitude of 2,200 metres and just 90 kilometres west of Guatemala City, Iximche was the capital of the indigenous Mayan kingdom called the Kaqchikel from 1470 until its abandonment in 1524, after clashes with Spanish conquistadors.
Iximche was built on this site due to its defendable ridge and surrounding deep ravines and within 50 years the city reached its height. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, the Kaqchikel received messengers from the Aztec emperor warning them of the impending Spanish threat. After the defeat of the Aztecs by the Spanish, the Kachikel offered an alliance with the Spanish in return for their safety the Kaqchikel would provide native allies to help with the conquest of the other Mayan kingdoms. The Spanish arrived in 1524 and Iximche became the capital of the Mesoamerica region.
The demands of tribute from the Spanish conquistadors proved too great for the Kaqchikel, resulting in the alliance being broken and the Kaqchikel abandoning Iximche. The Spanish would burn Iximche shortly afterwards and hostilities would continue until 1530 when the Kaqchikel surrendered.
The ruined city of Iximche would once again become important to Guatemalans during the Guatemalan civil war between 1960 and 1996, a meeting between Mayans and guerrillas leaders took place in 1980. Which resulted in the guerrillas declaring they would defend indigenous rights. The ruins of Iximche became a Guatemalan national monument in 1960; afterwards in 1989 a ritual took place at the site to re-establish these ruins as a sacred place for Mayan ceremonies; these ceremonies are still carried out today.
What’s the best way to see Iximche?
The best way to visit Iximche is on a guided tour. Your guide will share details and background about Iximche, and point out things you’d almost certainly miss on your own, such as signs of previous human sacrifices. Due to restoration efforts you will also get to visit former palaces, temples, ball courts, murals and a small museum housing artifacts.
Take a guided tour from the city of Antigua which is about 90 minutes away. Tours take between 5 – 6 hours from Antigua, includes pick up and drop off back to Antigua.
Alternatively, if you would like more of a personal experience rather than a larger group tour which takes a majority of the day, you can stop at Iximche on your way from Antigua to Panajachel with a private car. You can find one of the guides on site to take you around Iximche and provide you with great insight about the ruins. This is a great option to take your time at this history filled experience, the private driver would wait for you to finish your tour and take you back to your chosen destination so you can further explore Guatemala.