Ceibal archaeological mayan site near Sayaxche
Ceibal is located in Peten, at north from Guatemala City. It's almost for sure you come from Sayaxche (Peten) or Chisec-Raxruja (Alta Verapaz) when visiting Ceibal.
As you can see on the map at the end of the page, Sayaxche is at north of Chisec and Raxruja. The road that takes you to Ceibal is in between and to be accurate, at just minutes from Sayaxche, the nearest city where you can find banks, restaurants and hotels.
Ceibal is still under study and pending for serious research. Even so, is a refreshing and interesting destination with two mayan temples, one of them is an astronomical observatory; amazing history, great and peaceful walks among the big ceibas. (and I mean BIG).
The name "Ceibal" comes from an enormous tree named Ceiba, current national symbol of Guatemala, which was considered sacred by the mayas who believed somehow connected earth to the sky. Very often this concept is misunderstood as naive until you have the chance of standing near one Ceiba. Then you feel just like a tiny ant near the giant that seems preventing the sky to fall over you. It is one of the biggest and strongest trees on the peten jungle.
What can you expect at Ceibal?
Alot of history as it was an important city occupied by the old mayas named "putun".
The city grow thanks to a key river "La Pasion" near by, which made easy the commerce task, so important for every city. Although the mayan temples at Ceibal make you remember the ones at Tikal, are in fact smaller.
Vestiges at the place show it was the largest Maya settlement of the Late Classic (700-890AD). The city was abandoned and the temples were covered and hidden among the forest. There are some evidences of the city being taken by outsiders.
Ceibal was declared cultural monument in 1995 and it has become a traditional archaeological destination in the area, as Dos Pilas, Aguateca, Tamarindito and Arroyo de Piedra are also near Sayaxche, being Aguateca and Ceibal the ones by far more accessible for the average traveler.
The weather is fresh to warm and moist, but nice, nothing to worry. Its a safe place to camp, far from the city noises. There you can enjoy a long walk among the trees. Remember to ask for the most interesting mayan steles, which by the way some are not obvious and are apart from the main walk. Be careful if you go on your own as you can get lost (nothing to worry, really, but is time you will spend walking in circles).
Also, the green environment totally surrounds you, and the amazing screams of the "saraguates" can be heard at more than 3km in distance and still seem to be around the corner. This screams, in fact, might seem to you sometimes like a powerful airplane...
Guides at Ceibal
The guards can guide and assist you, they are really nice people. you can ask one of the guides to show you the place, please pay something back for their time and help as some know many secrets of the city. In fact, a lot of guides at Peten archaeological sites were involved with the development and research helping the archaeologist.
Getting to CeibalFrom Guatemala City
you have to get to Chisec Alta Verapaz first. From there, head north in your car or get a bus at Chisec / Raxruja. From Sayaxche
you can take the same buses going back to Chisec. The signs on the road are very obvious but you can ask the driver to keep in mind you are going to Ceibal. This is actually the cheapest way to get to Ceibal (bus).
Keep in mind: is not near the main road. From there, the non pavemented road takes about 30 minutes in car, straight with no stops. Do not take any of the turns left or right. Some pickups take people in and out as a favor and some for a couple of Qs (Quetzales) so don't always expect this transport to be free.
If you want to avoid the walk you can take one of the pickups or perhaps you should get a bike or a guided tour from Sayaxche. The non pavemented road is in great conditions, but remember that in winter it is a tricky road. You might get stuck. It is advisable to ask at Sayaxche for notice on the state of the road before attempting to go on your own on a normal vehicle.From Sayaxche
you can get guided tours that will take you there on a bus, piece of cake. One hour is the average time from Sayaxche by car/bus. You can also get a better option: a boat taking River La Pasion to Ceibal.
Traveling on a boat means you end up on another side of Ceibal, not at the entrance. So you have to walk to the center of the mayan site Ceibal. Is not as short and quick as the other options but it is preferred by most of the adventurous travelers because of the view.
* Please keep in mind the winter warning.
You can complete your tour departing from Sayaxche at 8:00AM and be back for lunch at 14:00 with no hurry.
Plan your walk at Ceibal
The whole walk at the site takes about two hours and a half.
At the entrance you can see a map that helps you getting the idea of the complete city and how much is waiting for being uncovered. Remember
, very little has been restored and most of the city remains under vegetation. The main attractions are one of the temples, the observatory, the ceibas, the old football field and the history of Ceibal itself.
Accommodations at Ceibal
No hotels or restaurants can be found at the site but there is enough space to camp, safe parking, and also clean bathrooms (ask the guides not to close them at night if you stay). No showers available and no camping gear for rent, take your own.
Take your repellent and if you spend the night, remember taking enough water and food.
Perhaps the most valuable thing to find at Ceibal is the safety and peace, as is not a crowded archaeological site.
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