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Top Guatemala

K'umarkaaj - Monument Santa Cruz Del Quiche - Guatemala

The ruins of K’umarkaaj, or ‘Place of Reeds’, the ancient Mayan capital renamed Utatlán by the Spanish, are the main draw for tourists stopping off in Santa Cruz del Quiché, 2.5 kilometers (1.6 mi) away. Covering 120,000 meters² (1,300,000 ft²) and surrounded by deep ravines that once served as natural defenses, the city must have been truly impressive in its heyday. Today, however, the buildings are mostly hidden under grass, with only the odd rock outcrop here or stone marking there to remind you that here once stood a temple or a palace. Archeological excavations were carried out in the 1950s and 1970s but little subsequent restoration work has been done.

Today the site’s center is a square around which three pyramids-shaped temples once stood with thatched platforms atop: the temple of Tohil, the jaguar God; Awilix, the patron goddess of one of the noble house; and Jakawitz, a mountain deity. At its height, the city, led by king Gucumatz, housed around one million K’iche’, including the clan’s nobility. There were 23 palaces, houses and ball courts.

By the time the Conquistadores reached Kumarkaaj, the K’iche’ were weakened by war. When leaders invited Alvarado to stay in the city he thought it was a trap and instead tricked two lords, Oxib Quej and Belejep Tzí, into visiting his camp on a nearby hill ,where they were captured and burned to death. The Spanish took control of the city and then razed the town completely (as described at the Iximché ruins near Tecpán).

There is a 100 meter(330 ft) tunnel which stretches underneath the ball court from an opening. It’s a little difficult to find so ask the friendly clerk on the entry-gate for directions. Look out for empty bottles of alcohol and freshly burned incense sticks laying around in the opening; these are the signs of a recently performed religious ceremonies.

Entry costs $3.50 and the gates are open 9a.m. – 5p.m. every day. There are no food stalls on site, but the grounds make a nice spot for a picnic, so a little preparation would serve you well. Also, a flashlight would be handy for going into the tunnel; it gets very dark not far from the entrance and only the fearless dare to proceed!

Santa Cruz Del Quiche, Guatemala


Getting There

Getting to and away from K’umarkaaj is simple. There are mini buses waiting around the plaza going to Totonicapán, which pass by the ruins, a return trip costing Q2 ($0.5). You can also take one the red tuk-tuks floating around for aro

Travel Tips:

Bring a picnic!

Price Description:


Relative price: Budget

Open Hours from:9a.m.

Open Hours to:5p.m.

Travel Skills: beginner/easy.

By Joanne Sykes

Born and raised in Yorkshire, England, Jo is currently working as a freelance travel writer in Latin America. With degrees in...

07 May 2010

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