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Parque Arqueológico Abaj Takalik - Ruin Retalhuleu - Guatemala

The main reason most visitors come to Reu is to see Abaj Takalik. While not as famous as Tikal in the North, it is considerably older and just as important. The site covers 6.5km2, ten terraces, has 13 pyramids and is divided into four groups – North, West, Central and South. Unfortunately, most of the groups are on private land and can not be visited so the national park focuses on the Central group.

At the entrance a guide is assigned to accompany visitors and while not obligatory, a tip is advised at the end, it is the guides’ stories and information that bring Abaj Takalik to life. Tours last from two to three hours.

The name means ‘standing stones’ and there is one tall stone considered to be the most impressive. The closest place where this material is found is 30km away and it can’t have been an easy job to bring it all this way. At a distance, it does not seem like much, but the stone is actually in the marble family. You can see where the stone has been touched countless times and it’s worth doing so.

Digs and restorations are still carrying on all over the park and the glimpses already revealed indicate there is much more to be found. Parts of the causeways, the cobbled roads that linked the temples, have been uncovered as have the equivalent of drainpipes to direct the water flow during heavy rains.

There are numerous stone sculptures around the park. The barrigons (pot-bellies)are actually human, although some look more like monkeys, and symbolize fertility. A variety of frogs also symbolize fertility: some face east and some to the west.

Temples, sculptures and the profiles on monuments always face a certain direction and that is for a reason. If they have not been moved, it gives an indication as to the meaning or purpose. To the north is ancestors, to the east (the sunrise) is the life, to the west (sunset) is the end, death or evolution, to the south is knowledge and experience. The ball court was positioned strategically to face the east and west.

This site is significant because of the mix of styles, Olmec and Mayan in particular. The area is undoubtedly pre-classic and a date of 300BC is widely considered as accurate. However, it is not known for sure if the Olmecs and the Mayans mixed or if they were both here at different times. Some sculptures which are clearly Olmec include a man raising a stick inside the open mouth of a jaguar.

Also in the park is a small wildlife sanctuary which has crocodiles, turtles, a cat related to the jaguar family, boars, raccoons, deer, birds and other animals. It is possible to feed them but you must buy the correct feed for $0.25.


5km past El Astinal

Retalhuleu, Guatemala


Getting There

To reach the park, take a camioneta from the marketplace in Reu to the town of El Asintal for $1.20. From here regular pick-ups run to the park for $0.60.

Price Description:

$6.25 entrance fee + tip for guide. Payment is in quetzals only.

Relative price: Budget

Open Hours from:7 a.m.

Open Hours to:5 p.m.

Travel Skills: None

You Need to Bring:

Bring drinking water.

By Kathryn
Independent and optimistic, I believe in following your dreams and have been doing just that, traveling the world for the last 9 years. British by...
20 Jul 2010

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