The road leading north from Antigua reaches the town of San Lucas Sacatepéquez at the Panamerican Highway. From here, regular micros continue to San Pedro Sacatepéquez and San Juan Sacatepéquez, two similar Kaqchikel towns known for their spacious central parks and unique yellow and purple huipiles. Beyond San Juan, the road veers north along a seldom-traveled track towards prosperous Pachalum in the department of Quiché. However, travelers adventurous enough to ply this route will find the ruins of Mixco Viejo just twelve kilometers south of Pachalum. The ruins at Mixco Viejo are the remainder of what was once the heart of the powerful Poqomam kingdom, one of Guatemala’s smaller Mayan communities. The Poqomam people and their capital at Mixco Viejo fiercely resisted Spanish intrusions but eventually fell to the conquistadors in 1525 after a month-long siege and the subsequent massacre of the city’s 10,000 inhabitants.
Surrounded by deep ravines and perched on the edge of a broad ridge overlooking the Pixcayá River, Mixco Viejo includes a few small pyramids and a pair of ball courts as well as Aztec and Toltec-influenced sculptures. In all, the site holds over 120 surprisingly well-restored structures that exhibit both Toltec and Aztec influences, including numerous impressive carvings of open-mouthed snakes. Admission is Q10 for locals but an expensive Q50 for foreigners, though you may get lucky if you speak good Spanish and have good bargaining skills. Thee site also has a small but informative museum. To get here, micros headed this way leave from San Juan Sacatepéquez. If you are coming from Pachalum, hop on any bus heading towards Guatemala City and ask to be let off at the ruinas. From there, it’s a ten minute walk up the hill from the side of the road. For more information on Mixco Viejo and the surrounding area, be sure to check out the travel guide.
Photo Credit: Gobierno de Guatemala