Historical Guide to Iximche Texpan, Guatemala


Iximche is located 3km south of Tecpán, in Chimaltenango, 91km west of Guatemala City.

The ancient city’s center was settled over a narrow plateau of about 1500m in length. It is almost completely surrounded by steep cliffs.

The City

The Maya-Kaqchikel settled Iximche around 1470 as the capital of a kingdom that managed to control a wide territory.

It was a defensive fortified city. Access to the city was possible only through a bridge that crossed an 8m (25ft) deep artificial ditch. The surrounding cliffs naturally defended the rest of the plateau. Today we know about 170 buildings within the monumental core of the city.

The known buildings include temples, pyramids, altars, residential and administrative palaces, houses, and more. Most of these constructions surround wide plazas in which doubtlessly great public events used to take place, including both religious and political events. The constructions were built using volcanic stone and pumice stone blocks. Over the stone blocks, residents stuccoed and decorated walls with painted color scenes. Other construction techniques included the use of adobe and mud walls. These were more frequently used for commoner people’s houses.

In each plaza, there were one or two temple pyramids and several palace-like constructions. Additionally, two of the plazas had ballgame courts.

Today you can observe at the site the old platforms over which multiple rooms were built. However, most of these rooms have disappeared along the centuries since the abandonment of the city. Only a few constructions have been restored, many more remain as mounds.


We know about the history of Iximche through archaeology and written accounts. It was not only mentioned in Spanish texts, but also in several indigenous documents from colonial times. These include, for example, the Record of Sololá – or “of Tecpán-Atitlán” –, the Deed of Xpantzay, and the Deed of Alotenango. Altogether, these documents have taught us much about the history of the city and its ruling lords. The city was first settled under the rule of lords Jun Toj and Wuqu’ B’atz’, in the plateau over mount Ratz’am Ut, during the second half of the 15th century.

The name of Iximche is the original one and its literal translation is “Maize Tree.” “Tecpan Quauhtlemallan” is the name with which the tlaxcalteca people identified the city in their Nahuatl language. The tlaxcaltecas were natives of highland Mexico and came with the Spanish in the 16th century. The country’s own name derives from the translation of Guatemala, which means “Place of Trees.”

Several years of conflict after the arrival of the Spanish lead to the final abandonment of the city during the 16th century. The Spanish officially settled their first city of Santiago de Guatemala in Iximche. However, this settlement was merely nominal. They remained relatively little time there and there are no Spanish constructions at the site.

Sacred Site

Iximche is a very important Sacred Place where practitioners of Maya spirituality from all over the country come to perform their ceremonies. Although the altar where most of the ceremonies take place is located in the eastern area of the site, all of it is considered sacred because it is the resting place of the ancestors.

Cultural Heritage

As an archaeological site, Iximche is part of Guatemala’s cultural legacy. As such, it is protected by the national legislature related to the preservation of cultural patrimony. It is a monument that represents a very important part of Guatemalan history. Please help us to preserve it by observing the following easy rules:

  • Respect the monument, do not scratch over the walls and do not take stones out of their place.
  • Do not climb over the ancient temples.
  • Do not litter.
  • Do not play ball or ride bikes.
  • Respect the spirituality of the place, do not take pictures without the consent of the practitioners and keep silent when around ceremonies.

Related Articles

Stan B.

Travel Blogger

Let my share my favourite traveling experiences and hidden gems I found throughout the years with you!

Stan B.

Personal Favorites

This is the heading