Yaxhá is one of those barely visited sites that travelers have been whispering about for years. It was a small city, southeast of Tikal , and gets about a thousand times fewer visitors. The site is only partially excavated and restored as part of an ongoing German-Guatemalan partnership.
Yaxhá’s buildings were constructed with a lighter-colored limestone than found at other sites, giving it a unique aesthetic, especially contrasted against the dark greenery. The ruins are spread over nine plazas containing 500 mapped structures including temples, ball courts, and palaces.
Begin with the sweet vista from Structure 216, atop a wooden staircase built into the temple’s side. Other highlights include the recently restored North Acropolis, surrounded by three temples, two of which are fairly large. A path known as Calzada Blom leads almost one kilometer north from here to the Maler Group, a complex featuring twin temples facing each other across a plaza similar to the setup at Tikal.
A number of weathered stelae and the broken remains of a large circular altar further adorn the complex. Another great location affording wonderful views closer to the heart of the ruined city is the top of an unnamed astronomical observation pyramid between Plaza F and Structure 116.
Yaxhá is open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Entrance costs US$10. A parking lot and restrooms are on the east side of the park, as is a small museum. There are two boat docks, one below the parking lot and one at the western end of the site.
You can camp for free at Campamento Yaxhá, a designated lakeside campsite below the ruins proper. Reserva Natural Privada Yaxhá (tel. 502/2366-3411, www.yaxhanatural.org ) is a private 407-hectare nature reserve and the site of a biological field station with dorms for up to 20 people. The reserve is most easily accessible by boat from the Yaxhá archaeological site.
Yaxhá is located 31 kilometers (19 mi) east of Ixlú, off the road toward the Belize border. A well-marked turnoff leads a further 11 kilometers (7 mi) north to the Yaxhá guardpost, where you pay admission and sign in to the park. From there, it’s another three kilometers (2 mi) to the actual ruins of Yaxhá. The road is in good condition, even during the rainy season.
If traveling by bus, get off at the junction to Yaxhá and hitch a ride with an occasional passing pickup truck or fellow travelers. (There is some traffic along this route because of the presence of the small village of La Máquina, about two kilometers, or 1.2 miles from the park guard post.) Several Belize and Flores tour operators  offer day trips to Yaxhá.
For more travel information on things to see and do at Uxmal and in the surrounding area, please visit the Yaxhá section of our Moon Guatemala travel guide .