The Yaxchilán ruins lie on the Río Usumacinta, Mexico’s largest river and the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Archaeologists have found at least 35 stelae, 60 carved lintels, 21 altars, and 5 stairways covered with hieroglyphs here—a treasure trove for epigraphers.
Yaxchilán’s rulers were obsessed with venerating their dynasty as well as legitimizing their rule and endowed a major monument-carving operation to achieve these goals. In fact, it was Yaxchilán’s hieroglyphs that provided much of the raw material that led to the deciphering of the Maya writing system.
Yaxchilán is located 25 kilometers down the Río Usumacinta from the town of Frontera Corozal , and can only be reached by lancha (long colorful canoe-like boat with a sun cover and powerful outboard motor). The 45-to-60-minute ride (US$65 for 1–3 passengers, US$75 for four, US$95 for 5–7, and US$120 for 8–10) is definitely part of the fun of visiting this remote site—keep an eye out for huge river crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks, their mouths standing open.