Yaxchilan is an ancient Mayan city located on the bank of the Usumacinta River in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Situated roughly 84 miles from Palenque, the ruin is a regular stop for tourists traveling through Yaxchilan to San Cristobal de las Casas.
Yaxchilan exercised a regular rule over smaller complexes such as Bonampak, and was allied with settlements at Piedras Negras and Tikal, for a long time. However, in the Late Classic Period, Yaxchilan was one of the most powerful Mayan states with Piedras Negras as its major rival. The architectural style and Mayan culture in subordinate sites, particularly in the Usumacinta region, demonstrate clear differences between the two kingdoms.
Although the site is extensive, only a small number of locations are accessible within, and highlights include the buildings of the Great Acropolis, the Small Acropolis and the Great Plaza, which, if you don’t get lost along the way, gives you access to the site’s maze.
This sacred city experienced its peak during the Classic Period where it benefitted from commerce via the Usumacinta River and trading in copal resin and dyes processed from Brazilian wood. Remains of stone pilings suggest the site once had a bridge or toll gate. Impressive in both architecture and sculpture, the ruin displays evidence of warfare against Palenque around 654 AD, before its eventual collapse in the 9th century BC.