Located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican site of Iximche was the capital of the late post-classic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until it was ultimately abandoned in 1524 and then declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s.
Once in the archeological site, you will see four ceremonial plazas surrounded by tall temples and two ball courts. There is also a small museum displaying sculptures and ceramics found at Iximche during excavations. As you tour the site, look for poorly preserved painted murals and listen to guides as they talk about evidence of human sacrifice found at Iximche.
Originally, the Kaqchikel maintained their capital at what is present-day Chichicastenango but then moved to Iximche sometime around 1470 due to the rampant expansion movement and growing power of their K’iche rivals. Iximche was built along the safer 7,000-foot-high (2,134-meter-high) mountain ridge, surrounded by deep ravines. It took the Kaqchikel only about 50 years to get developed again as a city, and although they were able to ward off some attacks by the K’iche, the Spanish conquistadors soon arrived. An alliance was offered to assist with gaining control of other Mayan kingdoms, so Iximche was then declared the first capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. Due to overbearing requests from the Spanish, the Kaqchikel broke the alliance and left Iximche, which was ultimately burned two years later by Spanish deserters.
Iximche is located about an hour northwest of Antigua in the town of Tecpán. The site is open daily from 8am until 5pm, and admission is about $10.