Naranjo

Warrior city of great artistic production, ruled for decades by a woman.


Located 21 km from Yaxha, Naranjo is the largest archaeological site in the Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo National Park and was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of 100 ancient cities in the world urged to be rescued and preserved.

Naranjo, possibly known as Saal, was a warrior city and was strategically located between the basins of the Holmul and Mopan rivers, which were natural routes that connected the Maya World of northeastern Petén with other cities in Belize and the Caribbean coast. It had an occupation of 1,600 years, from the Middle Preclassic to possibly the Postclassic (800 BC – 850 AD) and held a key position with respect to the most powerful and belligerent cities at the time, Tikal, Caracol (Belize) and Calakmul (Mexico).

The fate of Naranjo was marked by its performance in war since, following the king's death after a devastating war led by Calakmul (the main enemy of Tikal) and its allies, Calakmul brought a princess named Seis Cielo (Six Sky) to establish a new dynasty. She ruled on behalf of her son, Ardilla Humeante (Smoking Squirrel), as he grew and was instructed in the offices of king. However, the early death of her son forced the queen Seis Cielo to rule the city for over 30 years. One of her biggest victories was the capture of the ruler of Yaxha and the burning of the city.
 
Naranjo’s size is monumental, with 389 buildings in the central area and about 2,500 buildings in the peripheral residential area. Its buildings are of great architectural complexity and there is iconographic evidence that has revealed much of the history of the region. Naranjo was also a city of great artistic production; some of the best quality ceramic paintings of the Maya World come from this site. Currently, it is considered a sacred center, especially revered by the Maya women of the area.

During your visit you will appreciate the work done by researchers and archaeologists in the area as the Central Acropolis, the complex which houses the palace inhabited by the queen Seis Cielo, is being restored.
 

Access

To reach Naranjo, you must get to Yaxha and request guiding services to the Community Tourism Guides Association of Yaxha. During the dry season (March to May), the Community Association for Integral Development of the Yaxha Region provides transportation on four-wheel drive vehicles. It can be accessed on horseback, on foot or by bicycle the rest of the year.
 

Visit duration

To visit Naranjo, a local guide must accompany you (we recommend the services of the Community Tourism Guides Association of Yaxha) and you need about two hours to see the entire site. If you travel by car, you can get to Naranjo and return in one day. If you travel on horseback, on foot or by bike, you need to camp overnight. Travel time on horseback is about six hours; on foot five hours and by bicycle one hour. The path for walking and cycling is quite challenging and requires a good physical condition.

 
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Fotografías por: Raúl Noriega, Nelson Carabeo, Sergio Aja y Counterpart International - design (c) by Dimensión Digital