Iximché, the pre-conquest capital of the Kaqchikel, is 5km south of the Interamericana on a beautiful exposed site, isolated on three sides by plunging ravines and surrounded by pine forests. The majority of the buildings, originally built of adobe, have disappeared but the site – which housed a population of about ten thousand – is very atmospheric.

Brief history

Iximché was first established around 1470. From the early days of the conquest the Kaqchikel Maya allied themselves with the Spanish, in order to defeat their tribal enemies the K’iche’. Grateful for the assistance, the Spanish established their first headquarters near here on May 7, 1524. The Kaqchikel referred to Alvarado as Tonatiuh, the son of the sun, and as a mark of respect he was given the daughter of a Kaqchikel king as a gift.

But within months the Kaqchikel rebelled, outraged by Alvarado’s demands for tribute. The conquistador retaliated by burning Iximché and then moved operations to the greater safety of Ciudad Vieja, a short distance from Antigua.

George W. Bush stopped by Iximché in 2007 and was treated to a marimba display and a demonstration of the Maya ball game. Not everyone was pleased with his appearance, and Maya elders later held a ceremony to spiritually cleanse the site and the residual “bad energy”.