Mixco Viejo was the capital of the Poqomam Maya, one of the main pre-conquest tribes. The site itself is thought to date from the thirteenth century, and its construction, designed to withstand siege, bears all the hallmarks of the troubled times before the arrival of the Spanish. Protected on all sides by deep ravines, it can be entered only along a single-file causeway. At the time the Spanish arrived, in 1525, this was one of the largest highland centres, with nine temples, two ball courts and a population of around nine thousand. Though the Spanish cavalry and their Mexican allies defeated Poqomam forces, the city remained impenetrable until a secret entrance was revealed, allowing the Spanish to enter virtually unopposed and to unleash a massacre of its inhabitants.
Mixco Viejo’s plazas and temples are laid out across several flat-topped ridges. Like all the highland sites the structures are fairly low – the largest temple reaches only about 10m in height – and are devoid of decoration. It is, however, an interesting site in a spectacular setting, and during the week you’ll probably have the ruins to yourself, which gives the place all the more atmosphere.