Quiriguá in 2012
Quiriguá is a Classic era site on the Guatemalan side of the Rio Motaguá. It has a history closely intertwined with that of Copán, 30 miles due south in Honduras. In 1981, Quiriguá was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The site itself is located between Guatemala City and the Caribbean coast at Puerto Barrios and is surrounded by vast expanses of banana plantations.
Quiriguá has some of the largest carved Maya stelae ever found, including a 65-ton mammoth known as Stela E. This stela is 35 feet tall (and eight feet underground) and dates to A.D. 771. This was during the illustrious, eventful rule of Cauac Sky, who rebelled against Copán, to which Quiriguá had been subservient for centuries.
Things ended after Copán’s king, 18 Rabbit, lost his head after a ritual ball game. Thus began Quiriguá’s reign of the area until A.D. 810, the city’s last recorded date.
Local sandstone allowed Quiriguá’s artists to make particularly intricate carvings and Long Count dates. On altar Zoomorph O, for example, there is a k’atun ending of 22.214.171.124.0 (October 11, A.D. 790) next to a dancing glyph of Chaac the rain god. In fact, Quiriguá’s inscriptions are considered to be some of the finest glyph work in the Mundo Maya. Many of the best stelae are protected under simple thatch structures in the Great Plaza and near the Acropolis.
Quiriguá is open 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Entrance costs US$5. A few food stands, a ticket office, and a small museum mark the entrance. There is a small model that gives a sense of what has been excavated and what remains hidden. The nearest accommodations are in Los Amates, at Km. 200 of Highway CA-9.
Getting to Quiriguá
Quiriguá is located four kilometers (2.5 mi) off Highway CA-9 (at Km. 204), the main road from Guatemala City toward Puerto Barrios. This makes it a natural stopover for anyone traveling between these two sites, and it is very accessible by car or bus.
More Travel Information
For more travel information on things to see and do at Quiriguá and in the surrounding area, please visit the Quiriguá section of our Moon Guatemala travel guide.
© Josh Berman from Moon Maya 2012