Uaxatún (wa-sha-TOON) is best known as the most accurate observatory in the Mayan world. The city was founded centuries before Tikal, and may well be the birthplace of the Mayan calendar and writing system; the oldest known arch in the Mayan world is also here. It was conquered by Tikal in 378AD, but probably become a learning center for elites from the capital, rather than a vassal state.
Today, its pyramids and plazas are interspersed with the tiny houses of a modern village (also called Uaxatún), once dedicated to the gathering of chicle. Tourism is now a small but growing business.
The city’s original Mayan name, Siaan K'aan, or "Born in Heaven” reflects the city’s astronomical obsession. Solstices are marked by temple pyramids, which form part of the oldest known Mayan calendar. While crowds come to see these impressive alignments, you may have the site to yourself other times of year.
Uaxactún is located 87km (54 miles) from Flores, 23km (14 miles) north of Tikal. It can only be reached in 4WD vehicles or public buses. In rainy season, the road may be impassable.
Buses leave the Santa Elena market in Flores in the afternoon, returning very early the following morning. Since you need to obtain permits and pay fees at Tikal, independent travelers usually spend the first day at Tikal, catch the afternoon bus to Uaxactún, then spend two nights in the village, with a full day at the ruins.