Lake Petexbatún is a small rainforest lake lagoon formed by the Petexbatún River and split from La Pasíon River in Sayaxché. The lake is located in the southern Petén region. Today, the lake is mainly visited by tourists interested in checking out the archaeological ruins nearby. The region hosts sites that were the first Maya kingdoms and cities to have been abandoned in the Late Classic period; these ruins have given archaeologists invaluable insight into how and why the collapse and abandoned eventually spread to the northern kingdoms like Tikal.
Lake Petexbatún used to be part of the 6th century kingdom run out of Dos Pilas and Aguateca and ruled by a prince originally from Tikal. The kingdom lasted less than 150 years collapsing in 760AD after a defeat to Tikal.
The main attraction of Lake Petexbatún besides the lake itself is the archaeological ruins of Aguateca. This site is located in the southern shores of the lake in the southwestern region of Petén and encompasses a small 200-foot escarpment. Aguateca was likely the last outpost of the kingdom that was ruled out of Dos Pilas before it was defeated by Tikal in 760AD.
Because Aguateca is situated about 300 feet above the shoreline, the city not only has a wide view of its surrounding area but also a natural defensive barrier. On top of the natural barrier, the ancient rulers built a 10 foott high fortified wall, giving the city substantial protection from enemy attacks. The site of Aguateca also consists of several impressive steles, stairways, plazas, palaces, temples, residences, acropolises, and beautiful natural fallas.
Perhaps most impressive about Aguateca is the pristine pottery, artifacts, and other objects like jade jewelry that were left behind by the ancient Mayans. The city appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry and somewhat destroyed by fire. After its destruction, Aguateca was not re-inhabited, thus leaving behind several priceless and intact objects that can be viewed by visitors today at the small “National” museum located on site.
The fortress of Punta de Chimino is another attraction of Lake Petexbatún. The fortress is located about three miles north of Aguateca and was the last residence of the kingdom’s (run out of Dos Pilas) besieged royal family. They defended themselves from their attackers by digging several moats into the peninsula where the fort stood, which made the fortress into an island. Archaeologists believe that Punta de Chimino was also once the vacation retreat for Maya noblemen. On the island, you’ll find beautiful cabins along the peninsula’s edge, quarters with private views of the lake and jungle, and rooms with screened walls and hardwood floors. Today, Punta de Chimino has a few lodges and inns where tourists can stay overnight.
Besides ruins and remains, Lake Petexbatún also offers bird and crocodile-watching opportunities. The surrounding jungle is home to dozens of exotic birds while the rivers and lagoons in the area are inhabited by different caiman (crocodile) varieties.