The 4,000-year-old city of Uaxactún once rivaled Tikal's supremacy in the region. It was conquered by Tikal in the fourth century and lived in the shadow of that great city for centuries. Inscriptions show that Uaxactún existed longer than any other Mayan city, which may account for the wide variety of structures. Here, among the stelae and palaces, you'll find a Mayan astronomical observatory, thought to be the oldest in Mesoamerica. It is designated "Structure E-VII-B."
From the observatory, the sun lines up precisely on the solstices and equinoxes. As the excavated ruins here are much smaller and less impressive than at Tikal, you won't have to fight the crowds as you do at neighboring Tikal, leaving you free to enjoy the quiet and mystic air of the ruins. Although there are daily local buses from Santa Elena to the village of Uaxactún near the ruins, you'll probably want to arrange with a tour company in Flores to see the Mayan site. Some multinight tours combine a visit to El Zotz with one to Uaxactún.
16 mi (24 km) north of Tikal, Uaxactún, Guatemala