Upriver about 10 miles (17 km) from Sayaxché are the impressive ruins of Ceibal, frequently rendered "Seibal" in English. The site takes its name from the many canopylike ceiba trees, the national tree of Guatemala, in the area. Ceibal achieved prominence in ancient times serving as a tollgate collecting tribute from barges plying La Pasión river. Its archaeological attractions are several restored temples, including the only circular one known to exist. Here you will also find intricately carved stelae—dozens in all—some of the best preserved in the region. Interestingly, a number of anomalies were found in these monuments, which hint at a foreign influence, most likely from the Toltecs of central Mexico. Carvings on structures here show dates corresponding to about AD 900, and are some of the latest among Mayan ruins in Mesoamerica. Ceibal is now thought to have undergone two distinct periods of growth, one in the Late Pre-Classic period and another in the Late Classic period,
the two interrupted by centuries of abandonment. The area is quite marshy, and rife with mosquitoes; lather up with insect repellent. There are buses from Santa Elena/Flores to Sayaxché, and from there you can get to Ceibal by boat on the Pasión River or by partly dirt road by taxi or car. Tour companies in Flores can also arrange trips to Ceibal. The Sayaché area is considered a center for Mexican drug cartels, and large farms and tracts of land are said to be owned by narcotraffickers.