Utatlan Cave

Gumarcaaj - K'umarcaaj

Useful Information

Location: 3 km west of Santa Cruz del Quiché, just 15 minutes to the north of Chichicastenango.
(15.023324, -91.171825)
Open: All year daily 8-17.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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07-MAR-1524 Captain Pedro de Alvarado captured the Quiché rulers and burned them at the stake.


Utatlàn, also known as K'umarcaaj, is an unrestored archaeological site located two miles outside of Quiche. Down the hill to one side of the ruins is a man-made cave, a site of rituals for contemporary Maya.

Utatlàn is considered a sacred spot and Mayan priests still perform religious ceremonies there. Under the main plaza is a sacred cave where ceremonies are performed with candles and incense.

Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.

The city Gumarcaaj, which was renamed Utatlàn by the Spanish invader Captain Pedro de Alvarado, was once the Capital of the Maya nation Quiché. Utatlàn is pronounced wah-shahk-TOON. They were the strongest Maya group and the first force encountered by invading Spaniards. They lived in the Guatemala highlands in the area which is now the department Quiché.

Less than two weeks after a decisive battle at Quetzaltenango, the Spaniards arrived at Gumarcaaj. The Quichés surrendered and invited the invading force into the city, by the Spaniards feared an ambush. Captain Pedro de Alvarado captured the Quiché rulers and burned them at the stake on March 7, 1524. Then they destroyed the city. The ruins, which have not been restored, consist of small temple mounds, and the remains of a plaza, ballcourt and other structures.