The Petén Basin is a geographical subregion of Mesoamerica, located in the northern portion of the modern-day nation of Guatemala, and essentially contained within the department of El Petén. During the Late Preclassic and Classic periods of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican chronology many major centers of the Maya civilization flourished, such as Tikal, and a distinctive Petén-style of Maya architecture and inscriptions arose. The archaeological sites La Sufricaya and Holmul are located in this region.
Archaeological sites such as Uaxactún, Tikal, Holmul, La Sufricaya, Machaquilá, Naranjo, Nakum, Piedras Negras, Altar de Sacrificios on the Usumacinta river, Waka' formerly El Perú, on the San Pedro Mártir river, Ceibal, Aguateca, in the Petexbatún area, Cancuén, on La Pasión river, Topoxté and Yaxhá preserve important remnants of the Classic Maya in Petén.
The first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world was Tikal, and later Tikal National Park, was the first Mixed Archeologic and Natural World Heritage Site in the World.
The Spanish town of Flores was established atop the site of Tayasal, but this remained an isolated backwater through the colonial era and after the independence Central America. When Guatemalan President Rafael Carrera sent a small force to Flores to claim the region for Guatemala in the 1840s, the governments of Mexico and Yucatán decided the region was not worth the trouble of contesting.