"Into the Wild: Belize Adventure Awaits"

The Xunantunich ruins are located on a natural limestone ridge approximately eight miles west of San Ignacio at San Jose Succotz Village in the Cayo District. This is one of the most popular sites in Belize. Recent improvements have included the visitor’s center, new bathrooms, new picnic areas, and new trails. One historical attribute not likely to be replaced anytime soon is the mechanical ferry, used for years to take people to and from the site.

There are numerous ancient structures around the Xunantunich site. It was the first Mayan ruin in Belize to be opened to the public when a road and hand-cranked ferry bridge were built in 1954 to access the site. Xunantunich is an example of the “Classic” period of Mayan history, from about 300 A.D. to 900 A.D. The Mayans largely abandoned the site about 900 A.D., possibly due to a large earthquake in the region. The exploration of Xunantunich began in the late 1800s by the British.

Most tourists climb “El Castillo,” a 130-foot-high pyramid near the center of the ruins. “El Castillo,” partially excavated and explored, was the tallest artificial structure in Belize until the discovery of “Canaa” at Caracol. The most notable feature of “El Castillo” is a remarkable stucco frieze on the east side of the A-6 structure. Three carved stelae found at the site are on display in the plaza.

The name is Maya for “stone lady,” derived from local legend. From the top of El Castillo, you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view over the jungle canopy of the Macal, Mopan, and Belize River valleys and a vast area of the Guatemalan Peten District, which is only a few miles away.

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