Xunantunich, the Mayan Castle in Belize
WowBelize recently visited Xunantunich, a Mayan ceremonial center located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, this Mayan center was settled in the early phases of the Preclassic period.
The settlement is located on the west side of the Cayo district, just 1 km away from the Guatemalan border. In Maya language, “Xunantunich” translates to “Stone Woman” referring to the ghost of a woman with glowing eyes that appeared to locals on this archeological site. Xunantunich’s center consists of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples, the main temple “El Castillo” (The castle) is the second largest building in Belize and offers a tremendous view of the country, on a clear day, Guatemala can be seen as well.
It is believed that hundreds of small houses were located all around the six plazas and housed more than
200,000 Mayan people. Being close to the river the Mayan community was self-sufficient and spread out widely throughout the land.
Xunantunich was abandoned due to an unknown event in 750 AD
To get here, one must drive to the Cayo district in the west side of Belize, or take a bus from Belmopan to San Ignacio. When taking a bus, tell the driver specifically where you’re headed to, they will stop at the Ferry station that takes you to Xunantunich. The ferry waiting for you is a hand-cranked vessel that takes one car at a time, after crossing the Mopan river on the ferry, a one mile walk will take you to this Ancient Mayan site. Make sure to take a camera with you along the road, as some great sights await you during your trip to this ancient Mayan city.
Souvenirs are sold just below the 6 plazas, there is a $10 BZ fee charged by NICH(National Institute of Culture and Heritage) when entering Xunantunich.