"Xunantunich - Small but Beautiful Mayan Ruins" Top 5 Page for this destination Xunantunich by Bwana_Brown

Xunantunich Travel Guide: 43 reviews and 105 photos

About two weeks into our trip to Belize found us staying at a small back-packer paradise outside of San Ignacio and very close to the Guatemala border. One of the attractions that just happened to be within easy walking distance for us were the Mayan temple ruins at Xunantunich. We spent a morning there, exploring what was left of this site - first settled between 200-500 AD (depending on who you believe). The peak years of this small settlement, which is believed to have been an outpost of the larger Tikal empire centred 30-miles away in Guatemala, were between 700-900 AD. As with the rest of the Mayan cities in Central America, civilization seems to have crashed by 1000 AD.

Xunantunich was re-discovered by Europeans in 1894 but serious exploration of the site was not carried out until thirty years later, in 1924. Until the recent discovery of the Caracol ruins, the El Castillo pyramid at Xunantunich was the tallest structure in Belize (now in 2nd place by 1-foot!). This is a relatively small site as Mayan ones go, so it makes for a good half-day trip, one that we thoroughly enjoyed!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Easily explored, beautiful and not really busy
  • In a nutshell:A good Mayan 'starter' site!
  • Last visit to Xunantunich: Feb 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (11)

Comments (20)

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    We will be staying near here on our forthcoming trip to Belize - sounds like a "must see"! I like the sound of the little ferry too :-)

  • pikuu's Profile Photo
    Jul 6, 2009 at 2:42 AM

    Total silence, jungle, refreshing breeze and ancient Mayan pyramids around - it had to be unforgettable experience. :)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2009 at 2:14 PM

    Glenn, outstanding page with stunning photos. Especially the El Castillo with its Eastern Frieze looks amazing. Very well done.

  • Paul2001's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2008 at 5:11 PM

    I remember the Ferry across well. Glenn this is a superbly written page with very insightful commentary.

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2007 at 9:32 PM

    What an interesting place, Glenn, it is always again amazing to see these kinds of pyramids and what a contrast to read about a Hand-Cranked Ferry of nowadays against technical skills of the anient architects !

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Nov 6, 2007 at 4:16 PM

    Great stories and photos of the Mayan ruins - and the view of the 'ants' from the top certainly gives the impression of size! Apart from that, this sounds an enjoyable visit with the Trek Stop and the river.

  • traveldave's Profile Photo
    Aug 29, 2007 at 8:57 AM

    I'm usually not a big fan of ruins, but Xunantunich looks like an interesting site to visit. Possibly because of its jungle setting.

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    May 1, 2007 at 8:38 PM

    These Mayan ruins are truly impressive and obviously the feeling is not the same when there is a crowd of tourists around or if you have the place all for you alone! Human ants are fine when they remain far away, just to give the scale!

  • kyoub's Profile Photo
    Apr 27, 2007 at 6:07 PM

    The Trek Stop sounds like a great find for you. Nice that you could walk to the ruins and still beat the tour buses arrival. Very good photos.

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Jan 24, 2007 at 9:55 AM

    It was great that you got to see the sights before the little people arrived = enjoyable read with amazing piictures captured from a great height


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