Travel back in time and experience what life was like in the city of Xunantunich, one of Belize’s most popular Mayan sites. This tour from San Ignacio takes you to the Cayo District and delivers you on an old-fashioned, hand-cranked ferryboat to magnificent ruins deep in the Belizean rainforest. Admire astronomical carvings at El Castillo (The Castle) and sweeping views of the Belize River Valley—once you’ve climbed the steep pyramid steps to the top! Hotel pickup and drop-off are included.
After hotel pickup in San Ignacio in the morning, it’s just a 15-minute drive down the Western Highway aboard your air-conditioned vehicle. When you reach the town of San Jose Succotz, board a wooden ferry for the short trip across the Mopan River. Let your guide inform you about the ferry’s interesting hand-crank technology, which dates back to the 19th century. As you cross the emerald waters of the river, look for large green iguanas under the foliage or lazing on the forested riverbank.
When you reach the opposite shore, disembark for a brief shuttle ride to the entrance of Xunantunich ((Maya for ‘Maiden of the Rock’), an ancient Mayan site located on one of the highest plateaus of the Cayo District. You’ll gather with your guide and group at the Visitor Center to learn about the region’s history and get an overview of the ruins.
Learn about this ceremonial center of the Classic Period, which once boasted a population of 7,000 to 10,000 and is now one of Belize’s most popular Mayan sites.
Take an archeological walk back in time while exploring the ancient city. Over the course of your 2-hour guided tour, visit several residential palaces for Mayan royalty, located amid 25 temples and palaces that surround six major plazas. When you reach the impressive pyramid of El Castillo, admire the stucco frieze that once extended around its entire perimeter. Take a look at the detailed, astronomical carvings depicting Mayan gods, rulers and warriors in full regalia.
Then, start your moderate climb up the winding stone steps of the magnificent pyramid; rising 130 feet (40 meters) above the main plaza, it’s the second-tallest structure in Belize. Continue to the temple’s peak to enjoy the stunning panorama, including the Belize River Valley, Mopan River and nearby Guatemala.
After your descent, your guide will point out many tropical birds, howler monkeys and interesting flora such as the cotton trees and allspice plants, which the ancient Maya used as both food and medicine. Finally, relax at a local Belizean restaurant and enjoy lunch before boarding the vehicle for transport back to your San Ignacio hotel.