Explore an ancient Mayan ceremonial site that has been periodically excavated over the past 100 years, revealing a fascinating complex of pyramids, plazas and temples.
Depart from the tender pier and settle in for a scenic two hour drive across Belize to the remains of a Mayan ceremonial center located near the Guatemalan border. After a short ride across the Mopan River on a unique hand-cranked ferry, you'll reach Xunantunich, an ancient site built on a limestone ridge in the 7th century A.D. Curiously, at the time, the Mayan civilization was beginning to collapse, and nearby cities had already been abandoned.
It wasn't until the late 1890s that a British explorer began excavating Xunantunich (supposedly using dynamite) and found numerous treasures, which have since disappeared. Over the subsequent years, other excavations have unearthed six major plazas containing more than 25 Maya temples and palaces. It's a spectacular archaeological site whose mysteries still haven't been fully explained. Why it was abandoned isn't known, although there are signs of an earthquake that may have contributed to its demise.
Xunantunich (pronounced (Shoo-NAN-too-NEECH) means "stone woman" in the Yucatec dialect, probably a reference to El Castillo, the site's largest and tallest pyramid. If you climb to the top, you'll have a 360-degree view over the jungle canopy and the surrounding valleys. Other highlights are the carved, three-dimensional friezes on the sides of El Castillo, which are adorned with masks, Mayan figures and symbols.
Following your visit, you'll make your way back to the San Ignacio area for lunch in a local restaurant and time permitting, perhaps a bit of shopping. Afterwards, you'll re-board your coach and return to directly to the tender pier in Belize City.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 2-hours of moderate to strenuous walking, primarily over natural and uneven surfaces. There are numerous steps and inclines to negotiate and surfaces can be muddy and slippery after a rainfall. Climbing on the ruins is not permitted during or after a rain because of the hazard of falling on slippery steps. Participants should be in good physical condition. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests or those with mobility concerns. Light weight casual clothing that should include long pants; sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen; insect repellent; and flat, comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots with a closed-toe and non-slip sole are recommended. There is a small souvenir shop on site so those who wish to make purchases should bring cash or a credit card.