Xunantunich

Xunantunich Travel Blog

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Mopan River Ferry

The journey to Xunantunich took us across the whole of Belize, almost to the border with Guatemala. After passing through the town of San Ignacio, we continued on the Western Highway to San Jose Succotz near the border with Guatemala. At this point we had to cross the Mopan River by ferry. The ferry, which reminded me of White's Ferry on the Potomac River, cannot accommodate a tour bus. We had to disembark and the cross the river on the ferry on foot. Several minivans were waiting on the other side to take us the last few miles to the Xunantunich site. Xunantunich is in the mountains and so is much cooler than Tulum.

A knowledgeable male guide took over from the lady guide at Xunantunich.

Rainforest and rock outcropping on the way to Xunantunich
He took us through the ruins and explained the significance of the bas-reliefs and structures. Xunantunich is a city from the Classic Mayan period. It is older than Tulum and was already abandoned by the time the Europeans arrived. It is not far from the Tikal site in Guatemala. Both cities were inhabited at the same time. But the two cities were not allies or trading partners. In fact, we were told they were rivals and at war with one another. Xunantunich is still only partly excavated and much of it remains overgrown. A caretaker was beating back the ever-present jungle with a gas-powered weed whacker as we toured the site. We walked around the site to see several pyramids, walls, platforms, a preserved stele, and the ritual ball court.  A small museum houses several stele recovered at the site. Dominating the site is "El Castillo", the main temple.

The climb to the top of the 130-foot main pyramid is one of my peak travel experiences.

At Xunantunich
There is nothing to support you on the way up save the steep and narrow steps the Mayans originally built and the view at the top is spectacular. In one direction lies the green Mopan River Valley in Belize. In the other, one can look into Guatemala. The visit to Xunantunich was wonderful!

After the tour, the bus took us to Windy Hill Resort back down the main highway. We enjoyed a lunch of typical Belize foods: chicken, beans and rice, fried plantin and tropical juice. Marimba players entertained us and added a festive air to the afternoon.

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Mopan River Ferry
Mopan River Ferry
Rainforest and rock outcropping on…
Rainforest and rock outcropping o…
At Xunantunich
At Xunantunich
Outer Platform
Outer Platform
El Castillo, Xunantunich
El Castillo, Xunantunich
El Castillo, Xunantunich
El Castillo, Xunantunich
Our Guide Describes a Stela
Our Guide Describes a Stela
Xunantnich Site
Xunantnich Site
Julia heads right to the top!
Julia heads right to the top!
Left Panel
Left Panel
Center Panel
Center Panel
Right Panel
Right Panel
Atop El Castillo
Atop El Castillo
Me at the top of El Castillo, Xuna…
Me at the top of El Castillo, Xun…
Xunantunich site
Xunantunich site
View towards Guatemala
View towards Guatemala
Steps Leading Down from El Castillo
Steps Leading Down from El Castillo
Ball Court
Ball Court
Lunch at Windy Hill Resort
Lunch at Windy Hill Resort
Marimba Players at Windy Hill
Marimba Players at Windy Hill
Xunantunich General Tips & Advice review
Ferry cross the Mopan
The ferry across the Mopan River connects Belize's Western Highway with the Xunantunich Mayan ruins site and resorts across the river. The ferry is a … read entire review
Xunantunich Sights & Attractions review
The ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich
The Xunantunich archaeological site in western Belize was a Mayan city of the Classic period, flourishing around 300-900 AD. It was probably abandoned… read entire review
Xunantunich
photo by: Biedjee