On our third day in Belize we took a trip to visit the Mayan ruin of Xunantunich. This is an easy 11 km trip to the west from San Ignacio. We caught the bus from town for a pretty short and easy ride to the small town of San Jose Succotz. It is impossible to miss because the road there is blanketed with touristy trinket stalls. It was fun to catch the hand-cranked ferry which transported us across the Mopan River.
From there, it is about a mile hike up a relatively steep road. Like many of the ruins in Belize, Xunantunich is accompanied by a small archeological museum. We enjoyed learning a bit more about the ruins and their excavations. Xunantunich struck us as being quite different from Cahal Pech (a smaller ruin practically inside San Ignacio) because there were open spaces that the jungle had not encroached upon.
We walked around several of the smaller structures and enjoyed learning more about the native plants. Though, by learning more, I mean that the park had labeled several of them with nice wooden signs.
The main site is the large temple called “El Castillo.” The climb is beautiful and we spent more than an hour on top enjoying the cool breeze and amazing views. Xunantunich is only a couple of km away from the Guatemalan border so you feel like you can see almost all of Belize and then stare beyond into Guatemala.
Overall, we loved Xunantunich. Compared to some other Mayan sites, there was not that much to see, but the peaceful views from the top of El Castillo make for a fantastic day.