Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize
Pronounced shoo-na-too-nitch by most people, this ancient Maya site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize. With an interactive museum on site, visitors can learn about this majestic city that was once a luxury residence for Maya elites. Today, visitors approach the site by crossing the Mopan River using a hand-cranked ferry and then climbing to the top of one of the site’s fabulous temples to be rewarded with an amazingly panoramic view of the countryside.
In modern Belize, Xunantunich is located just a short distance from the town of San Ignacio in Cayo District and one mile north of the border with Guatemala at Benque Viejo. Built on a natural limestone ridge, the site was constructed to serve elite nobles and their retinue during the Classic Period.
With a central area measuring just 300 square meters (3,230 square feet) in size, Xunantunich isn’t the largest Maya ruin in Belize, but it’s unique residential structures and ceremonial center make the site one of the top attractions in the country. One of the first lost cities rediscovered in the modern era (excavations first began in 1892), archeological renovations at Xunantunich have revealed three ceremonial plazas, houses, and a large palace decorated with friezes and masks.
The most famous building in Xunantunich is “El Castillo” (The Castle), a pyramid soaring 130 feet above the main plaza. El Castillo was the tallest man-made structure in the country until the Sky Temple at the Maya site of Caracol was discovered a few decades ago. El Castillo is remarkable due to its large stucco frieze on its eastern side that details stories of the gods and stories from Maya creationist myths. Xunantunich was heavily populated until an abrupt event in the Classic Period that left the top of “El Castillo” partially damaged.
Although no one knows the original name of the city, today the site is called the “Stone Lady” (Xunatunich in modern Mayan) due to persistent stories of a woman in white that haunted the original British archeologists and has been regularly seen even up until modern times.
Chabil Mar in Placencia Belize & Xunantunich
The lovely Chabil Mar resort on the Placencia Peninsula is close to all of the most exciting mainland destinations in Belize. Guests of the resort can include a visit to Xunantunich as part of one of Chabil Mar’s fantastic Belize Reef & Jungle vacation packages.
Visit our website chabilmarvillas.com for more information on Belize, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.