Castillo' towering in the backgound
Studied by countless
archeologists over the last century and distinguished
as the first Maya Site to be opened and proclaimed archeologically
and historically significant in Belize, a tour of the
ancient monuments of Xunantunich should not be missed.
The journey starts in the Cayo District at the Mopan riverbank
in the small village of San Jose Succotz, where visitors
step or drive onto a rickety hand-cranked ferry (open
8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. everyday) that slowly but surely transports
its passengers to the other side of the river. Stepping
off the ferry transports visitors to the base of the site
where they must walk or drive just less than one mile
up a steep hill. The parking area and visitor center are
encountered first, where visitors must pay an entrance
fee of BZ$10.00. A couple steps from the center transfers
excited visitors to the three extensive plazas of the
Maiden of the Rock ~ Xunantunich.
a high limestone ridge and covering approximately 2,700
square feet, Xunantunich is believed to have been an important
Ceremonial Center in the Classic Period. A tour of the
visitor center and small museum can enlighten visitors
on the history and importance of the site. There is a
small scale-model of the entire city, a fiberglass replica
of an archeological frieze on site and four restored stallae
in the museum.
structure on site is the famous, ‘El Castillo’
towering 130 feet into the sky and ranking as one of the
tallest buildings in the entire country. The two towers
atop El Castillo, characteristic of the intriguing and
well-restored designs of the archaeological frieze on
the lower tower has become an identifying feature of Belize.
The climb to the top of El Castillo, though disheartening
to those with height phobias, is an unforgettable experience.
Maneuvering your way up the small ‘Mayan’
steps through ancient corbelled vaults and stone passageways
sparks excitement and great anticipation of what lies
at the top of 'El Castillo'
at the top of El Castillo, a breathtaking panorama spreads
before your eyes. Green forests of Belize and part of
Guatemala stretching as far as the eyes can see, the entire
Cayo District including the lazy currents of the Mopan
River, and a clear map of the Ceremonial City of Xunantunich
spread out below. With only the distant sound of birds
singing in the forests below and the whispering wind gently
blowing over El Castillo, one can easily experience a
calm and peaceful state of mind sitting 130 feet above
the ancient Mayan City.