! Xunantunich & Cahal Pech !
Once a prosperous city-state during the Classical Maya era, Xunantunich once was the home to 200,000 people, equivalent to two-thirds of Belize’s current population. The name Xunantunich, a Maya construct meaning “Stone Woman,” is a modern one as the original name for the city has been lost. Local Maya named the fading ruins “Stone Woman” because the site was regularly reported to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, usually depicted as being dressed entirely in white with glowing red eyes.
Abandoned by the Maya nearly 1,000 years ago for unknown reasons, Xunantunich was claimed by the jungle until archeologists in the colonial period began conducting excavations in the mid-1890s. Today, visitors approach the site by crossing over the Mopan River on a hand-operated ferry and then climbing up to the limestone ridge that serves as the foundation for the city.
! Cahal Pech !
The site consists of seven plazas and over 30 structures including temples, residential buildings, ball courts, an altar, and a sweat-house, all situated on just 2 acres. A royal burial chamber was found in one of the structures. Inside the tomb, a ruler had been laid to rest with the accouterments necessary for the afterlife. Included in the find were shell & bone ornaments, pottery vessels, obsidian blades, and jade objects, the most impressive being a jade & shell mosaic mask.
One of the temples in this small complex commands the best view of the surrounding Belize River Valley. The visitor center and museum have a model of the site, excellent paintings showing Cahal Pech in its heyday, and an interpretive film.
Departure: 8:00 AM
Duration: full-day tour
Dress code: Short or long pants, tennis shoes, or comfortable footwear
What to bring along: Camera, bug spray, sunscreen, and water
Booking Price: US$120 Per Person (2 minimum)