Cahal Pech is just a 20-minute walk from San Ignacio and overlooks the town. This is a mid-sized Mayan complex that has undergone extensive restoration. Cahal Pech means “place of ticks” in modern-day Maya, and refers to the fact that the surrounding area was once used as pasture land. However, this was the royal acropolis-palace of an elite Mayan ruling family who lived here during the Classic period.
Cahal Pech was settled around 1000 BC and abandoned by 800 AD.
The site consists of seven plazas and over 30 structures including temples, residential buildings, ballcourts, an altar, and a sweathouse, 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 accoutrements 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 has a model of the site, excellent paintings showing Cahal Pech in its heyday, and an interpretive film.