Xunantunich (pronounced "CHEW-nahn-too-neech") lies just eight miles from the Guatemala border. Xunantunich was a major ceremonial center during the Classic period of the Maya. Home to 25 temples and palaces including the second tallest Mayan structure in Belize, the site was the first opened to the public in 1954, and now it has a highly- praised on-site museum.
The religion of the citizens of Xunantunich helped build this city up to the ceremonial center that it became. From the top of the pyramid El Castillo, one is provided a breathtaking view of the Macal, Mopan and Belize River valleys, as well as the rest of the ruins. From its perch visitors can also see into Guatemala.
The Classic Maya site of Xunantunich is by far the easiest to get to, and arguably the most impressive Mayan site in the country of Belize. The restored sections of this city contain a ceremonial center, residences for the wealthiest of the population, a middle-class residential area, and a ballcourt complex. The largest structure is The Castillo, rising 160 feet from the plaza floor. Built at the top of a hill, it dominates the countryside for miles around. The construction is typical Maya; a low terrace was designed to hold additional stone buildings, and on this level a temple was built. Later the entire temple was filled in and another was built on top of it. Because of the excavations of archaeologists, we get to see the various periods of construction. From information found at the site we know that Xunantunich was in power for only a few hundred years and abandoned after an earthquake. Beautiful stucco reliefs are on display and excavation projects continue.
Due to its proximity to a major highway, this is the most heavily visited ruin in Belize. We recommend that you go there early or late in the day when cruise ship passengers are not present. At left is the Xunantunich Ferry which takes you and your vehicle across the Mopan River to access the ruin.