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Xunantunich Maya Ruins in Cayo: A Must See

Sure it seems a bit lame to pick a favorite when it comes to Mayan Ruins.  (BTW, I hate the word “ruin”…this is hardly something that is wrecked…)  1.  Most of them are pretty awesome…if only for the amazing history and culture they represent.  2.  They are all very different.  Some are very well groomed and compact…some require an adventure hike through thick jungle from temple to temple…some hours of travel to actually reach them.


But, as it says on the top of this page, this is MY opinionated guide to Belize and my opinion?  Xunantunich is my favorite in Belize.  (I pronounce it:  Shoe-Nan-Two-Nich)   Let me tell you the reasons.

And get ready for WAY too many pictures!


First…let me tell you quickly how I got there.  There are lots of ways…all resorts in the Cayo District will offer you a half day trip to the site but if you are staying in San Ignacio, like I was, it’s super easy.  And can be SUPER cheap.

You’ve got options.  You can take the bus that leaves hourly from San Ignacio to the village of Succotz (just 15 minutes away) for only $2bzd.


This will drop you off at the hand ferry.  Or you can hire a taxi to take you to Succotz, come across the ferry with you and drive you up the steep hill to the site (probably about a mile walk).  The taxi will wait for you – you will want about an hour and a half – and then take you back to San Ignacio.  About $40USD.

Here is the pull ferry.




You get on…and the cranking begins.  The operator is more than willing to let you crank for a photo op.


Succotz is a very small village and you can see people swimming and washing their laundry on the shores of the river.


The ferry fits two cars and as many people as you’d like.  You think this looks…well…a bit old school.  But this is actually the new one.  Last year, the old ferry was replaced and now resides on a front lawn close by.


Oh yes…and due to the fact that it was HOT HOT HOT, we chose the taxi option.

As we walked up to the site and the small museum, we were actually followed by two spider monkeys.  Awesome.  The entrance fee is $5bzd for Belizeans/Legal Residents (free on Sundays) and $10bzd for visitors.

A short walk and you are at the well groomed, grassy site.  But just because it is relatively small doesn’t mean that the structures aren’t stunning…awesome.  I love Xunantunich for the gorgeous buildings…

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And for the friezes on the two sides…IMG_1819

And for the monkeys that were hanging out munching on figs in the tree actually overhanging the backside of the temple…


Just hanging by their tails giving us the old “keep your ugly hairless paws off my figs” look.  There were about 10 of them with a couple of super cute babies.  So close!IMG_1828

We finished climbing to the top and one of the best parts of the Lamanai site.  THE VIEW!  You can see Guatemala…and San Ignacio…the entire countryside.


Get ready to have the:  “in the US, you would NEVER be allowed to climb up this high on something this old” conversation with the tourists at the top.  It really is cool.


And take pictures all the way down…it takes your mind off the steep, steep steps.  I did the butt bump most of the way.

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Love it.  Tips?  Get there as early in the morning as you can before the bus loads of tourists from the islands or Belize City arrive.  And when it is a bit cooler.  You are going to love it here.

And I can’t leave out my second favorite site, a very close runner-up:  Lamanai in the Orange Walk District.


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