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#427968 - 01/16/12 08:08 AM Xunantunich Maya Site
Marty Offline

View of the west side frieze at Xunantunich Maya Site in western Belize.

The name Xunantunich derives from the Yucatec Maya language and means “Stone Woman.” Local legend holds that around the end of the 1800s, a gentleman from the village of San Jose Succotz Belize went hunting near the site. Crossing the base of the Castillo, he was struck by the appearance of a beautiful statuesque Maya maiden, dressed in traditional “huipil” and “pik,”,and dazzling in the rays of the rising sun. The woman stood motionless by the mouth of a cave which extended beneath the large structure. Stricken by her appearance, the man threw his gun aside and ran downhill to the village. After recounting his tale several villagers led by their native priest returned to the site. Arriving at the large mound they found the mouth of the tunnel, but the stone maiden had disappeared. Thereafter locals claim that the woman has appeared to several others but none have been able to follow her into the cavern.

CLICK to Belize.com for the rest of this excellent article

#429000 - 01/29/12 09:23 AM Re: Xunantunich Maya Site [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

VIDEO: Xunantunich, Mayan Ruins, Belize

#431438 - 02/26/12 09:08 AM Re: Xunantunich Maya Site [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Xunantunich is a well excavated and easily accessible Mayan site, close to San Ignacio in Belize. The Mayan ruins of Xunantunich are located atop a limestone ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border. The central area is laid around three plazas surrounded by more than 20 structures.

It name means “Stone Woman” in the Maya language and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name. It refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site. The ancient name is unknown.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
El Castillo, the second tallest structure in Belize. Photo credit: perisho

History of Xunantunich

Xunantunich was a thriving Mayan city from about 600 to 900 AD. Evidence indicates that during the 10th century AD there was a disruption at Xunantunich, possible an earthquake, and the city and much of its sustaining hinterland was soon abandoned. The site was reoccupied centuries later while the structures were already in ruins.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins Highlights

At 127 feet (39 m) the pyramid known as El Castillo is the second tallest structure in Belize, after the temple at Caracol. It’s a steep climb but the view from the top is worth it. The structure was probably built in three stages between the 7th and 9th century. At one time its frieze, a banded stucco decoration, extended around the entire pyramid. Today only a small part of the frieze remains which displays masks of the sun god flanked by signs of the moon, Venus and different days.

Visit the Xunantunich Mayan ruins

Xunantunich is located only a few miles west of San Ignacio (Hotels in San Ignacio). The Mayan ruins can be reached by taking the free ferry across the Mopan River. The entrance to the river ferry is right on the side of the Western Highway. The hand cranked ferry, which comes and goes on demand, takes you across in minutes. Then it’s about 1 mile uphill on a paved road to the ticket office.

The entrance fee is BZ$10.

Map of Xunantunich Belize

The map below shows the location of Xunantunich Belize. The buttons on the left can be used to zoom in or out. Click and drag the map to move around.


#443851 - 08/03/12 09:32 AM Re: Xunantunich Maya Site [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Great Mayan Ruins by San Ignacio, Belize: Xunantunich

Colin and I were sun-stroked and drenched with sweat by the time we made it to San Ignacio, Belize’s famous Mayan ruins, Xunantunich… but man was it worth it. Come cyber-join us on our journey!

The “El Castillo” structure of the Xunantunich Mayan ruins in western Belize dates from around 800 C.E. and rises over 130 feet. In other news, Colin and I have very large muscles.

It took us hours to finally reach Xunantunich from our San Ignacio hotel due to a “hilarious” misunderstanding of how time is quantified in Belize.

Several local people had told us, “Oh yes, you can walk to the ruins. It’s not far,” but in reality, that statement was so false that Colin and I ended up walking along the side of the highway (flanked by endless neon green grass and curious cows) for over an hour in the blazing noon-time sun, panting at each hill’s crest: “It’s GOT to be close! Right?!” Wrong.

We staggered between the highway and these crazy green, cow-covered fields outside San Ignacio, Belize for over an hour, thinking the Xunantunich ruins were just over each hill. They weren’t.

Two miles and four times of nearly being run over by blue-painted school buses that serve as Belize’s main public transport later, I swoon-sat by the side of the road and refused to go on. Colin heroically stood by the highway until a taxi (marked in western Belize by nothing more than a green licence plate) chugged by.

To reach the ruins of Xunantunich, cross a river on this hand-cranked wooden ferry.

We climbed into the car, panting and grinning from relief. We either smelled so bad, or were so tall and surprising that everyone packed inside the vehicle was stunned into silence.

I tried chatting in English, then had more success in Spanish, given that we were right by the Guatemalan border. The ride revealed we were still miles away from the ferry to the hill to the ruins.

How amazing is the jungle around Xunantunich? Look at the tiny people next to the towering trees!

“You saved us!” I gushed to the leathery driver in Spanish as we paid him. He cracked the first smile of the ride and puttered off.

“Hello,” said a soft spoken Belizean man with the local Jamaican-like accent. “Would you like a guide for the ruins? It will enhance your experience. It will be $20 U.S. dollars total.”

“We should probably get a guide,” reasoned Colin, “or we’ll just be dumbly looking at rocks.”

Without our excellent guide at Xunantunich, we would have just been ignorantly staring at stones.

Let me tell you: This guide was well worth $20. He knew everything, and was professional, patient, and interesting. In addition to his knowledge, he also displayed such love and reverence for Xunantunich (despite having led the tour hundreds or even thousands of times) that it inspired us.

Again and again we are impressed by the caliber of the Belizean tourist industry and its people.

We climbed all the way up to the top of El Castillo where you can sit on the edge, no guardrail!

Our guide even explained to us about the misinterpretation that had led us to hike along the highway for miles: “The people told you the ruins were close by because they wanted to make you feel better.”

“Um, that didn’t really make us feel better,” said Colin, swaying from the continued sunstroke.

Since then, we now know to multiply any time estimates here in Belize by at least three.

The sides of Xunantunich are adorned with ornate, symbolic decorations. When we visited, these girls were sliding down the grass like I used to fly down snowy hills in Boston’s winter.

Now let’s talk about Xunantunich. These celebrated Mayan ruins are around 1,212 years old, awe-inspiring, and rightly considered some of the best in Belize.

Several facts stood out to us. One, the tallest structure (“El Castillo”), which we ultimately climbed, has a secret back staircase. The Mayan ruler used to walk up the front staircase to halfway up the pyramid, then flit over to the back staircase, where he’d enter the building and do a quick costume change. He’d then emerge (seemingly by magic) at the very top of the structure, just like a god!

How often do you get to sit atop a 1,212-year old, 130-foot-tall ancient Mayan building? Unbelievable.

Another fact about Xunantunich that made me gasp centered around sports: They ancient Mayans used to play a ball game similar to soccer… and KILL the losing team! When the Mayans would play this sport, one team would usually be made up of captives from other places– unfortunate souls who had never played the ball game before. Which side do you think usually lost??

This piece of athletic history gave new weight to the Olympic events Colin and I watched that evening. There was a time when sports WERE life or death!

Does this spot look tempting to you? Then travel to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in San Ignacio, Belize!

When we finally made it back to our hotel that evening, we were so tired we could barely move. We sprawled on the bed, murmuring, “What an honor it was to climb 1,212-year-old Mayan ruins today!”


#446043 - 09/07/12 10:13 AM Re: Xunantunich Maya Site [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Here's a site with some cool drawings of Mayan temples from around Cayo, Belize, and La Ruta Maya.

"Steve Radzi, owner of Mayavision, is a renown illustrator of Mayan archaological sites throughout Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. He is located in Coral Springs, Florida."



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