Best Way to Experience Xunantunich
For national monuments (such as Xunantunich), the Belize Government requires that you be accompanied by a licensed-trained tour guide. This is not only for your safety, but the governments way of protecting their historical monuments.
Plan to spend the day here so you’ve plenty of time to see everything, take photos and learn more about the site’s two building spurts (the first, about 800 AD and the second around 900 AD). The frieze travel writers talk most about is on the east end of the building where you’ll also find Chaac, the rain god. If you want to impress fellow travelers, share this tidbit: When the first buildings were constructed, El Castillo occupied the center of the village, but when the second construction wave doubled the site’s size, El Castillo wound up on the southern edge.
When is the Best Time to Go?
Because this easy-to-reach Mayan historic site is located on elevated land that can escape flooding when seasonal rains fall, Xunantunich is usually accessible 24/7. That said, if rivers rise as a result of a particularly wet green season, boarding the ferry to make the shore-to-shore river journey could be problematic, so if this site is atop your “must-see” list, visit Belize before June and after August.
Where is Xunantunich located?
If you’ve a map of Belize, you will notice that this ancient Maya village is situated in western Belize, about 80 miles west of Belize City in the nation’s Cayo District. Specifically, it’s 6.5 miles west of San Ignacio on the Western Highway. It’s so close to Guatemala—less than a mile, in fact—that you may be able to spot it sitting atop a hill overlooking the Mopan River on your way to or from the neighboring nation.
What is the Best Way to Reach Xunantunich?
You’ll probably get a kick out of the free, hand-cranked ferry that leaves the village of San Jose Succotz, traverses the Mopan River and delivers you to the opposite bank where you’ll travel by foot or by vehicle about a mile (uphill) to the attraction’s ticket office on the Western Highway. You must request the ferry because there is no set schedule, though operating hours run from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., so unless you intend to swim, don’t forget to book it.