Belize must be confused.
They hyped up the visit of Prince Harry of Wales, yet they forgot they have royalty living here at the moment, The Kings! Perhaps, we’re not as prolific or publicly known yet (the only camera we have following us is our own), and we certainly don’t want that many government officials with hidden guns surrounding us, but we did find it our duty to inspect the ruins prior to the Prince’s visit.
So, to be kind to our ‘royal cousin’, we took a trip to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins to make sure they were up to standard for Prince Harry’s visit. Lucky for him, they were absolutely beautiful.
Getting to Xunantunich
A quick 10 minute bus ride ($1.50 bzd) from the center of San Ignacio will take you to San Jose Succotz by the Mopan River, where a free, hand cranked ferry will pull you across. The ruins are an easy one mile uphill hike. Entry to the ruins is $10 bzd ($5 US). We opted not to take a tour, but there are tour guides available for $25 US. The site itself is simple to maneuver without a tour and information is available in a visitor center located at the site. The center includes a map of the site, significant developments, and photos. We found it to be more than enough information for our interests.
After the visitor center we climbed one last set of stairs and emerged out of the trees to be met by El Castillo which towers over the jungle and other structures. Right away we felt the magic and mystery of the ruins. The Castillo is the largest structure on the site and was used for religious ceremonies. Near the top, it has beautiful friezes on the east and west sides of it.
The Castillo begs to be climbed.
And we had 4 sets of little legs that were ready to do so. Luckily, there are no ropes or barriers that prohibit you from doing just that. There are also no handrails either! We climbed the stairs to explore the construction of the Castillo. The steps are steep, but not dangerous.
The View from El Castillo
The view from the top of El Castillo is breathtaking. We gazed at the Belize and Guatemala countryside (only a few miles away). Basking in a 360 degree view of the jungle canopy, it’s easy to understand why the Maya choose this site. However, this is high! 130 feet up in the air with no handrails. Already our knees feel a little weak, and with a fearless 3-year old running around the top, our hearts became weak as well. I think it’s time for us to climb down.
Xunantunich is a perfect Mayan site to visit, with or without kids, especially this year: 2012, the year of the Maya. The site is the perfect size for a relaxing morning or afternoon trip. We truly enjoyed the energy in our first tour of Mayan ruins.