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Easily explored, beautiful and not really busy
It lacks interpretive info like U.S. monuments
In a nutshell
Well worth a visit!
Our Trek Stop accommodations just outside the hamlet of San Jose de Succotz was very conveniently located for visiting Xunantunich - a short 15 minute walk along the main highway toward Guatemala brought us to this scenic ferry crossing. This hand-cranked affair crosses back and forth over the Mopan River, providing the only access to the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich. The single operator winches the the ferry back and forth for both cars and pedestrians as they turn up on one side of the river or the other.
I had a good talk with him as we crossed on our 8:30 AM walk to the ruins, and he pointed out a very large Green Iguana (they can reach 7-feet in length) to me, as it lay out over the river on a tree branch, warming up in the morning sunshine. Tourists taking kayak tours on the Mopan (and ourselves as well on our tubing ride) have to keep an eye out here as they pass the ferry but it is not difficult since the aerial cable used to winch the ferry is plenty high above the water level. I gave the guy $BZ2 (US$1) for his efforts on our short crossings here.
Updated Dec 7, 2007
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: No matter what the temperature, I recommend wearing long pants to prevent scrapes and keep insect bites to a minimum. You'll need shoes with good traction because the rocks are slippery.
Miscellaneous: Cover exposed areas with sunscreen and insect repellent. Don't forget your lips-they can burn too!
Updated Aug 15, 2004
Xunantunich is one of the larger Mayan sites in Belize. It was an important city during its height as it competed with Tikal in Guatemala and Caracol to the south in Belize. The main structure here is the El Castillo which rises nearly 130 feet above an already high hill top allowing great views of the Cayo. It has been restored to show what the reliefs may have looked like during its height in AD 900 before a massive earthquake badly damaged the city. There are other structure around the El Castillo with some trails leading to jungle covered ones nearby. There is a small but nice museum with a scale model of the site.
The bridge to Xunantunich is actually a hand cranked ferry on a cable. It is located about 13 kms away west from San Ignacio. It takes cars as well as passengers for free. After getting over the Belize River you must walk the remaining 2km uphill to the site. If you come back as the park closes may be able to get a ride with the workers.
Cost $2.50 US
Small shops with snacks, water, and other souvenirs
Buses can drop you off here as they frequent this road from San Ignacio to boarder town of Benque Viejo.
Written Dec 15, 2003