Xunantunich – a popular Ancient Mayan Ceremonial City

Cayo Travel Blog – Xunantunich a popular tourist destination.

Xunantunich translated means maiden of the rock or stone lady.


"El Castillo" Structure A6. The main temple at Xunantunich.

This is an ancient Ceremonial Mayan City and is one of Belize’s largest and best known temples.  It is also one of the most popular attractions in Belize.  Shown here is structure A6 “El Castillo” which summits 130 feet high, providing a panoramic view of the surrounding area including neighbouring Guatemala.   It also bears a remarkable stucco frieze on the East and West sides of the pyramid representing the celestial bodies.   Recent archaeological discovery of a west freize at Xunantunich provides evidence that the Maya knew they had to abondon this site but that they were hoping to return.

Xunantunich - north plaza

Xunantunich a view of the north plaza from the top of the main temple.

Access to the site is by a hand wenched ferry over the Mopan River.   Very cool.

So visiting the Maya ruins is one of the popular things to do in Belize and in fact in the Cayo district there are several of the most popular Mayan sites in the country to visit.  Xunantunich is a very popular ruin, it is close to Cayo (San Ignacio) and a short bus or taxi trip will get you there.  Its awesome to climb the ruins and check out the panoramic vistas from the top of “El Castillo” which is the main temple there.  Look to the west and you see Guatemala.   You can have a licensed guide give you a tour  or you can tour on your own.  Personally I think hiring a tour guide is a lot better because suddenly a rock becomes more than a rock it tells  a story and the images on it suddenly become clear and interesting.  If you come to Cayo by all means visit Xunantunich.  You won’t be disappointed.

So how does it cost and how do I get there from J and R Guest House in Cayo?

Xunantunich is close to the town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District, and J and R Guest house is just two small blocks away from the bus station.  Take a bus or taxi, from the Savannah street Bus station by the market in downtown San Ignacio.   This short bus or taxi trip (aprox. $2 BZE) will get you to the entrance of the park in the village of San Jose Succotz.  Get off at entrance to the Mayan site.  Once there take the ferry across the Mopan river. For fun volunteer to turn the hand powered winch that drives the ferry across the Mopan river.  I think the ferry crossing is free.  In greek mythology you always tip the ferry man, but I know of no such tipping in Mayan Mythology.   All the same, I suppose tipping the ferry man isn’t out of the question.   There are is a park fee (aprox $10 BZE).  You can tour the site on your own but I would recommend hiring a tour guide to learn the fascinating history of the site, structures and the Maya. Guided tours by trained and licensed tour guides could run you between $25 to $40 BZE. There is a souvenir stand and souvenir vendors near the ferry.  You might still see Mayan children bathing in the river or Mayan women stone washing their clothing in the river.  Stone washed jeans wasn’t invented recently you know.  If you visit Xunantunich plan on at least a half day.  Also recommeded is that you visit the Mayan ruins of Cahal Pech on your way back to the town of San Ignacio (also called Cayo by the locals).

We do hope you visit Xunnatunich if you come to the Cayo District.  And if you are in need of budget accommodations then J and R Guest House will be glad to host your stay.

For more info n Budget accommodations please visit our website:

For more tour info on the Maya ruins please visit
More photos for Xunantunich are available at

Thanks for reading our Cayo Travel Blog and please feel free to comment.

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One Response to Xunantunich – a popular Ancient Mayan Ceremonial City

  1. rl says:

    You can charter a taxi (this means that the taxi takes you to the Xunantunich Maya Ruins and waits on you) for about $75 BZE Dollars but it’s cheaper to take the bus which runs regularly between San Ignacio and the western towns of Benque Viejo. Use the money you save and hire a tour guide for an excellent guided tour of the Mayan site.

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