Xunantunich 400
Xunantunich, Belize
Photo by: madmack, Creative Commons

If you think of Belize, you might imagine scuba diving in the Belize Barrier Reef or just lounging about the white sandy beaches. What you may not know is that this beach hotspot is also the home of one of the most significant Mayan sites in South America called the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins.

Although the Xunantunich ruins are not the largest of the Mayan settlements, it certainly has its interesting features. Probably the most popular is the El Castillo, the tallest structure in Belize. Perched on a limestone cavern at 135 feet, the El Castillo gives you a panoramic view of the entire Xunantunich ruins and the Belize jungle. From down below, you can also observe the banded decoration which used to outline the perimeter of the El Castillo.

To start your trek through the ruins, it is recommended that you visit the museum first. The museum contains a 3-D model of the whole ruins and also gives you an insight on the history of the Mayan civilization. It also houses a few important relics that have been preserved and protected from the elements. After that, you can start exploring the area before heading off to El Castillo. A path for tourists has been cleared at the front and side of this Mayan ceremonial site. If you’re lucky, you may find a Mayan believer meditating harmoniously with the forces of nature and the Xunantunich gods.

Because of their short-lived existence, the Mayan civilization has been a mystery to present generations. By opening the Mayan settlements to the public, such as in the case of the Xunantunich Ruins, you can get a glimpse of the impressive structures and traditions that mark this fascinating and enigmatic culture.

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