Mayan Ruins in Belize are beautiful and if you are lucky you may even have these incredible historical sites to yourself.
We were told the steps were designed for you to crawl to the Gods. They are very narrow. With this in mind, it was much safer to explore the ruins by crawling up the steps rather than walking up them as you would normally do. While staying in San Ignacio we visited three incredible Mayan ruins.
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Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins
We stayed at the Cahal Pech Resort , so the ruins were a short, but steep walk from the hotel. Because of the close proximity it was the first place we visited in San Ignacio.
Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
Located in the Cayo District and one of our favorite spots in Belize, the Xunantunich Mayan ruins was a fascinating visit. Xunantunich, also known as the Stone Woman, is near the border of Guatemala about 30 minutes from San Ignacio.
Just getting there is a mini adventure. You take a hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River. Passengers in the vehicle will be asked to get out of the car while you and your vehicle are taken across the river. You can tip the ferry operators when you reach the other side.
What to see at Xunantunich
The Xunantunich Mayan archaeological site covers one square mile. Some notable sites includes the Palace residential palace, Plaza A-3, which sits directly across from El Castillo (A-6)
The El Castillo pyramid at the Xunantunich Mayan archaeological site is the second largest structure in Belize. It is 130 feet tall. The structure has incredible detailed frieze.
The kids loved exploring this Mayan archaeological site.
From the top you will have amazing views of both Belize and Guatemala.
Actun Tunichil Muknal ATM Mayan Caves
If you have time for only one activity in San Ignacio, a visit to the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Mayan Caves is a once in a lifetime experience. If you want to feel like Indiana Jones for the day, this is your kind of adventure.
The ATM cave is a full day excursion. To explore the cave you must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide. We chose Carlos the Caveman Tours.
What to Bring
- Good walking shoes
- Clothes that dry fast
You will get wet. You will wade through water and rock within the cave. Choose attire accordingly.
Start of the Excursion
A driver picked us, party of five, up at the hotel. We had a short stop in Tea Kettle Village to pick up supplies, our tour guide and one other traveler. We drove for about 45 minutes through the jungle roads. On the way we saw a couple of toucan birds and the tour guide told us some history about the town, and farming. The tour guide was very knowledgeable.
Rules for the Excursion
Nothing, but the clothes on your back can be taken into the cave. You can carry a bag with some supplies such as water bottles or snacks, but they will be stored outside of the cave.
Other than the first river we forded, all photos were given to us by our tour guide. Thank you to Carlos the Caveman Tours for the photos on this page.
Begin Your Hike
From the parking area, your guide will lead you across the first river. When we went the water was above the waist, we ford the rivers by staying in a single file line and using a rope to guide you.
The hike through the jungle is on a dirt path and a relatively easy hike. Our tour guide walked at a steady pace, but stopped to talk about the area. He had us chew on some leaves that were growing along the path to prevent insect bites. It tasted pretty bad, but none of us had any insect bites the entire day. Before you reach the cave you will ford two more rivers.
At the end of the jungle path there is an area for you to leave your bag with any supplies you brought with, such as water bottles. From here you will reach a little clearing and will swim to the entrance of the cave. Once inside you will make your way through the water. Some areas you will need to walk sideways to get through.
The cave consists of several chambers. The three mile journey is what makes this experience such an adventure. There are few places in the world where you can view Mayan artifacts and the remains of sacrificed victims a few inches from your feet. It is like stepping back in time.
Toward the end you will reach a large flat area from here you can climb up a wooden ladder to reach the final resting place of Mayan sacrifice