Brought to you by Ecologic Divers
In the spring of 2010, our family decided to take our quarterly adventure into the Belize jungle interior. For some time now, we have enjoyed numerous outings, but until just recently - we have never written about all the things we have gotten to see and do here in Belize.
Our trip this day, took us into the heart of the Belizean rain forest jungle, where we got to visit the mysterious Mayan ruins called Xunantunich (shoo-NAHN-too-nich), located in the Cayo District of Belize. Cayo by some, is considered the Switzerland of Belize. A more mountainous region or area, with rolling hill tops, swaying palms, rich in Maya culture, garifuna drums and both Spanish and English speaking inhabitants. The Cayo District, is located in the south-west corner of Belize, close to the border of Guatemala, in Central America.
We started our day boarding a boat from San Pedro (Ambergris Caye Island) to the Belize Mainland. Here we hopped into our tour guides van and drove for about 80 miles west from Belize City (about an hour and a half) to edge of the Mopan River. Here we crossed the river on a hand cranked ferry, and then drove to the park entrance.
Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River. Most of the structures date from the Maya Classic Era, about 200 to 900 AD. Upon investigation, there is some evidence, which indicates that some structures were damaged by an earthquake. This earthquake may have been the reason for the site's abandonment.
The Park area, or core of Xunantunich occupies about one square mile (2.6 km²), consisting of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. One of its structures, is a pyramid known as "El Castillo", the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol), reaching about 130 feet in height. Archeological excavations have uncovered a number of fine stucco facades at this site. This may suggest, that the temple was built in three stages in and around the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries. The "friezes", which are visible from the backside of the ruins, may have been placed there during the final stage of construction.
Once in the visitors center at this site, Mark (our tour guide) gave the kids and I a history lesson, explaining what the temple may have looked like years ago. Mark explain the ceremonial head-dresses of the Maya priests and the games they would play as part of their ceremonies. One of the best preserved ancient stelae is housed in a small weatherproofed building for conservation purposes. This artefact is a large stela dating back to the period around 200 BC to 150 AD; it depicts a Maya figure facing left. The figure is striding and clothed only in armbands.
From the visitors center, Mark then took us to the ruins itself, where we were able to see magnificent displays of frieze's all carved into the stone walls of the temple. Some of the most impression carvings I have ever seen in my life.
Xunantunich was an experience will will soon not forget. We would recommend this tour, to anyone looking to come to Belize. It was not only educational, but to see the ruins in the heart of the Belizean jungle is definitely impressive.