Mayan for “Stone maiden” Xunantunich is definitely one of Belize’s prettiest Maya archaeological sites, renowned for exquisite architecture, beautiful frescos and stelae, as well as its park-like atmosphere and stunning views from the top of El Castillo, the iconic pyramid temple. Xunantunich was an important ceremonial centre built around AD 600 near the end of the Maya Late Classic Period, boasting a population of some 10,000 people at its peak, and apparently continued to thrive while other Maya centres such as Tikal and Caracol were in decline. However by around 1000 AD Xunantunich was abandoned.
As far as Central American countries go, Belize has not always been known as a “must-see” travel destination as compared to its more famous neighbors, Mexico and Guatemala. But over the last 10 years, Belize has built a reputation founded on its determination to protect the rainforests and farms of its land. With the rise in the popularity of ecotourism, Belize has positioned itself as a leader in the field, with the government protecting 40% of the land for conservation purposes.
Xunantunich was amazing. Joe knew the history of everything we saw, and told us all about the mythology, rituals, habits, politics, and even showed us their ball court. As we moved through, we came to a clearing. As we came into the clearing, it opened up to our left, showing us a massive palace, El Castillo, and several small temples. They looked incredible. A dozen pictures later, Joe took us closer. We looked up at it from the bottom, and I snapped away on the camera.