Located just a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the town center of San Ignacio, Cahal Pech is a small but significant archaeological reserve that can be visited in a couple of hours. The site, which was settled around 1,000 BC and abandoned in AD 800, includes plazas, ball courts, an altar, and even a royal burial chamber.
Cahal Pech (which means "place of ticks" in Mayan) boasts seven plazas and more than 30 structures; the tallest temple is about 82 feet (25 meters) high, and was built around a central acropolis. Before visiting the sight, you can find information on Cahal Pech, and Maya history and daily life in the on-site museum. Tours of the ruins usually combine a visit with other outdoor activities, such canoeing on the Macal River.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You can easily explore the site in an hour because the ruins are contained with a compact area.
- Birdwatching is a popular activity here, with the chance to spot hummingbirds, parrots, birds of prey, and migratory birds.
- Bring insect repellent and wear sturdy shoes to explore the site.
How to Get There
Cahal Pech is close to the Macal and Mopan rivers and about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the neighboring site of Xunantunich. The ruins are within walking distance of San Ignacio, about a mile (1.6 kilometers) up a steep hill, and take five to 10 minutes to reach. You can also grab a taxi to the entrance from town.
When to Get There
This archaeological site isn’t as popular as other sights in Belize like Caracol and Xunantunich, so you will probably not encounter many other tourists. If birdwatching is on your agenda and it’s a hot day, plan to arrive in early morning or late afternoon, because birds are more active when it’s cooler.
Located near the Guatemalan border, about a 2.5-hour drive from Cahal Pech, the ancient Maya city of Caracol is the largest archaeological site in Belize. It includes more than 35,000 structures, five plazas, and plenty of jungle. It’s trickier to access than Cahal Pech and requires a military escort because of its proximity to the border.