Discover the fascinating history of Xunantunich, the ancient Mayan city that once was home to a population of up to 10,000 people. You'll be picked up at your San Ignacio hotel for the 15-minute drive to the site entrance. There, your tour vehicle will be transported across the mellow Mopan River on a traditional hand-cranked ferry. Be on the lookout for iguanas and bats that make their home on the riverbank.
Once inside the site, you'll be shuttled up to the excavated city, which was strategically built atop a plateau for defensive views of the surrounding valley. Stop at the visitor center for a brief overview of Xunantunich and its importance during the Classic Mayan period. Over the next 2 hours, you'll explore the archaeological site by foot, learning about the daily life and ceremonial practices of its inhabitants.
The ruins exhibit the complex social structure of the Maya, with residential palaces, civic structures, and a ball court, all organized around a series of plazas. Impossible to miss is the impressive El Castillo temple that rises 130 feet (40 meters) above the central plaza. Towering over the treetops of the surrounding jungle, it is the second-tallest building in all of Belize. Climb up a series of stone staircases and through hollow chambers to the top of the temple for stunning 360-degree views of the Belize River Valley. You can even see into neighboring Guatemala.
While walking around the site, see and learn about native plant species that the Maya used for cooking and medicine, such as cotton and allspice trees. The call of resident birds and howler monkeys provides an exotic soundtrack to your exploration.
After touring the ruins, rest your feet and relax over a traditional Belizean lunch at a local restaurant. You will then be dropped off back at your San Ignacio hotel.