12 Surprising Things You Might Not Know About Xunantunich Mayan Ruins

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xunantunich mayan ruins belize

Located on the banks of the Mopan River approximately 80 miles west of Belize City, Xunantunich is one of the most interesting Mayan sites in Belize. Abandoned by its original inhabitants approximately a thousand years ago, the city was reclaimed by the jungle until the archeologist Thomas Gann began excavations in 1892. Recent high-tech scans by American archeologists have revealed that the greater Xunantunich metropolis is far larger than originally believed. Today, visitors are allowed to visit the core central area, home to sweeping plazas, soaring temples, and gorgeous buildings adorned with intricate carvings and elaborate stucco friezes.

Below are 12 surprising things that you might not know about Xunantunich:

1.) It is the home to “El Castillo” (The Castle), an enormous 130-foot high temple that is still one of the tallest buildings in Belize.

2.) One of the most popular panoramic views in Belize is from atop El Castillo.

3.) “Xunantunich” is a Mayan term that means “stone woman”, and many locals believe that a female ghost haunts the ruins.

4.) The only way to get to Xunantunich is by a had-cranked ferry across the Mopan River.

5.) Xunantunich was founded more than 3,000 years ago.

6.) Together with the city-state of Naranjo (now in Guatemala), Xunantunich once dominated the western Belize River valley area.

7.) Enormous stucco friezes still in place on the sides of a temple depict the pantheon of Mayan deities.

8.) The on-site visitor center is a museum displaying jewelry and other interesting finds discovered in Xunantunich.

9.) As many as 10,000 people once inhabited the city and its environs.

10.) Much of the population of Xunantunich died approximately 1,100 years ago following a devastating earthquake. The damage from the quake is still visible in the temple of El Castillo.

11.) “Downtown” Xunantunich is just one square mile in size but contains six plazas and more than two dozen temples and palaces.

12.) Unlike many other nearby Mayan cities, the residents of Xunantunich managed to survive the end of the Classic Period.

xunantunich maya ruins in belize


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With so many interesting things to explore in Xunantunich, it is easy to understand why this site has become one of the most popular visitor destinations in Belize.

Questions about Xunantunich Mayan Ruins? Send us an email or call 239- 494- 3281. We will love to help you plan a tour to this amazing Mayan site in western Belize.

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