There are numerous ancient structures around the Xunantunich site. It was the first Mayan ruin in Belize to be opened to the public when a road and hand cranked ferry bridge were built in 1954 to access the site. Xunantunich is an example of the “Classic” period of Mayan history, from about 300 A.D. to 900 A.D. The site was largely abandoned by the Mayans about 900 A.D., possibly due to a massive earthquake in the region. The exploration of Xunantunich began in the late 1800’s by the British.
Most tourists make a point of climbing “El Castillo”, a 130-foot high pyramid near the center of the ruins. “El Castillo,” which has been partially excavated and explored, was the tallest man-made structure in all of the Belize until the discovery of “Canaa” at Caracol. The most notable feature on “El Castillo” is a remarkable stucco frieze on the east side of the A-6 structure. Three carved stelae found at the site are on display in the plaza. The name is Mayan for “stone lady” and is derived from local legend. From the top of El Castillo, you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view over the jungle canopy of the Macal, Mopan and Belize River valleys, as well as a vast area of the Guatemalan Peten District, which is only a few miles away.