The ancient Maya ruins of Xunantunich (“Maiden of the Rock,” pronounced shoe-nan-too-nitch) are accessed by a short crossing of the Mopan River on a hand-cranked chain ferry. Held within the Belizean rainforest, this site includes Maya plazas, palaces, and temples, as well as a modern museum. Guests have the choice of getting there and back by car, or starting the tour with an hour-long horseback ride originating at the nearby Hanna Stables and finishing with a private picnic on the banks of the Mopan River. You may ride your horse or be driven back.
The hills were first occupied between 400 and 200 BC, though it wasn’t until 600 AD that Xunantunich was used as a ceremonial site—making the entire settlement some 1,400 years old. Your expert guide will explain in great detail the culture and beliefs of the Maya, and you will see the ancient ball court where warriors often lost their heads whether they were victors or losers!
From atop the ruins, you can take in a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The climb is taken slowly and with caution, and the rewards are well worth the effort. Stop on the way back to the resort at a traditional market in Succotz, on the Mopan River, offering local crafts made from cloth, slate, wood, and other natural materials.
A visit to Xunantunich can be combined with other tours.