Xunantunich was an ancient Mayan town in the Cayo region of Belize, closest to the towns of Benque Viejo del Carmen and San Ignacio. Consisting of 9th century Maya ruins including "El Castillo," Xunantunich are Belize's most-visited Mayan site. Set on a hilltop overlooking the Mopan River, the site forms six groups with about 25 temples and palaces.
Xunantunich is located inland, about a 2-3 hour drive away from Belize City.
- To get there by bus, catch a bus toward Benque Viejo del Carmen at the main terminal. Tell the conductor that you are heading here, and they will drop you off for $1Bz. Cross the Mopan river via free hand cranked ferry, and then walk 1 mile to the site. It is also easy to hitch a ride from the San Ignacio vicinity. Admission to the park is about $10B. Park closed at about 4:00 pm. The ferry takes about 4-6 cars at a time-so sometimes there is a line up to leave (if you wait until 4:00 pm). It is the only way across the river.
- To get to Xunantunich by horseback, the family-run business Hanna Stables offers daily tours to Xunantunich by horseback riding. The half day trip begins and ends at Hanna Stables and includes a leisurely, guided horseback tour of Xunantunich. Arrange day trips, or book all-inclusive vacation packages at http://www.hannastables.com
- In August 2016, a flood destroyed one of the bridges in San Ignacio. As of December 2016, westbound traffic (towards Xunatunich from Belize City) was being diverted across a temporary bridge and through the small streets of San Igancio extending travel time. Eastbound traffic remains largely unaffected.
El Castillo is the tallest building in Xunantunich. It stands 40m (131') tall, with a 360° view at the top of jungle, ruins, and Guatemala.
Explore the grounds of Xunantunich by foot either by giving yourself a guided tour, or hiring a tour guide (as of December 2016 tour guides were asking about $30 for several hour guided tour - they are available before you cross the ferry). All structures within the grounds of Xunantunich including El Castillo can be climbed, offering a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding jungles.
If you're lucky, you may also encounter howler monkeys in the trees. The monkeys mostly keep to themselves and can make for great photo opportunities.
- Souvenirs of Xunantunich and native Belizean artwork are available for purchase at the onsite giftshops, or near the roads by the hand cranked ferries.
- Perhaps the most iconic souvenirs you can buy are Mayan slate artwork carved at the foothills of the ancient Mayan sites by the Mayan people themselves. Beautiful slate art of Mayan calendars and other pieces of art are available at very affordable rates.
Ask any local how to get to Benny's Kitchen to experience an authentic taste of Belize. Offering relaxed home-cooked meals such as the traditional rice and beans or farm fresh chicken soup, Benny's is often filled with locals watching the latest football (soccer) matches, or just hanging out with neighbors and friends.
Stop by Benny's Kitchen or any bar in the nearby San Ignacio town center for a crisp Belikin (Belizean beer), or a freshly made fruit smoothie or juice.
- In the town of Benque Viejo del Carmen (you can walk there from Xunantunich) you will find a burgeoning tourism industry that includes a variety of river and jungle adventures, stunning Mayan archeological ruins, horseback riding excursions, bird and wildlife watching and more. Otherwise Xunantunich makes a good halfday trip from San Ignacio. Consider spending the day and night relaxing in Benque before heading to Guatemala and Tikal.
- Nabitunich Stone Cottages, Mile 21 (along the Western Highway), ☎ +501 661-1536, . Nabitunich (The Stone Cottage) is a cozy base of accommodations suited for single, family, and group travelers seeking an affordable stay in San Ignacio, Belize. Located almost at the exact center of the 400 acre farm of San Lorenzo, Nabitunich offers a wide variety of outdoor pursuits to visitors and family alike. Visitors may participate in birding, botany, swimming or boating on the lovely Mopan River, or delight in discovering the multitude of hidden historical Mayan mounds scattered across the San Lorenzo Farm property. Stay for a night, or elect for a multi-day all-inclusive vacation package! http://www.hannastables.com/nabitunich/ $45 US per room, regardless of how many inhabitants. edit
- Benque Guest House, 22 Riverside Street (along the Mopan River), ☎ 011-501-823-2323, . The new Benque Guest House, located in the quaint little border town of Benque Viejo del Carmen, welcomes you to a world of tropical wonder. Built in 2008, this eco-friendly guest house offers all the comforts of home and business, great food, fun, character-rich conversation and a sense of community. $25 - $85 US. edit
- Guatemala and Tikal. Getting across the border is quite the experience.
- To return to San Ignacio, simply catch any bus from the other side of the street. They will all head to San Ignacio.