Xunantunich, San Ignacio Market and Cahal Pech

Marta's Adventures in Belize - Part 9

Getting into the Maya Ancient World. Part 1

Belize is a country with diverse cultures! This being one of the many reasons that made me fall in love with this country. Everywhere you go in Belize, you will find a mix of the different ethnic groups that makes up Belize’s population, be that the Garifunas, Mestizos, Creoles, Mennonites or the Mayas.

The Ancient Mayas have been living in this area for thousands of years. Today, you can still find remnants of this culture in the modern Maya and you can see traces of their ancient way of life.

In the next posts I will share with you my favorite places to discover and explore the Maya culture in Belize!

XUNANTUNICH

If you visit Belize, you can´t miss the opportunity to visit one of the most famous Maya sites, Xunantunich. It is situated just 6 miles from San Ignacio, the second largest city in Belize, Belize City being the largest. Xunantunich derives from the Yucatec Maya language and means “Stone Woman”. It is a Classic Period Ceremonial Center dating back to the 7th Century AD. One of the coolest thing of this site is that it can only be reached by crossing the Mopan river via a hand cranked ferry!

El Castillo Xunantunich
El Castillo at Xunantunich and the sun god masks.

The highest ruin, called “El Castillo” (The castle) is 133 feet tall, the second tallest manmade structure in Belize. Its well-preserved with sun god masks decorating one side of the structure. Six major plazas, more than 25 temples and palaces and a new museum are just some of the reasons why Xunantunich is one of the most visited site in Belize.

I loved to have had the chance to climb up to “El Castillo” and enjoy the panoramic views of the Belize Rainforest and the Mopan River. I could be sitting there for hours, just delighting myself with the views, the fresh air and magical Maya atmosphere.

View from El Castillo Xunantunich
Me enjoying the amazing and magical views from the top of the El Castillo

 

SAN IGNACIO FARMERS MARKET

If you want a real and authentic experience, the farmers market in San Ignacio on a Saturday morning is the place to be! Besides enjoying the colors of the stands, the smell of the fresh fruit and vegetables and the taste of some traditional home cooked meals, like pupusas, tacos, tortillas, here you find not only the Maya people of today but also all the different cultures of Belize, each one with their unique peculiarity.

San Ignacio Farmers Market
Fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. Is there a better shopping experience than this?

Fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. Is there a better shopping experience than this?

I was especially curious about the Mennonites whom we saw selling their fresh products like eggs, cookies, bread and vegetables at the market. A curiosity in me grew that I wanted to know more about them. I found out that they are a very peaceful, hard-working community that has been living in Belize since the 50´s and that they have their own rules and lifestyle, living today just like they were living 150 years ago. This is just incredible!

I highly recommend you to have a walk around and recover some energies with any of the tasty traditional dishes that you can find there. After that you will be ready to continue your adventure discovering another amazing Maya site.

cultures in belize

 

CAHAL PECH

Continuing through this area of Belize, in the Cayo District you can´t miss a visit to Cahal Pech Archaeological Site, which means “Place of the Ticks”. This site rests above the banks of the Macal River and was home to a Maya Royal Family in the Classic Period. Cahal Pech consists of seven plazas and over 30 structures including temples, residential buildings, ball courts, an altar, and a sweat-house, all situated on just 2 acres. In one of these buildings they found the tomb of a ruler that had been laid to rest with some objects necessary for the afterlife. Included in the tomb were shell & bone ornaments, pottery vessels, obsidian blades, and jade objects, the most impressive being a jade & shell mosaic mask.

Cahal Pech
Cahal Pech

One of the temples in this small complex has one of the best view of the surrounding Belize River Valley. I loved to get lost in the ancient corridors and plazas of Cahal Pech, one of the oldest Maya site in Western Belize.

These are just 3 of my favorite Maya experiences that you could enjoy in Belize! I can’t wait to tell you more about this ancient and wonderful Maya culture!

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