The second stop on our Mayan Ruins tour was the 2nd largest site in the region, Xunantunich, or the stone lady:

Xunantunich (shoo-NAHN-too-nich) is a Maya archaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles (130 km) west of Belize City (Latitude : 17.083 , Longitude : -89.133), in the Cayo District. Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border. Its name means "Stone Woman" in the Maya language (Mopan and Yucatec combination name), and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is currently unknown. The "Stone Woman" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892. She is dressed completely in white, and has fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of El Castillo; ascends the stone stairs and disappears into a stone wall.

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The guide told us a story that the site actually wasn’t called the Stone Lady by the Mayans. A recent discovery (everything is recent, they still have so much to uncover) found that the Mayan’s called it the Clay Mountain.

Getting to the site is an interesting experience, you cross on a hand cranked ferry. We were fortunate, as we arrived the tour buses from the cruise ships were leaving.

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I found the site breathtakingly beautiful and we were fortunate, there were very few people there (perhaps due to the intermittent rain and timing). The site is riddled with buildings, six plazas center the complex with 26 temples and palaces surrounding it.

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A class of students was leaving the site as we climbed the primary temple. I am going to guess they are in grade 11.

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As you can see by this shot, huge mounds remain. Inside those mounds are more ruins, unexplored and uncovered due to lack of funding.

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Next, the pyramid known as "El Castillo".



I was most looking forward to the Mayan ruins in Belize. I love going to historical sites and learning about ancient cultures (Egypt remains my favourite trip of all time). Our trip took us to two ruins, Chahal Pech and Xunantunich.

What is very different about the Mayan ruins and culture is how little is known. Unlike other cultures which have documents (in the form of hieroglyphics or the like), the Mayan culture is quite the mystery. It seemed like much of their lifestyle, rituals and culture history is based on hypothesis. One big question that remains unanswered is what happened to the Maya civilization? Why did their culture die out?


Some 88 different theories or variations of theories attempting to explain the Classic Maya Collapse have been identified.[4] From climate change to deforestation to lack of action by Mayan kings, there is no universally accepted collapse theory, although drought is gaining momentum as the leading explanation

I also found it interesting that much of their history remains buried. It would seem that the lack of resources and funding has left many of the sites covered. Even in the large Xunantunich site, there were huge mounds to each side which entombed ancient ruins. The history of the Maya (that they do know) is that each new leader built on top of the old one, so layers upon layers remain undiscovered.

Awaiting a foreign University’s funding …..