Xunantunich Maya Ruins
|A popular day excursion
from Belize City
The maya ruins of Xunantunich (pronounced “zoo-NAN-too-NICH”) in western Belize is one of the most popular cruise excursions from Belize City and rightfully so. The archaeological site contains one of the largest
structures ever built in either modern or ancient Belize, the 132-foot tall pyramid "El Castillo."
The name Xunantunich is based on the legend of a hunter (or hunters) who at the end of the 1800s was passing
the pyramid at sunrise when he was startled by the appearance of beautiful
maiden wearing traditional Maya clothing.
The story became a popular one, and so the to Xunantunich, usually interpreted as “the place of the Stone Maiden” in Mayan.
Yet the hunter's tale makes it clear the woman was flesh and blood female. Perhaps a more accurate though less common translation of Xunantunich is “Maiden of the Rock,” which better matches the legend.
Additionally, whenever it was time to carry out fertility rituals, young women were sacrificed as part of these ceremonies.
Perhaps it was one of the sacrificed maidens that materialized where I stand now, at the base of the 130-foot high pyramid known as El Castillo (The Castle), the second tallest Maya structure in Belize.
is still a place where once can climb. I follow a steep marked path up the right side
that leads to a broad grass terrace beside a temple section decorated
with a frieze containing stucco figures who dwarf me.