Monday, July 7, 2008

Tikal, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech & El Pilar

Belize's western Cayo District borders Guatemala and there are several Maya ruins in the general vicinity. The district is a 90-minute drive from Belize City International Airport.

What to do

Tikal National Park This ruin of more than 3,000 buildings was home to an estimated 100,000 Mayans and is located in Guatemala, about 50 miles northwest of its border with western Belize's Cayo District. The drive from the town of San Ignacio in that district is almost entirely on dirt roads and takes about two hours. The Lodge at Chaa Creek offers a full-day guided tour for 1-4 people at $275 per person, which includes transportation, lunch, and visa/entry fees.

Xunantunich Reached by a hand-cranked ferry ride across the Mopan River, this important ceremonial center features "El Castillo," a monument that is among the tallest buildings in Belize, and an exceptional stucco carving of Maya deities. The ferry is located on the Western Highway in the village of San Jose Succotz in the Cayo District. Chaa Creek offers this tour for $100 per person.

Cahal Pech This site is located in the Cayo District on a hill overlooking San Ignacio. Its center is made up of 34 structures, the tallest of which is 77 feet high. Dating to 1200 B.C., it is one of the earliest Maya settlements in the Maya lowlands.

El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna Located north of Bullet Tree Falls in the Cayo District, and about 10 miles from San Ignacio, this site affords incredible views of the Belize River Valley. El Pilar is 32 miles from Tikal. Chaa Creek's tour is $135 per person.

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