Welcome to the last post about our Belize trip. This post may look super long, but don't you worry, it's mostly pictures, as th...

Unbelizeable Part 4: San Ignacio, Xunantunich, & Cahal Pech


Welcome to the last post about our Belize trip. This post may look super long, but don't you worry, it's mostly pictures, as they really are worth a thousand words, especially when we're talking ruins. After our amazing time at Caracol, we were excited to check out the ruins that were close to San Ignacio. First we headed into town for breakfast, at a local diner called Pop's Restaurant, which did not disappoint as it was delicious. One of the waitresses had a shirt on advertising organic Belizean dark chocolate, and being the addict that I am, we had to ask her about it. The place was super close by so we walked the neighborhood until we found it, a place called AJAW Chocolate. We were running low on cash at that point, otherwise I would've bought a ton of it. It's a good thing I didn't though since it would've all melted before I could've eaten or brought it home. But man was it good! They had a farm nearby where you can take tours and see the elaborate process that is chocolate making, but unfortunately we didn't have time. Next trip for sure. :)

Next we headed west out of town for about a half hour to Xunantunich. We were not expecting much from the sites on our list that day since we'd read and heard they were quite a bit smaller than the others we'd seen, but they did not disappoint in the least. They were still well excavated and impressive. 


While on top of the above structure we looked in the tree behind it and were greeted by an adorable group of Howler Monkeys. They keep their distance but we got a pretty good look. At least they didn't sling any snickers bars!

Howler Monkeys
Xunantunich boasts the second tallest building in Belize, "El Castillo", at 130 feet tall, second only to Canaa at Caracol. I didn't notice the 10 feet of difference though. Canaa was a massively large structure, tall and wide and really deep, so when you're at the top you don't feel like you're looking down a cliff as you have lots of space to walk around. El Castillo on the other hand is a bit narrower at the top, so it feels a lot more like you're standing on the edge of a cliff. For those who share my fear of heights, you'll understand the significant difference.

El Castillo front view
Side view of El Castillo
Other side view of El Castillo
All fears aside, it was awesome. You really feel like you're on top of the world up there. Brian was of course fascinated by the acoustics and wasn't afraid to sing both while he was in the center of the plaza and I was on top of the structures, and vice versa. He's convinced they were stages instead of the more popular theories of a nice place to chop off heads and chuck them off the side. I'd have to agree the music idea sounds a hell of a lot nicer than human sacrifice. But the more they decipher of their hieroglyphs, the more it sounds like, at least some of the Mayans, weren't very nice. But for a civilization that lasted about 3,000 years, they couldn't have been killing each other in mass quantities that entire time and survived that long, so I'm still holding out hope that they weren't always sacrificing each other. Or at least that it wasn't as gruesome as Apocalypto made it look. Either way, they accomplished some brilliant things.

View of the site from the top of El Castillo
White road in the distance is Guatemala border
We were so close to the border here, I really wanted to go the rest of the way and jump the fence just so I could say I made it to Guatemala too. But as Brian so nicely pointed out, I'd likely come back with a bullet in my ass. I laughed and said it's not the US/Mexico border! Anyways Guatemala is its own trip for us to make someday, as they also have a ton of Mayan ruins and rainforest to see.

Happy on top of the world
We finished the exploration with some iguanas and a quick walk through their museum. 


1300 year old skeleton
After this adventure, we headed back to San Ignacio for lunch. We'd passed a place the night before that had looked promising and while googling around for good food spots I happened upon it. It was called Guava Limb Cafe. The menu was the kind that you simply cannot make up your mind because everything sounded amazing. It was our kinda place too with lots organic and local ingredients. It was so good we both agreed before we were even done eating that we were coming back for dinner. And we did. And it was just as good the second time. Perhaps better because we had some amazing cocktails then. If you find yourself in San Ignacio, Belize, eat here. You will not be disappointed.

Next we headed to Cahal Pech, a ruin that is literally in the city limits. We weren't sure what to expect here, but it turned out to be really fascinating. Instead of super tall structures, they were elaborate, labyrinth-like houses. We also went through the museum which had a lot of good history to read. This site is one of the oldest in Belize, dating back to 1200 BC.









Then we headed back the the cabin and cooled off in the river, hung out with the host's friendly cats, and wished we weren't leaving the next day. It was a really good day. The kind of day that had us both saying to each other...why don't we live here? :D



Read the rest of the trip here!

Part 1: Orange Walk & Lamanai
Part 2: Beach Life in Sittee Point
Part 3: Caracol

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