We will drive you through the Mayan Mountains along the scenic Hummingbird highway to Belize’s western Border town of San Ignacio. The ancient Maya ruins of Xunantunich ("Maiden of the Rock" pronounced: “Shoe-nan-too-nitch”) are accessed by a short crossing on the Mopan River on a hand-cranked chain ferry which leads to the temples, courtyard and museum held within the Belize rainforest. The hills were first occupied between 400 BC and 200 BC and it wasn’t until 600 AD that Xunantunich was first used as a ceremonial site making the entire site some 1400 years old. Your expert guide will explain in great detail the culture and beliefs of the Maya, and you will see the ancient ball court where the Maya warriors often lost their heads whether they were the victors or losers! Once on top of the Xunantunich Maya ruins you will have a chance to take in the stunning views as a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding mountains and valleys opens up before you. The climb and descent are taken slowly and with caution but the efforts of the climb are well worth the rewards. Stop on the way back at a traditional market in Succotz on the Mopan River, offering local crafts made from cloth, slate, wood, fabrics and other natural products. This tour can be combined to visit the Ruins of Cahal Pech as well or combined with the 2.5 hour cave tube float at St. Herman’s cave, about the half way point on the journey back.
Tour length: 7-8 hours.
What to bring: It can be hot. Bring sunscreen, bug repellent and a hat.
Fitness level: Moderate
Actun Tunichil Muknal, commonly known by its shorter name, ATM Cave – is the crown jewel of all of Belize’s archaeological treasures. We will drive you on the Hummingbird Highway to the Tapir Mountain reserve to the Village of Teakettle where you will hike through gorgeous green jungle, back and forth across a gentle river, along which your guide will show you staples of the native flora like rubber trees, cacao trees, and chicle trees, before arriving at the cave itself. The cave was profoundly sacred to the Ancient Mayans as a spiritual and ceremonial site. Deep inside are the signs of their presence, perfectly preserved for over a thousand years: Carvings, vessels, and the bones of human beings who were sacrificed to Chaac, the rain god. To reach these wonders, your guide will lead you with care and respect–both for your safety, and for the preservation of the cave–up a gentle subterranean river, through passages as wide as cathedrals and narrow as canals. You’ll be surrounded on all sides by beautiful cave formations. Then you’ll leave the river to climb to an upper chamber, a terrace of pools that once flowed with water, but are now dry, where most of the human remains lie in their final resting places. Your guide will tell you what we know about these individuals–and what remains a mystery. The last individual you meet is the “Crystal Maiden,” a teenager who was sacrificed in a clandestine upper chamber. As the centuries passed her skeleton slowly turned to crystal, anchoring her to the cave floor. No cameras are allowed in the cave.
Tour length: 8-9 hours.
What to bring: Water shoes
Fitness level: Moderate