Xunantunich Adventure Tours
Xunantunich (shoo-NAHN-too-nich) is a Maya archaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Belize City, 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, 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. She is dressed completely in white, and has fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of El Castillo, ascends up the stone stairs, and disappears into a stone wall. Most of the structures date from the Maya Classic Era. There is evidence that some structures were damaged by an earthquake while they were occupied; this earthquake may have been a reason for the site’s abandonment.
The core of Xunantunich occupies about 1 square mile (2.6 km²), consisting of a series of 6 plazas surrounded by more than 25 temples and palaces. One of its structures, the pyramid known as “El Castillo,” is the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol), at some 130 feet (40 meters) tall. Archeological excavations have revealed a number of fine stucco facades on some of the ancient temples of this site.
The first modern explorations of the site were conducted by Thomas Gann in 1894 and 1895. Several projects of archeological excavations have been conducted at the site from the 1930s through the 1990s.