Charles Stewart Photography - Photography

Xunantunich, Belize

Xunantunich has long been a center of religious worship and everyday life. Dating back to sometime between 580 and 950 C.E., this Mayan Ceremonial Center was built in the jungles in the interior of Belize, close to the modern day border of Guatemala. Xunantunich disappeared into the jungles and was rediscovered sometime around 1895 C.E. after which it was restored to it’s modern condition. While the monuments and pyramids themselves have eroded by centuries of rain and jungle growth, the spirit of the Mayan People still permeate this modern day Shangri-la. While the site itself is clear of the cover of the jungle which deceptively hid it for centuries, getting to Xunantunich requires the traveler to transform himself into an Indiana Jones type explorer and adventurer.

Setting out from the populated coastal areas of Belize, one must traverse dirt roads and experience hair pin turns as the car snakes its way into the mountainous interior regions. After passing through countless villages along the way, the roads continue to narrow until you arrive at a ferry crossing on the Mopan River. One must exit the vehicle after it is driven onto the rickety, wooden ferry, stand along side the car with their back against the car, and watch the ferry master crank the Wooden Ferry, by hand, across the river. After the vehicle and its occupants arrive to the other side of the river, the journey continues uphill along a narrow dirt road further into the jungle as they arrive at the Xunantunich site. Although it is an adventure getting to this remote Mayan site, the traveler will be thrilled by the original Mayan carvings, so well preserved, and the views of neighboring Guatemala from atop “El Castillo“, the tallest pyramid in the ruins. Surrounded by the jungle on all sides, one can almost feel the Spirit of the Maya people filling every nook of the city and still dancing effortlessly and nobly through this amazing historical site.