If you’re anywhere near San Ignacio, there’s no reason to not visit Xunantunich. It’s easy to get to if you have transportation, and the visit won’t take too long out of your day as it’s a relatively small site (1-2 hours depending on how long you want to dilly dally). Similar to other local Mayan sites in Belize, the entrance fee is BZ$10 (US$5) for non-residents and if you wish to learn about the history, there are local guides ready to educate you (for an extra fee, of course).
You get to cross the river on a hand-cranked ferry, car and all, and enjoy a few minutes of the beautiful jungle river view. The ferry crossing is free, although I’m sure the workers wouldn’t say no to a tip. There is also a small souvenir stand selling handmade items at the entrance to the ferry if you’d like to help support some locals.
Once you cross on the ferry, it’s a short drive to the parking lot and then a short walk on a groomed path to the site.
Upon arrival, you’ll find a spacious open lawn area with relatively small mounds of excavated ruins, and as you continue through, it opens up to an awesome view of the heart of this site: the El Castillo pyramid (the second tallest structure in Belize after Caracol). Before you start the climb, take a moment to wander around and observe the surrounding jungle, which is home to howler monkeys. While we didn’t hear their crazy howls, we did get to observe them from a distance, frolicking and jumping from tree to tree.
Climb to the top of El Castillo for a great view of nearby towns nestled in the vast jungle as well as of Guatemala, which is only about 0.5 mile away. The lower steps are pretty steep, so be prepared for some work!
The best thing about visiting Xunantunich is that it isn’t crowded. While Tikal in Guatemala is amazing to see, it’s a premiere tourist site with hoards of visitors being herded like cows. Go visit Xunantunich and find some peace!