Belize // The west //

Cahal Pech

The hilltop Maya site of Cahal Pech (daily 6am–6pm; Bz$12), twenty minutes’ walk west of San Ignacio along the road to Benque Viejo, is well worth a visit. There’s a good chance you’ll have the forested ruins all to yourself, and although the structures are not particularly tall, the maze of restored corridors, stairways, plazas and temples is enchanting. Cahal Pech was the royal acropolis-palace of an elite Maya family during the Classic period, and there’s evidence of monumental construction from at least as early as 400 BC, though most of the remaining structures date from the eighth century AD. The visitors’ centre and museum has a scale model of the site, excellent displays and a variety of artefacts. Entering the site itself, you arrive at Plaza B, where your gaze is drawn to Structure 1, the Audiencia, the highest building at Cahal Pech. From the top, the ruins of Xunantunich are clearly visible to the southwest. Behind Structure 1, in Plaza A, is a restored three-storey temple, as well as other sacred buildings.