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The Xunantunich Ruins in Belize

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The Xunantunich Ruins of Belize
The Xunantunich Ruins of Belize

The Xunantunich Ruins of Belize

Kirsten Hubbard
The Mayan ruins of Xunantunich are definitely among Belize's most awe-striking. Located in the country's western Cayo District, Xunantunich sits above the Mopan river, with sweeping views of the countryside and the Guatemalan border. The ruins date back to the Classical Era of Mayan architecture, between 200 and 900 AD.

The temple pictured above is El Castillo -- "the castle" -- which, at 130 feet, is the second-tallest structure in Belize (a temple at the Mayan ruins of Caracol is taller). One of Xunantunich's most arresting features is its stucco friezes, elaborate carvings like the ones on El Castillo, above.

Xunantunich means "Stone Woman" or "Maiden of the Rock" in the Mopan/Yucatec Mayan languages, referring to a red-eyed ghost woman said to climb the steps of the El Castillo temple and vanish into the rock walls.

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