Cahal Pech is one of San Ignacio’s premier Maya sites that is nicely excavated and open to the public to visit. Located on the highest hill overlooking downtown San Ignacio, Cahal Pech is one of Belize’s oldest Maya sites. It is among the most popular ruins sites for visitors. Today, Cahal Pech sits within a serene and exotic jungle setting that is home to many native birds and plants, making it an ideal spot for wildlife and archaeology enthusiasts. Cahal Pech can be reached in about 20 minutes by car from downtown San Ignacio.
History of Cahal Pech
Located near the banks of the Macal River, Cahal Pech was once a palace home for an elite Mayan family. As such, it is strategically perched on a hilltop to offer pristine views of the confluence of the Macal and Mopan Rivers below. Archaeologists have dated the ruins back to 1200 BCE, making it among the oldest Maya sites in Belize. The site is comprised of 34 structures, the tallest being a temple that stretches 25 meters high. Experts believe that Cahal Pech was abandoned in the 9th century CE for unknown reasons.
The Ruins Site Today
The site originally earned the name Cahal Pech (Maya for “Place of the Ticks”) in the 1950s when the site was being explored by Linton Satterthwaite of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Excavation of Cahal Pech began in 1988 and full restoration was completed in 2000 by Dr. Jaime Awe of the National Institute of Archaeology in Belize. Today, Cahal Peh serves as an archaeological reserve and it contains a small museum of artifacts as well as nicely preserved structures and monuments that can be explored by visitors.
Today, Cahal Pech is open to the visitors 7 days a week during daylight hours. Admission costs roughly $2.50 USD per person, but may change depending on the time of year you visit. There is an indoor museum displaying artifacts and discussing the site’s history. Visitors are also welcome to walk around and on top of the actual ruin sites. Exploration of the site can be done without a guide, since the ruins are relatively small and easy to navigate.
Cahal Pech itself is very flat, but reaching the ruins may be exhausting as it requires a long trek up a hill from downtown San Ignacio. You can reach the site by walking, taking a taxi, or by guided horseback ride.