Looking to for a unique Mayan ruin to visit in San Ignacio? El Pilar may be right up your alley. This partially excavated site isn’t as polished as Xunantunich and Caracol, but that’s part of El Pilar’s charm. Being less excavated, El Pilar is a wonderful exploration area for those looking to unlock their inner Indiana Jones. There are also ample opportunities to spot native plants, birds, and other wildlife in this area since it is more merged with nature.
History and El Pilar Today
Since El Pilar is only partially excavated, its exact history is uncertain. However, it is definitely one of the largest Classical Maya sites in the Belize River Valley. This unique archaeological site is also in a superior location since it rests on high terrain, offering stunning views. Most noteworthy, archaeologists have uncovered at least 12 pyramids and 25 plazas; this is three times the amounts found in nearby Mayan ruin sites such as Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. Other intriguing features include a ball court, major palace, and a causeway extending across the border into Guatemala. This causeway suggests a connection between Cahal Pech and Guatemala’s famous Tikal ruins, which are about 48 kilometers (32 miles) away.
Today, El Pilar is still under active excavation by archaeologists from the University of California. As a result, the site is only partially excavated. There are several moderately clear walkways that allow passage on foot. Currently, there are five trail systems going through El Pilar. Three trails are archaeological, and two are nature trails that allow for extensive immersion into the surrounding subtropical jungle.
Visiting El Pilar
El Pilar is 12 miles northwest of downtown San Ignacio, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown San Ignacio. Purchase tickets at the entrance for about $5-10 Belize per person. You can book a private tour with transportation, horseback ride to El Pilar, or hire a private driver to bring you here.