Good for: seeing Mayan ruins
- admission BZ$10, tours 2hr tours BZ$20
Lonely Planet review for Cahal Pech
High atop a hill on the southern outskirts of San Ignacio, Cahal Pech is the oldest-known Maya site in the Belize River valley, having been first settled between 1500 and 1000 BC. Less impressive than Xunantunich and Caracol, it's still a fascinating example of Preclassic Maya architecture. It was a significant Maya settlement for 2000 years or more.
Cahal Pech (kah-hahl pech) is Mopan and Yucatec Mayan for 'Place of Ticks,' a nickname earned in the 1950s when the site was surrounded by pastures grazed by tick-infested cattle. Today it's a pleasantly shady site with plenty of trees and few tourists. Its core area of seven interconnected plazas has been excavated and restored since the late 1980s.
The earliest monumental religious architecture in Belize was built here between 600 and 400 BC, though most of what we see today dates from AD 600 to 800, when Cahal Pech and its peripheral farming settlements had an estimated population of between 10,000 and 20,000. The place was abandoned around AD 850.
A small visitors center explains some of the history of Cahal Pech. Sometimes independent guides hang around here offering tours. Otherwise, walk about 150yd to the area of excavated and restored plazas and temples. Plaza B is the largest and most impressive complex; Structure A-1, near plaza A, is the site's tallest temple. Two ballcourts lie at either end of the restored area.
Cahal Pech is 1 mile south of central San Ignacio. Head up Buena Vista St and turn left immediately before the Texaco gas station.