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moehre San Ignacio - A travel report by Thomas
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San Ignacio,  Belize - flag Belize -  Cayo
6135 readers

moehre's travel reports

Cayo district - Wild West in Belize

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Page: 1 2
Imagine a place where Caribbean rythms meet Wild West atmosphere saloons and English christmas traditions meet ancient Maya ruins. Well - that's San Ignacio the capital of the Cayo in western Belize.

Xunantunich - 10 min busride away from San Ignacio
Xunantunich - 10 min busride away from San Ignacio
It's not only close to the frontier of Belize with Guatemala but also somehow a frontier place to the jungle. We got there with the bus from Flores/Tikal (Guatemala) and were literally dropped right in Saturday's market. On our question, where the hack we are, the bus driver simply answered: San Ignacio, Main Street - closed the door and drove away. Fortunately the city center was a lot smaller then we thought and soon enough we found a hotel and started exploring. There are lots of restaurants and bars along the main streets that almost radiate a saloon feeling except that you will meet Rasta men with their colorful hats instead of cowboys. San Ignacio is the perfect starting point for tours into the adventurous west of Belize. From here you can visit important and less important Maya sites, canoe the Macal River, visit caves with ancient burial places, take a swim in one of the waterfall pools and hang out in one of the bars in the evening and share your glorious adventures with locals and other travelers alike enjoying a cool Belikin beer. There are lots of tours and activities offered in San Ignacio. One can go canoeing through a cave in Barton Creek in the morning and enjoy the nature of the Mountain Pine Ridge in the afternoon. Also a very recommended tour since very adventurous is the visit to the Aktun Tunichil Muknal Cave (or simply ATM), where you can visit Maya burial remnants after some intensive climbing.

Favourite spots:
Iguana on the Macal River Banks
Iguana on the Macal River Banks
However what we liked best of all was a quiet canoe tour on the Macal River. Only four of us (including guide) started in the morning underneath the bridge that connects San Ignacio with its smaller sister town Santa Elena (the bridge is recycled out of metal parts brought over from Africa). We enjoyed the peaceful river that was lined with dense forest. On the branches hanging over the river Iguanas took their sun bath and lots of birds chirped in the trees. Only the alligator wasn’t at home when we came by. Before we returned downstream (a lot less paddling that way) we stopped at a hidden waterfall that is not officially part of any tour but just the favorite spot of our tour guide. We enjoyed the swim and swinging on a makeshift swing over the pool – really nice and relaxing.

What's really great:
Caracol - a Maya city comparable to Tikal. But first you have to get there. A rough road leads through the Mountain Pine Ridge forest. 4WD is helpful. Also it is advisable to arrive at the check point in time to go with the military escorted convoy to avoid robbery. We missed it – but our driver decided to catch up. We arrived in Caracol just after the convoy but were really shaken through. Even though only a small part of Caracol has been excavated, it is worth exploring. The highest man-made structure in Belize is in Caracol. The city defeated Tikal (at least according to their records – in Tikal so far no validating inscription could be found – but then again – who would make a stelae about its own defeat). Caracol was build without access to water sources except rain around 300 BC and lasted till the classic period. No one knows why the Maya picked such a dry place and why the’ve abandoned it.

Xunantunich relief - to protect the originals their are hidden behind fibreglass replicas
Xunantunich relief - to protect the originals their are hidden behind fibreglass replicas
Close by San Ignacio are a couple of smaller Maya-Sites. Cahal Pech in walking distance from the San Ignacio Hotel and Xunantunich where you can get with any public bus that heads for the Guatemalan border - it's only a short ride and a nice half-day-excursion.

The Mountain Pine Ridge with it's waterfalls and caves is a very popular destination. You can also visit a lodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge and stay there for the day.

Crossing the Mountain Pine Ridge - on the way to Caracol
Crossing the Mountain Pine Ridge - on the way to Caracol
We stayed in the Casa Blanca - really redommendable - 30USD per double, clean, friendly, relativily quit.

Alternatively you can stay in one of the lodges around San Ignacio. Really interesting sounds Ek Tun that can only reached by river but is also really expensive.

Butterfly - somewhere along the Macal River
Butterfly - somewhere along the Macal River
Some bars in the town centre (Eva's is the hub) and especially Cahal Pech Village.

Pool of a hidden waterfall
Pool of a hidden waterfall
Hanna's in the town center for excellent Indian-Belizean dishes. Also one of the few places where you get wine.

Restaurant in the San Ignacio Hotel for the best beef in Belize (according to some).

Martha's kitchen in Martha's guesthouse, especially for breakfast.

Published on Wednesday January 17th, 2007

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Mon, Apr 25 2016 - 10:47 PM rating by mistybleu

A great report. I just got back from Belize and you have captured it well.

Sat, Jan 27 2007 - 01:03 PM rating by marianne

Great info, well written, lovely photos

Mon, Jan 22 2007 - 06:07 AM rating by magsalex

An informative report with some greta pictures to match. A new place for me to learn about.

Fri, Jan 19 2007 - 11:47 PM rating by eirekay

This is a great report! I have been to San Ignacio and you captured it very well!

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 07:38 PM rating by picasso

Very interesting with corresponding images to the travel story.

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 02:57 AM rating by downundergal

Good Report - just lacking a little detail in places. Great info about a lesser known Mayan site.

Wed, Jan 17 2007 - 09:54 PM rating by mrscanada

Thanks for the memories. I loved my time in Belize.

Wed, Jan 17 2007 - 08:23 PM rating by rangutan

I think part of an on-going adventure and that is great. Well written and fantastic pictures....

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