San Jose Succotz
Spread out along the banks of the Mopan River, this small rural village is the jumping-off point for Xunantunich, one of Belize’s most impressive Maya sites. The pace of life in the town is slow, although a steady stream of visitors pass through en route to the jungle-surrounded stone ruins on the far side of the river.
Most travelers stay in the bigger town of San Ignacio and come to San José Succotz as part of day tours to Xunantunich; most day tours include a guide who will help you interpret the ruins. From the water’s edge in San José Succotz, a hand-cranked cable ferry crosses the Mopan River, carrying travelers to the access road to the Maya ruins. Some tours combine a visit to Xunantunich with more adventurous activities, such as tubing excursions along the river or mountain biking in the forest. Travelers who want a more laid-back base from which to explore Xunantunich and the wider Cayo District will find several accommodation options in San José Succotz.
Things to know before you go
- San José Succotz is a must for visitors hoping for a glimpse of local village life in Belize, with a quieter feel and fewer tourists than nearby San Ignacio.
- The hand-cranked ferry from San José Succotz to Xunantunich can accommodate cars.
- If you’re visiting the Maya ruins of Xunantunich, bring sunscreen, bug spray, and water.
- Xunantunich is accessible only via a steep uphill walk, making it unsuitable for travelers with limited mobility.
How to get there
San José Succotz is in Belize’s Cayo District, about a 15-minute drive west of San Ignacio via the Western Highway, near the border with Guatemala. To get there by public transit, take a Benque Viejo del Carmen-bound bus from the terminal and ask to get off at San José Succotz.
When to get there
One of the best times to visit is during the San Jose Succotz Fiesta in April, a colorful celebration of the town’s patron saint, St. Joseph. Occasionally, the river may be impassable during particularly wet weather, so it’s best to plan your trip for the dry season (November–May).
Set atop a natural limestone ridge, Xunantunich was a major ceremonial site for the Maya and features six large plazas and more than 25 temples and palaces. Dominating the ruins is the 130-foot (40-meter) El Castillo Pyramid: climb to the top for panoramic views that extend to the nearby Pine Ridge Mountain Reserve and Caracol, Belize’s largest Maya site.
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