El Pilar Mayan Ruins – Hidden Beneath The Belize Jungle

El Pilar Mayan Ruins - Hidden Beneath The Belize Jungle

El Pilar Mayan Ruins - Hidden Beneath The Belize Jungle

El Pilar Mayan Ruins

Even travelers who have seen Greek ruins, the Pyramids and Rome’s Colosseum are impressed by the sheer number of Mayan ruins found within Belize. Many remain works in progress while others have been excavated to the full extent of their boundaries—yet from ruin to ruin, each is unique. Consider El Pilar. This ancient city is distinct because it not only pays tribute to the past, but it’s being used as a conservation model for the future. 

 El Pilar

Bring comfortable shoes for this adventure because the El Pilar site not only spans 120 acres but it’s home to 15 plazas, a ball court and hundreds of multi-purpose buildings. Some are exposed completely. Others peek out from the jungle, but you won’t find a better representation of Mayan architecture. Why aren’t all of these buildings out in the open? Because archaeologists eager to preserve as much as possible know that too much will be lost if they excavate everything, which is why only a house called Tzunu’un is completely exposed.

Why you should visit El Pilar Mayan Ruins

Because not every Mayan ruin gives visitors so complete a picture of the Maya ways of life and their traditional agricultural practices. It’s the single largest Belize River Valley site and was once home to a population of 20,000 during the Maya Classic Period, circa 800 BC, yet many of the large public buildings weren’t added to this settlement until around 250 BC. Another unique aspect of El Pilar is its proximity to water. Not all Mayan villages can make that claim, but it’s likely the reason the area was named Watering Basin. 

Where is El Pilar located?

Gain access to this attraction by starting your journey in San Ignacio and then travel 7.5 miles north. You will wind up close to the Belize-Guatemala border, and since this massive reserve filled with flora and fauna actually straddles both countries, you may wish to take in Guatemala’s Peten District’s portion as well.

The best time to tour El Pilar

Save money on your accommodations, skip the crowds and avoid dramatic green season rains if you visit in May and June to see this horticultural epicenter in all of its glory. Remember that this pristine site is hidden amid jungle, which is why bringing insect repellent is wise due to the nearby water source.

How to get to El Pilar

There are several options: by land, you can drive or be driven the 8 mile distance, but prepare for bumps and mud, depending upon the time you visit Belize, because these roads aren’t paved. Alternately, you can travel via the Belize River and Bullet Tree Falls. Given the arduous route, a guided tour is always the best option.

Best way to experience El Pilar

Because this Mayan site is encased by jungle, wear utilitarian clothes and boots so you’re prepared for landscaping challenges. Bring your imagination because you’ll literally go back in time while traversing this bio-diverse forest canopy where Howler Monkeys and birds roam land being cared for using traditional farming practices. Expect to learn about Mayan inter-cropping systems employed to cultivate, farm and re-forest, and leave the site with a new understanding of conservation, heritage stewardship and history.


Interested in visiting El Pilar Mayan Ruins on your Belize Vacation? Contact us and we will recommend you with the best tour company in Belize to do this tour.

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1 Comment

  • Why Visit Belize in May Reply

    May 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    […] Bird watching in Belize – May is a great month to go bird watching in Belize and one of the top places to go on a birding tour is El Pilar Mayan Ruins. […]

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