Cahal Pech is one of the most overlooked and most beautiful sites in the Belize archeological treasure trove. The reason for its small reputation may be its billing as a “smaller site,” and although it may not rise to the heights of Caracol or overlook the border to Guatemala, as Xunantunich does, Cahal Pech offers both a beautiful setting and fairly complete story of Mayan city life.
Built in 1200 BC and abandoned in 800-900 AD, Cahal Pech provides archeologists a picture of the first settlers in the Western area of Belize. A population of relative sophistication, ceremonial platforms, carved pottery and objects of jade and obsidian were found.
In its heyday, Cahal Pech was not a vast temple, but a thriving city of trade in the Classic Period between 300 BC to 300AD. It sits in the center of the Belize River Valley Region, between the Macal and Belize Rivers, as a passage way to larger interior cities like Caracol, Tikal (Guatemala) and El Pilar.
The site has been well restored, and showcases how the Mayan structured their plaza areas including the areas for the common community, administration and elite residences. In addition, a ball court and two round dance platforms have also been restored, offering a view into Mayan community life.
During their fieldwork, archeologists found that generation after generation constructed their residences on top of one and other. For example, beneath several of the Middle Classic structures (500-700 AD) are Late PreClassic structures (300BC-250AD). An opening demonstrating this remains covered only by a grate for viewing and scientists believe that these generations of buildings represent the generations of families.
Cahal Pech has been restored not only as an archeological place, but with a park like setting. Trees crop up through the plaza providing shade and beauty, and stone paths make the site easily accessible for most.
The site is in the town of San Ignacio and the tour is about 1-1.5 hours.
Adapted from http://nichbelize.org