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The isolated El Pilar Ancient Maya Temple is three times larger than Xunantunich and is still being excavated today. The focus here is showing travelers how regular Maya lived by uncovering common homes and planting gardens and crops used by the Maya. El Pilar was occupied from 800 BC to 1000 AD and, at one time, had over 20,000 residents. For a look at how the regular Maya lived, El Pilar is the place to go.
El Pilar is one of Belize’s largest Classic period Maya sites. The center has a well-defined civic/ceremonial section that includes both private and public areas. With 15 courtyards or plazas, the complexity of El Pilar’s epicenter suggests the site was of considerable regional importance during the Late Classic period. Beyond the central precinct, settlement density is also very high, suggesting a large population lived in the site’s sustaining area. Within the site center there are several large temples, palaces and elite architecture. The tallest structure stands around 60 feet above the plaza. Other architectural features include at least one ball court and several reservoirs that served as water catchments. Although there has been limited archaeological work at El Pilar, substantial efforts have been expended to develop the site’s natural forest environment. East of the site’s core, in a section known as the Garden Area, a small residential plaza was conserved in an effort to demonstrate the nature of Maya households and their connection to the flora, fauna and natural ecology.
El Pilar is one of the largest Maya sites in the Belize Valley and lies approximately 50 kilometers from the major prehistoric city of Tikal in Guatemala.