What to Bring Along

  • Good hiking shoes
  • Water
  • Bug spray
  • Hat
  • Camera
  • Intensity: Easy

“El Pilar” is one of the archaeological Mayan sites shared by Belize and Guatemala.

The archeological site of El Pilar is situated on both sides of the Belize and Guatemala border. Located on the outskirts of the village of Bullet Tree a few miles from San Ignacio. El Pilar is divided into three primary sectors: North (Xaman), South (Nohol), and West (Poniente). The West sector is located in Guatemala. Your guide will take you through three trails that will lead you to the primary archaeological centers.

With more than a dozen large pyramids, construction occurred between the Middle Preclassic (500 BC) and Terminal Classic (1000 AD) periods. A broad variety of residential structures were discovered during excavations, in addition to elite household compounds and civic/ceremonial structures. Furthermore, there are also rooms exhibiting beautiful masonry, corbel vaults and monumental stairways, using a high quality, locally quarried limestone.

Preliminary investigation indicates that the Mayan city was occupied early and continuously, and could have been a strategic location for the Maya, given that it is located near a small, seasonally navigable river that linked Tikal (in Guatemala) with the Caribbean Sea. The rare abundance of natural water sources in this vicinity is possibly the origin of the name El Pilar (“pila” being Spanish for watering basin). There were large areas of fertile soil scattered about the area, where it is believed that nearby residents grew cash crops, such as cacao, tobacco and cotton. Those living further from the fertile valleys supplemented farming with production of stone tools, pottery and other basic household items.