Climbing Cahal Pech at Sunset

Written by | Belize, Day Trips, Fresh Air

The view from above Cahal Pech

When Fast Travel becomes Insane Travel: A Road Trip through Belize To Climb Cahal Pech At Sunset

We’ve all heard the alleged fact that you’re more likely to die in a car crash on your way to the airport than on a plane. I have no idea if that’s true, but that didn’t stop me putting it to the test with my whirlwind road trip through Belize.

Travelling from the UK to Belize is pretty simple and should only involve one stop or layover. However, I needed to meet up with a friend in San Diego and then go to Mexico for 3 days and so after stops in Dublin, Atlanta, Orange County, San Diego, Dallas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico city and Houston…. I finally made it to Belize.

I landed at 3pm and met up with my traveling partner, Niamh. We had 12 hours to get to the Guatemalan ruins of Tikal for our sunrise tour and only a couple of hours to get to Cahal Pech for sunset.

The bus wouldn’t get us there in time, so after some swift and ruthless bargaining I jumped in a taxi and started the wild ride to climb Cahal Pech at Sunset.

Belize has been free and independent since 1981. Free and independent of any rules seems a good way to describe the driving style. We hurtled through Belize City, passing others cars on narrow roads, flying over speed bumps and revving hard to ward off anyone stupid enough to set foot in the road.

Belize is both very hot and very poor, which helps explains why the car was so white hot. Our taxi was ‘retro’ and had no air con. We were essentially in a high speed greenhouse flying through a tropical jungle.

The beauty of Belize

The beauty of Belize

But as Belize City shrank in the rear view mirror, we began to enjoy ourselves as we quickly saw with our own eyes that Belize is BEAUTIFUL.

We drove through lush green forests and hills as we snaked through picture postcard valleys and jungles. We passed small quiet Amish villages that seemed to be from a time gone by, complete with horse drawn carts and children playing in the road.

We even passed a forest fire. I panicked, obviously. Worried the car would soon become engulfed in flames and burning trees would be falling into the road and trapping us in the fire. Our driver barely blinked. He informed us that this is completely normal in Belize and just pushed his foot down harder. Our greased greenhouse revved on down the hard and unforgiving road.

To our relief we arrived in time to explore Cahal Pech at sunset, with the sun low in the sky. The car park was worryingly deserted. I imagine other less brave travellers had turned back after their first taste of Belizean crazy driving and, you know, forest fires.

Mayan Ruins at Cahal Pech

Mayan Ruins at Cahal Pech

It wasn’t too long before we were immersed in the jungle and rounded the corner where the trees opened out to a clearing. The majestic Mayan buildings rose up from the forest. There was a lone man quietly strumming his guitar at the base of one of the temples and a couple sitting atop another. Other than that, the area was deserted.

Guitar at Cahal Pech

A little music for the soul

The sun was starting to turn the sky orange and we headed in the direction of the tallest temple which was closest to the sun. The couple were sitting up there, chilling out and welcomed us to “their castle” as we made it to the summit.

Unfortunately the sun was obscured by the trees. Standard. BUT it was still an enchanting experience.

Cahal Pech at Sunset

Cahal Pech at Sunset

One of the biggest things I noticed were the sounds. No one really mentions that. But if the guitarist was there to play in quiet, he was greatly mistaken, unless he was looking for inspiration from nature.

We sat on the edge with our legs dangling off the top, admiring our view, when a line of HUGE ants started marching towards us. Lightning McQueen had nothing on us; we were up and away faster than you could shout “ants” and decided to continue exploring the ruins.

Admiring the view of Cahal Pech at sunset from the top

Admiring the view of Cahal Pech at sunset from the top

It was wonderful to be able to fully explore the ruins of Cahal Pech at sunset, being able to climb anywhere and not being surrounded by other tourists. Especially since other places limit your access so you can only admire from a distance. Seeing these ruins up close and personal was definitely a bonus.

There were no signs or information in the area so we had to make up our own theory as to what each building was used for, which was way more fun. If I had have had more time at the airport on wifi, I would have looked into the history before we got there.

Losing ourselves amongst the ruins and roots of ancient trees we quickly lost track of time. Suddenly it was dark. Suddenly the noise of the jungle had changed.

Darkness descends on Cahal Pech

Darkness descends on Cahal Pech

We headed back to find our luggage and walk into San Ignacio to find a driver. Whilst we looked forward to a slightly cooler drive to Guatemala, we suddenly realised that if there was one thing more terrifying than driving through Belize at 100miles per hour through forest fires, it was driving through Belize at 100miles per hour through forest fires in the dark.

The next time we would see the sun, it would be rising up over the famous Tikal ruins. Check back with us on Thursday to read all about our jungle awakening.


Last modified: 19th September 2016

20 Responses to :
Climbing Cahal Pech at Sunset

  1. WOW!!! What an adventure!!! Totally in a different world with the drive we took in the French Riviera:) I so LOVE the beauty of this world!!! Belize… been wanting to go and dive the Blue Hole… #bucketlist

    1. TWIAW says:

      I agree, this world is AMAZING and so diverse! Hope you had a great time in the French Riviera and the Blue Hole would have been amazing, if I could dive! They don’t recommend it for snorkelling.

  2. mario says:

    Great sunrise/set pics 😀 Lots of great visuals…”rose up from the forest”, “was one thing more terrifying than driving through Belize at 100miles per hour through forest fires, it was driving through Belize at 100miles per hour through forest fires in the dark.” HAHA priceless

    1. TWIAW says:

      I’m glad you like the visuals and photos Mario! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Ana says:

    Looks like you had fun trip and I loved your pictures. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. TWIAW says:

      It was so much fun! Thanks for joining our journey Ana!

  4. Kaylene says:

    I’ve been looking at going to Belize sometime soonish! Looks like a great spot, so beautiful! Love your photos 🙂

    1. TWIAW says:

      I couldn’t recommend Belize enough Kaylene, hope that you make it there soon!

  5. I enjoyed Belize but succumbed to the heat, especially at the ruins. Also got bit up by bugs. Glad you had such a great time and enjoyed the adventure. Thanks for sharing.

    1. TWIAW says:

      Oh I totally understand! We avoided the heat by going at sunset and sunrise, but when I was at Chichen Itza a few years ago we went during the day. It definitely makes the experience more challenging! Also it hadn’t rained for a while so there weren’t many bugs at all, although I covered myself in insect repellent!

  6. Love this story! Especially love how you tell the story! Great post! I wouldn’t do such a rushed trip and rather spend more time in Belize to go diving etc., but I guess you had no other option or just like the thrill 😀 Anyways, Belize is definitely on my bucketlist. It just takes a while to check it from that list – so many destinations and we are kinda slow travelers.

    1. TWIAW says:

      Thanks so much Nate, glad you liked it! If I had more time I would have loved to travel slowly through Belize, but unfortunately we always have limited time so have to find the best things and do them all in a short space of time 🙂 Hope that you do get to Belize soon, and enjoy your slow travels.

  7. Taylor says:

    I’m Canadian and am honestly surprised how little we hear about Belize and how not very many Canadians go considering they speak English and it’s not that much of a flight for us. I know it is for sure on my bucket list!

    1. TWIAW says:

      We are exactly the same too, hardly anyone knows about Belize here but glad it’s now on your bucket list!

  8. I did a similar trip in Belize but to Altun Ha. It was beautiful but the drive to it was treacherous with the horrible road conditions. Glad you had fun!

    1. TWIAW says:

      Oh, I did want to get to Altun Ha too, but we just couldn’t fit it in. Glad it was amazing and that you survived the drive!!

  9. Belize! What a misterious place.. Never thought of travelling there until I saw this post. Had no idea how was it! 🙂 Beautiful!

    1. TWIAW says:

      Mysterious indeed Tatiana, I had no idea how beautiful it was until I got there! Hope you get to see it for yourself soon!

  10. Jesso says:

    Great post. I can’t wait to head to Belize. Unfortunately from Perth I have a huge amount of flying just to get there.

    1. TWIAW says:

      Oh that is a long way from Perth, but will be totally worth it if you can make it happen!

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