El Pilar

El Pilar, San Ignacio

Historic Sites • Ancient Ruins • Points of Interest & Landmarks
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Monday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Tuesday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Wednesday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Thursday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Friday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Saturday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Sunday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
Plan your visit
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4.5
79 reviews
Excellent
46
Very good
23
Average
8
Poor
1
Terrible
1

TravelingFamilyTrip
Chicago, IL167 contributions
Interesting to see unrestored ruiins -- slow and bumpy 8 mile drive, warned of crime.
May 2021
I found it really interesting to walk through this mostly unrestored and unexcavated site. It does have maintained trails that make it easy to walk through and around the ruins.

Due to some crime in the vicinity, I was actually warned against going here by my hotel, and they said they have stopped doing birding tours in the area because of that crime for the time being. Due to that, I was the only visitor there that day (maybe that week!). Also due to the crime potential (it's very near the border with Guatemala is part of the problem, apparently), I was required to pay extra to have a guard or guide accompany me as I explored the site. The guy I was assigned was pretty new, so didn't have much factual information to offer, but he told me a bit about his experience as a ranger there.

Also, when I left, they admonished me to not stop for anyone along the (bumpy, rough) road.

I didn't have any problems, and am glad I got to see a different type of Maya site.
Written June 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Steven I
16 contributions
See it as it was discovered.
Mar 2020 • Couples
We visited this ruins after we went to two other guided ruin tours. This give us a different perspective of what the archeologists have done. It had a view over the canopy of the forest. We saw both howler and spider monkeys on the day we went. This one is not as popular because it has not been excavated much.
Written March 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Brent M
Newbury, MA39 contributions
DO NOT VISIT El PILAR!
Feb 2020
El Pilar is a fantastic site, much more important to Maya history than most other sites in the San Ignacio area. It is also the only major site that is not excavated, which makes it very interesting. I would describe the experience as ethereal. My wife and I were there in 2018 and had a wonderful visit.

However, you should NOT visit El Pilar unless you have an armed security detail. The site is remote, straddles the contested border with Guatemala, and is very dangerous. When we returned at the end of February 2020 with two staff of a local NGO, we were attacked by four masked, armed men and robbed of everything we had. I and the other man in our group of four were both struck but not seriously injured. Everyone we met later said we are lucky to be alive.

The Institute of Archaeology claims it discourages tour guides from taking visitors to El Pilar. However, there is no indication at the site that it is dangerous to visit. We relied on the assurances of our local hosts, and did not do enough of our own due diligence in advance. On subsequent research we found that others have been attacked in the past year, and it is likely that other attacks have gone unreported. El Pilar receives very few visitors and you are likely to find yourself there alone.

There are only three Institute of Archaeology staff on site. They do not have weapons and, according to their superiors in Belmopan, are threatened if they report incidents to the police. Other sites in the region (Xunantunich, Caracol, Cahal Pech) have permanent staffing of the BDF (Belize Defense Force) or Tourist Police. Reportedly there are occasional patrols of El Pilar, but it is easy for thieves to know when authorities are not in the area. We were later told that we could have requested a security detail from the police but that is not well-known, not even to the manager of the nearest hotel.

Police assume the assailants were from Guatemala. Two spoke in Spanish, but so do many Belizeans on the east side of the border. There is a causeway connecting the Guatemalan side of the site with Belize. We don’t know where the bandits came from, nor how they knew there would be visitors that day. The 12-kilometer road to the site from the village of Bullett Tree Falls is also very remote, with no settlements and little traffic, all in the disputed “zone of adjacency” with Guatemala. It should be assumed to be as dangerous as the site itself.

Until the security situation is addressed, do not go to El Pilar Archaeological Site.
Written March 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Danny C
Seattle, WA88 contributions
unexlpored Maya ruin
Jan 2020
Well it was dry when we started, but had rained quite a bit and the road to El Pilar became extremely muddy, all dirt of course and quite narrow. It's only 7 miles off of
the bullet tree road, but seemed like 20. The jungle is nice there and they claim there
are monkeys, but there are no ruins yet uncovered, just large mounds of dirt and trees.
It is not worth the trip. Better to spend your time on other activities such as going
to Tikal, or cave tubing .
Written January 21, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
El Pilar is an adventure. There is much to see and many areas offering a window into the life that was part of El Pilar's history. Rain in the rainforest, monkeys in the trees, temples shrouded in shade, sounds like an experience.
Written February 8, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Mark C
15 contributions
if you dont know or understand Mayan culture you may be disappointed
Oct 2019
I have been to several unexcavated sites in the Southwest US and knew what to expect. Without a guide and limited reading before hand, all I could do was wander around and admire the site. If you go without a guide and don't understand the cultural implications of the various piles of rubble, you may question the drive.

By city/suburban standards the road is very rough. By the standards of forest service roads in the US it was normal. Even though it was October when I went, there had not been rain in a few days and the road was dry. if you are not used to mud roads be very carefull after a rain.
Written October 6, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

mulvihilljs
Belize17 contributions
remote and waiting to be developed
Aug 2019
We went to this ruin. The signs are a great help. There is a map also indicating all the ruin sites. There are many sites yet to be unearthed but yet distinguishable that it is indeed a mayan ruin.
Written September 3, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
We like to call these ancient sites Monuments! This honors their regal past and unique qualities of travelers destination. We consider this site as a discovery!
Written September 5, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Itchymonkey
4 contributions
Exceeded Expectations
Jul 2019 • Family
This site is largely unexcavated so I thought it would look like hills in the forest. It was so much more. Think Indiana Jones, the pyramids are obvious and covered with trees. Excellent birding spot. We logged 39 species in two hours, some really exciting ones in an incredible setting. We went with a guide, Elvis who was truly amazing. He can literally talk the birds out of the trees.
Written July 30, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Yes this is like a discovery yourself, we have plans to enhance this experience. Did you see the Maya house and forest garden on the east side near the parking? This is a real treat to see vanilla orchids growing, fruit trees blooming, begonias flourishing, allspice fruiting, and more in the context of an ancient Maya house. Check it out next visit! El Pilar has many water sources and so the 39 birds in 2 hours is thanks to water.... an elixir of life.
Written August 1, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Robin F
Nelson Bay, New South Wales, Australia277 contributions
Spiritual, natural, beautiful
Jul 2019 • Couples
According to our guide, very few people come here although it is only about 12km from San Ignacio - firstly the road is challenging (very bumpy, stony and rough), but also the site is relatively unexcavated and still in a very natural state. We visited it first and were glad we did as it gave us a better feel for what the other sites must have looked like prior to discovery/excavation. Because it is so natural with lots of trees, etc. it's cooler and there is more bird and animal life. It's a big site which will take you about 2 hours to walk around with a guide.
Written July 22, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
The nature and culture of the Maya and their forest are important and to get to such a place is a privilage. We have excavated all over the site, left little exposed until time and funds will allow for the unique brand of Archaeology Under the Canopy. Even now you can appreciate the cool wonder of the forest and the monuments! Only 12 km from Cayo!
Written July 23, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Dalena L
San Ignacio, Belize9 contributions
This Maya Site is worth seeing
Mar 2019
If you have seen Xunantunich and Cahal Pech, this Maya Suite should be also on the list to see. Must see the Secret Citadel. You might even see a family of spidermonkeys
Written March 31, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

X2550CNjohn
Durham, UK39 contributions
Wonderful Mayan ruins in an almost unexcavated state.
Oct 2018 • Solo
El Pilar was once a large Mayan city, but unlike more famous archaeological sites nearby there has been minimal excavation here, and therefore offers an almost unique opportunity to experience a city lost to the jungle as the first explorers might have seen it. It's not easy to get here; I took a taxi from San Ignacio which took over 2 hours on very rough roads, and my driver was probably only willing to risk his suspension as it was the off season and the weather was good. I only went because I had a free day, but it turned out to be an unexpected highlight of my trip to Belize; very little write up in the guide books, and few organised tours, but an amazing insight into how the Mayan civilisation was lost for so many centuries. One stumbles across a hillock, realises it's in fact a ruined pyramid, and then it vanishes into the forest after walking just a few yards. There are some explanatory boards which are enough to give a sense of the layout of the city without being intrusive, and a few areas have been excavated to show how the many buried structures would have looked, but for the most part one can imagine how the first explorers felt as they realised they were stumbling through the remains of an ancient metropolis. And because so few people make the effort, you can have the ruins almost to yourself. Amazing!
Written January 15, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
You captured the wonder of El Pilar. We have conduced much excavation but it is covered as exposures will damage the ancient monuments. You do not mention the house and the forest garden on the Lakin Trail east form the parking area. That is an excavated Maya house where you can get a feel for domestic space when compared to the monuments. Search for Trails of El Pilar and you will find an online guide. Come again, it is ever changing.
Written January 16, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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El Pilar is open:
  • Sun - Sat 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
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