On a hill just above the town of San Ignacio, on a site that only covers about two acres, lie the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech. Like so many of the Maya sites around Belize, steps have been taken to ensure that what remains is preserved and that visitors are able to explore structures at their leisure. The name apparently means “place of ticks” and was chosen because the area around the ruins was used as land for grazing animals. Cahal Pech, settled in 1000 BC and no longer inhabited by 800 AD, was a royal palace for a ruling Maya family, and the site consists of seven plazas plus structures that include temples, a ball court, homes and an altar. Not all of the ruins are in excellent shape but climb to the top for wonderful views of the surrounding river valley. There is also a visitor center and museum on site.