February 23rd was the first year anniversary of the inauguration of the Park. Celebrate with us by helping.

Map of Belize


The Villages within the Park

Tanah Village / San Antonio
San Cristo ReyProgresso 7 miles

Welcome to Tanah where everything is different! Visit the mountains, forest, caves, waterfalls, wild animals, birds, rivers, farms, and people. Enjoy our warm hospitality, our rich Mayan culture and our beautiful flora and fauna.

A two hour drive from the international airport will take you through forested hillsides and across winding creeks to San Ignacio, Cayo district. From there, you can reach the small village of San Antonio. Known locally as Tanah, it means "our home". It is isolated deep in a valley surrounded by rolling hills and jagged peaks of our blue Mayan Mountains. It is our wish that you enjoy the peace and tranquility without the isolation and share with us our culture, the beauty of our village and our history

Tanah was once inhabited by the ancient Maya, whose presence can still be felt through the traces of pottery and majestic Mayan temples to be seen all over the area.

In 1842 new Mayan settlers came to Belize to live in union with the indigenous Maya people. They were running from the race war in the Yucatan of Mexico. At first they built their homes in the north side of our country. There were only four families, including the Tzib, Mai and Pech. But, they could still feel the vibrations of the war so they headed for the deep south west part. There, in Tanah, they found their sanctuary, a place where there was no terror of attack from the loggers entering Belize along the rivers.

Tanah has no rivers nearby, which is one of the reasons why it remains so different. It is said that the first people to settle the area, while farming the fertile soils of the valley, lived way up in the Pine Ridge Mountains where water was plentiful. Then one day, while hunting a wari, the animal led them down to Tanah, to a spot where the soil was sodden. On reaching the water the wari miraculously disappeared. We strongly believe that he was the Mayan god Yum Kax-Ku, leading the men to find what was needed to make the settlement of Tanah possible. They dug a well, the beginning of their new home and it has served our village for many generations.

Today our village population is 2,500 inhabitants, all Mayan Yucatecan.

Pumps and a pond water system complement the traditional method of obtaining drinking water via springs, wells, and rainwater. The ponds were built to raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and to irrigate the traditional crops grown by the people of Tanah. These crops include corn, peanuts, plantains and yams. Thus, we maintain a self-sustained existence and are now supplying the whole of Belize with fresh produce.

Our Village

Among the villagers, many are old chicleros, and 90% are farmers. Our traditional health careers include the chiropractor, herbal doctor and midwife. They take care of the local people through their knowledge passed down from our ancestors, using hundreds of varieties of medicinal plants, prayers and secret stones known as "Zaas tun". Presently, we have a definite cure for asthma, rabies, tetanus, baldness, and arthritis, amongst many others. People travel from the entire world to be treated by our herbal medicines and traditional practices.

It is our wish that you might learn our ways of medicinal healing and survival in the jungle and gain a knowledge of the wide variety of valuable plants to be found in the area. For this purpose we will be establishing a botanical garden and research area within the Elijio Panti National Park. Among other plants, it will contain a vine that can quench a days thirst and nutritious fruits, nuts and berries, many of which have no scientific names. For example, the cohune palm is very important to our way of life and can be seen in abundance throughout the area. The nuts are used for gunpowder and jewelry or to extract oil for cooking. The young shoots, when boiled or fried, make delicious snacks and roots can be used for a blood tonic. A stroll through our garden can teach you all these secrets passed through the generations of our Mayan ancestors.

In Tanah you can visit Tanah Mayan Arts Museum where you can see Mayan utensils, musical instrument Mayan artifacts from the area. Students come here from all over Belize and abroad to learn about our Mayan culture past and present. Plus, it hosts the Garcia Sisters Gift Shop. We have been sculpting traditional themes in slate stone for eighteen years and are well known nationally and internationally. Here you can purchase indigenous arts and crafts made from slate stone, ceramic, wood and woven baskets, all produced by the villagers. Also newly opened is the Dr. Elijio Panti Museum in the heart of the village, where the display includes instruments that our Mayan healer used for his healing and his belongings. His grandson runs this place. There is also Sac Tunich site Mayan gift shop about 1-1/2 miles from the village.

Our Language

Everyone in the village is aware of the importance of preserving their language, which is Maya Taan or the so-called Yucatec Maya. This is our mother language still surviving from our ancient Mayan ancestors. Spanish, Creole and English are almost unheard of in Tanah except in our two schools. However, when a visitor enters our village we use these languages to communicate so we can share our culture with others.

When you visit San Antonio you will hear the words:
'Bish-a-bel' - How are you?
'Bish-a-Kaba' - what's your name?
'Tuush-ca-bin' - where are you going?

Our Beliefs

The Masawal Maya people of San Antonio or Tanah now wear western clothes and participate in regional, political and economic life. However, we still maintain the ancient customs and beliefs of our ancestors.

We believe that Itzamna created everything on earth and Yum Kaax-KU guides and protects our mountains and animals. Mother Ixchel protects and heals her children on earth.

These guardians permit man to kill animals and use our forest product only as is necessary for human subsistence. They are our principal Gods as they grant us corn from which we believe man was made and herbal plants to heal ourselves and others.

In the village, a number of legends have been preserved through our grandparents, who sit long in the evenings relating stories to the children. Many residents are happy to informally share with our visitor's knowledge of their people's history, talents and folklore. Listen out for the lady spirit, Liorona, who's crying and wailing, when heard in the mountains, means certain death for someone in a village. Be sure to check the manes of the horses in the mornings. If they are perfectly trimmed then the dwarfs from the hills have ridden them through the night wrapping their feet amongst the hair.

Our Music and Rituals

A number of the villagers still practice the music of our ancestors and play the haunting Latin American melodies of the marimba to accompany the traditional Mayan dances. There are various fiestas and rituals held throughout the year including the favorite custom of the hog's head dance to celebrate Saints day on June 13th in memory of Saint Anthony of Padua. Festivities begin nine days before when a pig's head is baked in a pibil (a hole in the ground covered in plantain leaves). Then, each villager decorates the cooked head with sweet bread and colorful paper flags. This is paraded on the shoulders of a man in traditional dress being led on a rope and tempted by the shaking of corn in a wooden maraca.

Most of the ancient Mayan rituals take place in our sacred caves and temples around the area, such as those found in the nearby Mayan sites of Pacbitun (meaning stones set in the earth) Junction, on river sides, mountains sides, etc..

Our Food

Our staple diet is corn from which we make XIT or "Tamalitos" boiled in green corn leaves, "bollos" boiled in plantain leaves and tortillas, porridge and desserts. Since a mix of Creole and Mayan food grace our tables, rice and beans is a popular dish served with spiced, stewed chicken. Our chickens run and breed freely in the village. In Tanah, we have a special method for hatching the chickens, which we invite you to see. By selecting special leaves with which we line the nests, the flies and parasites that would otherwise infect the hen and her eggs, are kept away.

Local tea is brewed from the corn or other herbs such as lemon grass, ginger and pimiento leaves. Our homemade wine from sugar can form the perfect accompaniment to any meal, although its potency is a prime example of quality not quantity prevailing.

The Holistic Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park

The Masewal indigenous people rely on the plants and animals of the forest for their daily needs and are therefore committed to protecting the remaining forest from exploitation and destruction. In the last 15 years the people of San Antonio have become aware of the excessive cutting of cohune palms for their thatches and timber for fuel and construction.

The 13,006 acres of holistic Mayan National Park has been established to protect the way of life of our indigenous people and the two other villages in addition to the natural resource important for our existence. Reforestation and conservation projects will be done, including the planting of a number of endangered vegetation species. The area includes acres of virgin forest that is home to the baboon (black howler monkey), coatimundi, agouti, paca and many other species of animals typical to Belize. In addition, there is a diverse range of flora and avifauna such as our National Bird, the Keel Billed Toucan.

Whatever your quest, be it research or a casual desire to be in contact with the natural world of our Mayan Yucatecan tribe, your visit or contribution will contribute greatly to the preservation of the mountains and our people for future generations. For this reason we welcome you to share in the gift of Tanah, the other villages and the Holistic Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park.

Visitor's Facilities—

With the recent improvement in communication, San Antonio or Tanah enjoys easy access with regular bus services from Belize City along the western Highway direct to San Ignacio Town. From San Ignacio, busses run daily to Tanah or San Antonio Village. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or arrange pick up or rent a car from any car rental company in Belize City.


Accommodations are offered by a bed and breakfast women's group in the community of San Antonio, and Chichan Kaa lodge. Ideally positioned on the top of the hill above San Antonio Village,<the lodge> it enjoys a breathtaking panoramic view of the blue Mayan Mountain and the lush farmlands surrounding the area. Sactunich Place as well offers accommodations. These places extend a welcome to you to try your hand at patting out the corn tortillas in typical Mayan style.
Contact: 501-091-2023 • e-mail

General Information

Weather in the mountains of Tanah is comfortable and a welcome change from the heat of the Belize coast. The driest is April and May, however you should always be prepared for intense sun anytime of the year (sunblock, visor or cap) and outbursts of heavy rain during the wet season, October to February. Visitors are advised that they can not stay in the village or National Park without prior permission given by the alcalde (or village chairman) or by the Itzamna Society.
Contact: 501-91-2023 (fax/tel) • life@epnp.org or elijiopantifamily@yahoo.com

In case of emergencies, the village has its own public telephone, 092-3266, a police station and health clinic.

Our Code of Ethics

There are a number of ways in which you as visitors can help us protect our village, our culture and our park.

  • You are advised that it is prohibited to record or document any information shared by the villagers. You can only do so by asking prior permission from the Itzamna Society in charge of the preservation of the National Park and Tanah and villages. Small charges will be made for this privilege that will contribute to the management of the National Park and the communities.
  • We do not accept nude bathing and would appreciate it if shirts were worn over bathing suits while in or near the villages.
  • Please remember we are a community and are concerned for the safety of our children, so drive with care.
  • Please ask before taking photos which can be humiliating and an invasion of privacy.
  • Broaden your horizons. Discover the enrichment that comes from seeing another way of life.
  • Cultivate the habit of listening and observing.
  • Feel the wonder of being with people who have different time concepts and thought patterns.
  • Reflect daily on your experiences, seek to deepen your experiences and seek to deepen your understanding.
  • Discover the richness and wisdom of the ancient ways as they continue to be practiced today.

Mayan eco-culture system

This is a place where children are handed down the tradition and knowledge of their ancestors, a place where communion with nature is understood and honored. This is a place where the Yucatecan Mayan language is spoken daily, where children follow their parents into the rainforest in search of healing herbs and where the past is brought to life through the words of the elders.

We open the door to the past as well as to the future, opening the eyes to true self sufficiency, where planting and harvesting is sacred, where prayer and thanksgiving have great purpose and where life is rich and whole. The Mayan way: where today's moments come to life within the mysteries of the past and the future.

San Cristo Rey

Coming soon.

Progresso 7 miles

Coming soon.