El Pilar is an ancient Maya city center located on the Belize-Guatemala border. The site is located 7.5 mi north of San Ignacio, Belize and can be accessed through the San Ignacio and Bullet Tree Falls on the Belize River. The name “El Pilar” is Spanish for “watering basin”, reflecting the abundance of streams around the site and below its escarpment, which is rare in the Maya area.
The monuments of El Pilar are at the center of a 5,000 acres protected area known as El Pilar Archeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna, declared a cultural monument in both Belize and Guatemala in 1998. El Pilar is the largest Maya site in the Belize River area with over 25 plazas and hundreds of other major buildings, covering about 120 acres.
The city grew from Middle Preclassic period (800 BC), with the first small temples and plazas identified in the main eastern temple of Plaza Copal. The civic area was expanded, reaching its greatest extent before 1000 AD. At its height in the Late Classic, the total population of El Pilar is estimated to have exceeded 180,000.