Chan Chich Lodge

Gallon Jug Estate, Orange Walk District, Belize

Though Belize is replete with Maya sites, including some spectacular archaeological examples that are open to the public, Chan Chich may well be the only hotel in the country that can claim to sit atop a known former Maya site. In the late 1980s, owner Barry Bowen sought and received permission from the country’s Department of Archaeology to build on the site, whose plaza was beyond repair. No doubt guests are surrounded by the spirits of ancient Maya as well as actual artifacts that remain hidden in the soil around the lodge. Accommodations are individual casitas and cabanas decorated with local art, fresh tropical flowers, and simple but sturdy furnishings. The hotel is part of the historic 130,000-acre Gallon Jug Estate, which is, among other things, a private nature preserve. Guests enjoy wildlife spotting on the property, whose staff has kept a running list of the bird species seen here: the current count tops 350 types.

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Lodging among the ruins

It’s a novel idea -- building a lodge atop an unexcavated Maya ruin to deter illegal activity. In northwest Belize, a dozen upscale thatch-roof cabanas rest inside a peaceful Maya plaza. Though decried by some archaeologists when it was built, the presence of Chan Chich Lodge has in fact deterred temple looters and drug traffickers (both of whom used to thrive in northern Belize).

Nature Reserve in Gallon Jug Area

Located on a 130,000-acre private nature reserve, Chan Chich Lodge is a great choice for eco-tourists. The two-bedroom villa and 12 thatched-roof cabanas that comprise the resort are situated in the plaza of an ancient Maya city. It’s an excellent choice for birders and naturalists as well because of the abundant wildlife in the area. Day tours for guests can be arranged, horseback riding and canoeing are available, and on site there is a screened-in pool and jacuzzi. Package rates include room, meals, all taxes, unlimited daytime walks and vehicle tours plus complimentary Belikin beer, water, juice and soft drinks. Rooms begin at $219 per night for single occupancy. Package prices begin at $360 per night.

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