Visit Maya Ruins of Lamanai
In the Orange Walk district, in Northern Belize, lies one of the largest Maya ruins in the country: Lamanai. It is accessible by road but I arrived after a one-hour boat ride up the New River. The name “Lamanai” is roughly translated as “Submerged Crocodile.” Apparently, there was once a thriving population. The ruins may date back to 700 B.C. and estimates put the number of structures, which are part of the ruins, at around 700 buildings; however, less than 5% has actually been excavated. Thick jungle, filled with howler monkeys, birds and jaguars, conceal the remaining structures. The walk through the jungle from the landing dock is certainly evocative. Tall palm trees form a dense ceiling and thick underbrush conceals everything around the path, still littered with pottery shards and artifacts because excavation is still ongoing. The Mask Temple has the most well preserved details but the view from the top of N10-43 (or High Temple) is thrilling. I don’t recommend it for those who are afraid of heights because the climb down is steep and challenging. If you can make it, it’s worth every moment of struggle. I am no expert judge, but I would revisit Lamanai again in a heartbeat; of all the Maya historical places I have been, it was the most interesting and complete in terms of narrative and historical detail. A museum toward the entrance to the complex could easily take an entire afternoon to get through because of the volume of information it houses.
By Kirsten Alana, AFAR Local Expert
Over 3000 years old and still packs a growl
It's hard to beat Tikal when visiting various Maya ruins but this complex of temples was one of my favorites. Perhaps the 2 hour boat ride just getting there peaks one's imagination but even stepping foot on the dock I felt I had gone back to primal jungle with the howler monkeys hooting up a storm, the birds calling and the giant palms and huge ceiba trees shadowing the ground. The excavated temples are in excellent condition and perhaps the only site where the Olmec influence can be seen in a few of the sculptures. For bird enthusiasts this is also an excellent spot. We may even have seen a Harpy eagle in the distance.