Top Ten Maya Sites To Visit In Belize
The Most Exotic Mayan Ruins to visit in Belize
Making a pilgrimage to Belize to visit the top Mayan ruins isn’t just a great idea but a promise you make to yourself if this society fascinates you. Stay at Cahal Pech Village Resort to be in close proximity to most. All it takes is a request to your Cahal Pech hosts and they’ll arrange transport, guides, picnics and anything else you desire for your grand tour of the past.
Cahal Pech Maya Ruins. Don’t let the name Place of Ticks scare you; the area was once pastureland! A 1988 archaeological team unearthed 10 mounds at this site overlooking the towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Mayan society flourished here circa 1000 BC to 800 AD. You’ll see 34 ancient structures located over two acres, so allow enough time to see it all.
Xunantunich Maya Ruins (Maiden of the Rock) isn’t far from the village of San Jose. Take a ferry there and find Belize’s second tallest ruin, sun god bas relief masks on building walls, six plazas and remnants of 25+ palaces and temples. Though the size of this site is only 300 square meters, Xunantunich is a tourist favorite because there’s so much to see.
See also: Belize Mayan ruins Map
Ask the Cahal Pech trip team to get you to Altun Ha where armadillos, bats, squirrels foxes and White-tail deer wander this major ceremonial and trade center sprawled across two plazas. The “Jade Head,” the largest Mayan jade artifact unearthed to date, is the big draw, but the sophisticated reservoir constructed by Mayans centuries ago deserves your attention, too.
Caracol Maya Ruins, situated on the edge of the Maya Mountains within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, remains an active dig site, but it takes some effort to get here. The highlight of this ruin is Canaa (Sky Place), a 140-foot-tall pyramid. Come for the monuments. Stick around to see the cleverly engineered Mayan reservoir.
Santa Rita dates back to at least 2000 BC, so ruins offer a different perspective on Mayan culture. Santa Rita was a European contact point and hub for traders traveling between Mexico and Guatemala, so the artifacts left behind are unusual and include jade, mica, gold earrings, pottery, ceramics and agricultural tools.
The name Lamanai means submerged crocodile but you won’t have to wade in any water to see multiple ages and stages of Mayan history here. Your Cahal Pech host can arrange transport to this site by road or boat, but when you glimpse the largest Maya ceremonial center in the region with “more than 719 mapped structures” you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Cerro Maya was a vibrant coastal trading center thanks to its Bay of Chetumal location. It remained occupied longer than most Maya settlements thanks to a salt mining distribution enterprise that fueled area growth. Part of Cerro Maya is submerged, but what remains above the water line is spectacular: five temples, plazas and a canal system that winds around three architectural complexes over 52 acres.
Barton Creek Cave’s big attraction is its vast cave system that includes some of the most striking architectural elements in Belize. Since these caves were used for Mayan rituals, ceremonies and sacrifice, you can expect to see everything from human remains and hearths to artifacts when visiting here.
The Nim Li Punit archaeological and dynastic worship site boasts both the longest stela in Belize (No. 14) and a postcard-perfect vista, overlooking the Toledo coastal plain and rainforests. Wander the main plaza, ball court and other ruins, but it’s the stelae collection that will impress you most.
Lubaantun—Place of the Fallen Stones--is a Late Classic ceremonial center known for its unusual construction methods. Mayans at this location employed dressed stone blocks and organic materials, but they didn't use morter. As a result, pyramids and buildings disintegrated, which is how this site, a mile from San Pedro, got its unusual name.