I’m often asked what the “best” sights in Belize are and my typical answer is “everything.” And, while I truly mean that, I do recognize that not everyone can just drop life back home and travel Belize indefinitely.
Given that most of us have to return to reality after a holiday, compiling a list of the top sights that suit your agenda is wise. When recommending a Maya site to explore, one of my top picks is always Lamanai. Although it’s a full day trip, there is plenty of adventure, wildlife, and the chance to visit one of the most important and interesting Maya sites in Belize.
History of Lamanai
The name Lamanai means submerged crocodile, and it was nicknamed after the nearby crocodiles that once inhabited the region. There is evidence that Lamanai was inhabited as early as 700 BC and remained active until the 17th century AD. After visiting Lamanai, it may seem surprising that only about 5% of the site is actually excavated so far.
The Journey to Lamanai
Ready for a Belize Wildlife expedition? -- Flickr/satanoid
Depending on your starting point, you may have an extra boat trip, but the main Lamanai tour starts around Belize City where you hop in a boat and take a scenic 26-mile boat ride on the New River. Here you may spot howler monkeys, crocodiles, various birds, and abundant fauna.
You will transition to a van or bus for a brief ride and then you are back in a boat again headed directly to Lamanai. Once you arrive, enjoy a quick lunch and begin exploring the important temples. You can climb several of the temples, including the High Temple, which stands the tallest at 33 meters high. There is a small museum and gift shop onsite as well, so be sure to allow some time if you want to peruse either of them.
Temples at Lamanai
Lamanai main temple
Some of the important structures you will see at Lamanai include the Mask Temple, High Temple, Jaguar Temple, Stela 9, and the Ballcourt. Each of these structures has a pivotal role in Lamanai’s history. During your tour, the guides will talk about each of these and explain their importance in Maya history.
How to Visit Lamanai
Booking a tour to Lamanai is pretty simple, no matter where you plan to make your base in Belize. Even if you are staying on one of the cayes, like Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, there are tours readily available. Be advised – these tours depart early in the morning (typically around 7:00 a.m.) as it’s a long haul from the cayes, so be mindful of having too wild of a night beforehand. Of course, you can always sleep on the boat ride over in the morning. The fresh sea breeze is bound to perk you right up.
The boats will bring you back to the cayes anywhere between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., so expect to be pretty tired. Between the sun, hiking to the top of Maya temples, and possibly too many Belikins or rum punches on the afternoon boat ride back, you might find it unavoidable to call it an early night – but the day’s adventure will always be worth it.
Island Expeditions also offers the Lamanai tour as a part of the Maya World Extension. Check it out here http://www.islandexpeditions.com/ie-tripdesc-maya.html