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Discovering the Mayan Culture of Belize from Ancient Ruins to the Present Day


The Mayan culture of Belize is fascinating with a rich history surrounded by mystery. It spans thousands of years from ancient Mayan ruins to present day villages found in the jungle rainforests of the lush interior of the country.  Visiting the ancient Mayan sites is rightly so, on the top of the list for things to do in Belize for many travellers but you will also find that the Maya are a vibrant and thriving culture in Belize today. 

Here we explore the best ways to discover both the past and present Mayan cultures in Belize:

Exploring the Ancient Mayan Sites in Belize

Archaeologists believe that Belize was at one time the center of the ancient Maya world and once was home to more than 2 million Mayas. The Maya Empire evolved around 350 BC in the lowlands of Belize and northern Guatemala and reached its height from 250 A.D. to 900 A.D.  In the 16th century, with the arrival of the Spanish, the Maya civilization began to decline. Today the ancient Maya civilization can be rediscovered by visiting one of the many Mayan ancient ruins. Read our recommendations on the Top 5 Mayan Sites to Explore in Belize This Summer.

Our Maya World Extension trip is available all year round and can be booked as a standalone Belize vacation or added to one of our other trips.  The highlight of this culture tour of Belize includes staying two nights at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, visiting the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha and touring the ancient city of Lamanai.


Lamanai Ruins Belize
Lamanai Maya Ruins in Belize

Discovering the Caves of Belize and Learning About Mayan Rituals, Symbols, and Mythology

On our Glover’s Reef and River of Caves trip (available December - April), we visit the Darknight cave system where you will find pottery and artifacts still untouched, indicating these caves were at one time ceremonial centers of the ancient Maya.  On this part of the trip you will learn about ancient Mayan rituals and the importance of the caves to the Mayans that lived and worshipped in this area.

The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM cave) is one of the most famous caves in Belize and contains four skeletons, many ceramic vessels, and stoneware left by the Maya.

Visiting Remote Mayan Villages in Belize

The culture of the Kekchi and Mopan Maya not only exists in the ancient ruins and artifacts, but on a vacation to Belize you will find that the Maya are still a thriving culture in Belize. On our Epic Belize trip we visit the remote Mayan village of Santa Teresa.  Santa Teresa is located in the Toledo District of Belize and has a population of approximately 330 residents. On this past of the trip, guests are hosted for lunch at the home of a local Mayan family.  


Santa Teresa, Belize

The Mayan Village of Santa Teresa 

The Epic Belize trip provides a wonderful insight into how the Mayan people have evolved and adapted to the modern world and this trip is an amazing opportunity to travel and learn in the Belizean rainforest with our Mayan guides.

The winning photograph of our 2016 Island Expeditions Beauty of Belize Photo Contest was a beautiful image of a Mayan girl, taken by a guest while visiting Santa Teresa village.


Mayan Girl
“We stopped in the Mayan Village for lunch and to gear up for our trip on the Moho River. What a beautiful little girl!”. Photo and caption by Barb Wolff/Island Expeditions Beauty of Belize Photo Contest 2016.

Mayan Culture at the Mayflower Bocawina National Park

The Mayflower Bocawina National Park is located in the southern district of Stann Creek and has two unexcavated Mayan temple mounds and other unexplored Mayan sites to explore.  If you visit, make sure you visit the information center, located in the plaza area, which includes a brief history of the local ancient Maya.  

Staying at the Bocawina Rainforest Resort, is not only the perfect base to explore the park, but it’s also a wonderful way to learn and interact with the present day Mayan culture.  Bocawina Rainforest Resort has amazing staff and there are a total of 7 Ketchi Maya, 4 Mopan Maya and 2 Yucatec Maya in the team! The resort has beautiful traditional thatched cabanas and the same techniques for new roofing is still done in the old fashioned way by our Mayan staff members.


Thatched Cabana at Bocawina
Thatched Cabana at Bocawina Rainforest Resort

Roofing at Bocawina Rainforest Resort
Roofing using traditional Mayan techniques at Bocawina Rainforest Resort

Join us on a discovery of the Mayan culture of Belize

We employ local people from the villages and use local Mayan guides to lead many of our trips.  

Our Belize vacations that include a Mayan cultural component are:

Our Summer Adventures in Belize are ideal destinations for you to do something new this summer. Now’s the time to experience something totally different and learn about new cultures.  You can also participate in exhilarating and fun activities like water rappelling and zip lining.

Contact one of our trip planners today and they will provide you with all the details and itineraries on how to have an extraordinary vacation in Belize this summer.
Call: 1-800-667-1630 or email: info@islandexpeditions.com