The only major Maya ruin still bearing its original name, Lamanai (from a term meaning “submerged crocodile”) was continuously occupied by the Maya for more than 3,000 years. Visitors to the site today can explore buildings dating back to the first period of construction as well as Spanish and British edifices built during successful colonial eras. Remains of a British sugar mill still exist but all of the original Spanish churches were burned down during periods of Maya resistance to efforts to convert the locals to Catholicism.
Measuring more than 12 square miles, Lamanai was one of the biggest Maya cities in the area. Today, visitors can explore more than 100 buildings, including the impressive Temple of the Mask, the High Temple, and the Temple of the Jaguar Masks. A rich trove of Maya artifacts have been discovered at Lamanai, now on display at the onsite museum, including enormous masks, figurines, and pottery.
Lamanai is one of the few cities that did not depopulate during the end of the late Post Classic Period due to its strategic focus on trade. Copper and other metals were a significant part of the Lamanai economy and thousands of metals bells, rings, ornaments, axes, fish hooks, chisels and tweezers have been discovered at the site.
A premiere luxury resort in Belize, Black Orchid is located in a beautifully quiet oasis of tranquility on the Belize River just a 15-minute drive from the international airport in Belize City. Black Orchid offers a number of tours of Belize ruins, including Lamanai as well as:
Altun Ha – Just a short distance away from Belize City is Altun Ha, famous for its major temple appearing on the logo of Belikin Beer, the country’s most popular brew. One of Belize’s best excavated sites, Altun Ha is a stunning example of the architectural prowess of the ancient Maya.
Xunantunich – Difficult to pronounce at first, Xunantunich is famous for its enormous temple known as “El Castillo” (The Castle). Soaring high above a plateau, the sides of the temple are adorned with huge friezes depicting the pantheon of the Maya gods.
Caracol – Measuring more than 30 square miles and containing at least 35,000 buildings, Caracol disappeared into the jungle centuries ago and was only re-discovered in 1938.
Tikal – Located just over the border in Guatemala is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tikal. Once a powerful city-state during the Classic Maya Period, the ruins offer visitors a chance to see immense temples, pyramids, and a sophisticated agricultural irrigation system.