10 Must-See Maya Sites to Visit in Belize

by Carolee Chanona
caracol maya site must see belize

For nearly 3,000 years, the Maya civilization flourished in Belize – once the heartland of the Maya. Today, the magnificent archeological sites, temples and ruins remain to reflect their impressive past, coyly hidden amongst Belize’s thick jungle with rich history and mysteries of the Maya culture.

altun ha belize
Altun Ha Maya Site

ALTUN HA (ROCKSTONE POND)

Being the closest to Belize City, Altun Ha is also the most visited in Belize. Explore where the largest jade carving in the Maya world was discovered, and one of Belize’s greatest treasures: a jade head sculpture of sun god Kinich Ahau.

CAHAL PECH (PLACE OF TICKS)

Once home to an elite Maya ruling family, Cahal Pech boasts an impressive 34 structures in just over two acres. Plus, a royal burial chamber filled with trinkets for the afterlife: shell and bone ornaments, pottery vessels, obsidian blades, and a jade tile mosaic mask.

CERROS (MAYA HILL)

Located on the northern coast of Belize, the still-partially excavated trading center for obsidian and jade, Cerros, houses three large buildings and several plazas surrounded by pyramids. Within, Cerros’ tallest structure stands 72 feet high above the plaza.

cerros
Cerros Maya Site. © Leonardo Melendez Photography
Caracol Maya Site

CARACOL (SNAIL)

Located deep in the Chiquibul, Caracol is home to the tallest man-made structure in Belize – the 143-feet high temple of Caana (Sky Place). Also, noteworthy? The immense agricultural field system and city planning – especially for this Belize Maya Site.

Lamanai
Lamanai Maya Site

EL PILAR (WATER HOLE)

Located near the Guatemalan border, El Pilar is the largest Maya site of the Belize River area. Though most remain inaccessible to the public, the ‘Water Hole’ houses 25 plazas with hundreds of ancient structures. Tzunu’un, the house site, shows a glimpse of a traditional Maya home and forest garden.

LAMANAI (SUBMERGED CROCODILE)

A 26-mile boat ride up the New River leads you to Lamanai, boasting 700 mapped Maya structures including the Temple of the Jaguar. As one of the biggest and most impressive sites in Belize, Lamanai was continuously occupied for over 3,000 years.

LA MILPA (MAYA FARM)

With over 80 structures as the third largest Maya site in Belize, discover the few structures open to the public at La Milpa. In late April to early July, visitors have a unique opportunity to witness, or participate, in archaeological digs.

La Milpa Maya Site. © Birds Eye View Lodge
Lubaantun Maya Site

LUBAANTUN (THE PLACE OF FALLEN STONES)

Occupied for about 150 years, Lubaantun’s structures were constructed without the use of mortar, with each stone cut to perfectly fit the other. A flawless crystal skull was discovered here, and it also housed Maya elites and three ball courts.

NIM LI PUNIT (THE BIG HAT)

Nim Li Punit, found near the village of Indian Creek in Toledo, gets its name from the longest stela yet discovered in Belize and the the second tallest ever carved by the ancient Maya: a ruler carved with a large, elaborate head-dress. The concentration of so many stelae is what makes this such a unique Maya site in Belize.

XUNANTUNICH (MAIDEN OF THE ROCK) 

Venture across the Mopan River via hand-cranked ferry to reach Xunantunich, hosting 25 temples. Onsite, the El Castillo temple rises 130 feet above the plaza and features intricate hand-carved friezes and stelae.

Xunantunich Belize
Xunantunich Maya Site. Stephanie Klepacki/Unsplash

Article found on page 56 of the 2020 Belize Gold Book. Feature photo of Caracol Maya Site in Belize, © Duarte Dellarole Photography. Read more articles from the #BelizeGoldBook below:

Related Articles

Compare