Prior to planning your Belize vacation, chances are you’ve done enough digging on social media apps on what to do, where to stay and what to see. If you’re guilty of saving a ton of Belize posts to your bookmarks for vacation reference, we bet Xunantunich has been one of them. The need to recreate a selfie with the tall “El Castillo” looming in the background is immediate – and we don’t blame you one bit. The centuries-old Maya site in the Cayo District is a draw for umpteen travelers. But did you know that’s not the only photogenic – or even the tallest – Maya ruin in Belize?
To help give dear Xunantunich a break from carrying half of Belize’s location tag on Instagram, here’s a list of just-as-worthy Maya temples in Belize that may have slipped through your initial itinerary.
This Maya site houses the tallest man-made structure in the entire region: Caana. The behemoth – rising up to 143- feet high – is located deep in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, near the border with Guatemala. Caracol, it’s name translating to “snail,” is worth the three-hour drive from the town of San Ignacio. A vast expanse of green lawn lies at the feet of the tallest temple. Upon summit, you get a 360-view of the surrounding jungle, an ideal spot to snap all the pictures you want.
Closest to the international airport, Altun-Ha houses 13 structures and two main plazas. The Mayan-made water reservoir – its name translates to “rockstone pond” – is the go-to for many cruise goers visiting Belize. Its convenient location adds to the allure of witnessing the history of such an important ceremonial center that was said to be home to the wealthy. On a typical day, Altun-Ha is rarely teeming with crowds, so you are able to get photos of each and every angle of the towering temples.
The journey to this northern gem alone is worth the day trip. Located in the Orange Walk District, Lamanai can be found at the end of a one-hour boat ride from Orange Walk Town (though it’s accessible by road, as well.) Its Maya name means “submerged crocodile,” and its most iconic feature is the “Temple of the Mask.” The ‘face’ was built up from limestone blocks and then overlaid with a thin layer of plaster. The intriguing look makes for a great photo opp, especially when face-to-face to the 4.2 meter tall structure.