Escape the Crowds and Visit This Maya City in Belize That’s Off the Beaten Path

by Khaila Gentle
caracol belize kaleidoscope

The countries of Central America are dotted with ancient Maya cities that tell the tale of an awe-inspiring civilization. And visiting these sites is a great way of to get a brief glimpse into the Maya past of those nations. Travel publication Lonely Planet even goes as far as to note that a trip to any of the four northernmost countries in Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) would be incomplete without a visit to a Maya site.

Of all the ancient ruins scattered across Belize, Caracol is perhaps one of the most remote but also one of the most striking. Intrepid travelers revel in the chance to visit the magnificent city – far off the beaten path and far away from the crowds.

Mexico’s Chichen Itza is probably the most famous of all Maya ruins, and the site is virtually overrun with tourists, drawing 3 million gawking visitors annually. Perhaps the second most famous Mayan ruin is Guatemala’s Tikal (although the crowds are much smaller there). A visit to Caracol in Belize can be a breath of fresh air, being far from the crowds of selfie-taking Instagrammers.

Escape the Crowds at Caracol

Photo by Aaron Colussi

Surrounded by dense jungle, Caracol is home to Belize’s largest Maya temple (and its largest manmade structure). Caana – which translates to “Sky Palace” – is a sight to behold. At 141 feet, it contains a a total of four palaces and three temples. The site in its entirety stretches for about 34 square miles, though a great deal of it still remains unexcavated.

The journey to get to Caracol is a long albeit rewarding one. It involves driving through the iconic Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, which in itself is an underrated travel locale. Recent upgrades to parts of the road make the drive up a bit easier. Nonetheless, you can enjoy views of the towering pine trees that line the way.

The sun sets behind the Mayan temples at Caracol in western Belize. After nearly 1,000 years in darkness, the site was discovered in 1937 by a woodcutter; archaeological excavations soon followed. PHOTOGRAPH BY IMAGEBROKER, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
photo by duarte dellarole
Visit the Rio Frio Cave - One of Belize's Most Beautiful Spots. Photo by Duarte Dellarole
big rock falls San Ignacio Resort Hotel

On the way back from Caracol, you can take advantage of the many other hidden-gems found throughout Mountain Pine Ridge. Rio Frio Caves and Big Rock Falls are two awe-inspiring destinations that are easily accessible.

Featured Photo by the Belize Tourism Board

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