Visit the Modern Maya of Belize  

by Larry Waight

The ancient Maya civilizations may have disappeared into the mists of history, but modern Maya are alive and well. In Belize, they have continued to build thriving communities where they have held onto their culture, language, and traditions. If you’re visiting Belize, you can spend a day immersed in their fascinating culture.

Modern Maya in Belize

The Maya of Belize live in several distinct communities. You can visit these villages to experience the way they live and how they contribute to Belize’s incredible cultural diversity. The various Maya tribes all speak their own languages. The Maya who live in Belize are mostly Kek’chi and Mopan Maya.

A handful of Maya families have opened their homes to tours that let you experience their daily lives. You can find them in the Maya villages of San Antonio in the Cayo District and Big Falls in the Toledo District.

San Antonio in the Cayo District

Travel to the lively Cayo District to spend the day with a typical Maya family. During this tour, you’ll learn how the Maya live. Visit their gardens and learn about the simple, rural lifestyle they practice to this day. During the tour, you’ll help prepare a traditional Maya lunch and homemade tortillas. After a delicious lunch, it’s time for a pottery class. Learn how the Maya craft their detailed, beautiful pottery by hand.

The Cayo District is a popular tourist area because of its gorgeous scenery, charming villages and endless recreational opportunities. The towns of San Ignacio, Santa Elena and the capital city of Belmopan offer a wealth of shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, bank branches and tour operator companies.

Big Falls in the Toledo District

The rural, unspoiled Toledo District offers two tours of Maya life. One focuses on a Maya cacao plantation where you can watch the family process world-famous, all-organic Maya chocolate. You’ll learn to make your own chocolate and have the chance to sample it. This tour includes a demonstration of Maya musical instruments.

In the second tour, you’ll learn to make Maya food and Maya woven crafts. Maya weaving and embroidery are celebrated throughout Latin America. Learn how they make these stunning bags, fabrics, and baskets.
maya bags
The Toledo District is the last unspoiled frontier in Belize. This district is home to many farms and nature preserves. It’s not a popular tourist destination, but it draws people who want to see nature at its most pristine, untouched best.

A Legendary History

While you’re learning about the Maya, deepen your understanding by learning more about their history. The Maya built their most important city-states in Belize and nearby Guatemala. Not to mention, the ruins of those great city-states dot the rainforest surrounding Belize. You can visit many well-preserved, impressive ruins such as those at Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Xunantunich.

Learn More About the Maya

A visit to the Maya communities of Belize lets you experience a fascinating new culture. Make your Belize vacation memorable by getting to know the Maya. 

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