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Lamanai Mayan Ruins

Mayan ruins are some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring parts of Central American culture. To think what a population could accomplish so long ago somehow puts life into a new perspective. The Lamanai Mayan Ruins in central Belize are no different.

On a recent Carnival Cruise around the Caribbean and Central America, Connor and I got to visit Belize and took a tour to the Lamanai Ruins. The ruins are located about an hour drive from Belize City, where many cruises port, and then another half an hour by boat up the New River.

When I found out we were stopping in Belize, it was important to me to find an excursion that would give us an insight into what the culture and lifestyle of the country is. Making our way to the Lamanai ruins did just that — but that’s a story for another post!

The Lamanai site is comprised of three main, excavated, temples. The first is the Jaguar Temple, built mostly between the 8th and 12th centuries.

The ancient city of Lamanai was a major hub in Mayan culture as early as the 4th century BC, well into the 17th century AD until the time of the Spanish conquests in Central America.

 The second temple at Lamanai is the High Temple. Named for it’s height (33 meters) the High Temple is the only temple at Lamanai that tourists can climb. Once at the top of the temple, you overlook the Belize jungle and the New River. Views don’t get much better than this.

Construction of the High Temple Began around 100 BC. At this time, it would have been the largest structure in Mesoamerica, used primarily for ceremonies. The nearby location of a the Ball Court, used for well-known Mayan activities, signifies that the High Temple was once at the center of Lamanai culture.

The final temple at Lamanai is the Mask Temple. The two masks on either side of the temple, after which the Mask Temple is named, are thought to be representative of an early Mayan ruler. Inside the temple are two burials, one of a man, the other of a woman.

Tips for traveling to Belize and to Lamanai:

DO: Come prepared! Belize is HOT, and Lamanai’s location away from the coast means that it will be muggy and humid. Make sure you have lots of water,  bug spray, and sunscreen!

DON’T: Climb on the ruins unless otherwise told. I mean, yeah they’re cool, and you’ll want to climb them. But don’t be that tourist that ruins the experience for everyone else.

DO: Climb to the top of the High Temple! I saw so many people opt not to climb the temple and preferred to stay on the ground. Totally a respectable decision, but the climb is not nearly as hard as it looks. You actually just walk up a flight of stairs (made specifically so tourists could reach the top) most of the way, so it is super easy to make it most of the way to the top. And it’s worth the view, I promise!

DO: Plan to spend an entire day traveling to and exploring Lamanai. As previously mentioned, Lamanai is in the middle of Belize, so it’s a bit of a journey to get there. But it’s definitely worth it!

DO: Get an early start! The earlier you go, the cooler it will be, and the more enjoyable your experience will be.

DON’T: Forget the camera!

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