What are the top 10 Mayan sites in Belize? Well – two million Mayans once called Belize home. You see sites and mounds all over the country. Ancient Maya flourishe in this specific area and created sprawling cities. Their era of greatness came to an end, but they left behind some magnificent remnants of their great empire. These archaeological sites are top attractions for the tourism sector to Belize.
Here are the Top 10 Mayan sites (or commonly described as Mayan ruins) to visit
Xunantunich - Most Visited Top 10 Mayan Site
First, let us talk about Xunantunich. This Ancient Maya archaeological site is located in western Belize. It is about 70 miles west of Belize City, in the Cayo District. Xunantunich sets atop a ridge above the Mopan River, well within sight of the Guatemala border. The actual reserve covers 25 sq. km and is home to many howler monkeys. Find surging rapids less than one mile below the site of the Mopan River which is popular for canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and swimming.
The site lies directly on the tourist route for those leaving Belize for Tikal in Guatemala or vice versa. Drive yourself here via the Western Highway.
Altun Ha - Most Walkable Top 10 Mayan Site
Next, we have Altun Ha. Altun Ha is home to the largest Maya carved jade object discovered. In 1968, people found the famous Jade Head. Altun Ha is also known as “water of the rock” in Maya. The site is a ceremonial site for ancient Mayans. The site is located just 31 miles from Belize on the northern highway. Drift Inn Belize can help you explore this amazing place. Tack this site on to the beginning or end of a vacation easily given its proximity to Belize City and the airport. The parking lot is steps from the site – so we consider this the easiest site to navigate.
Caracol - Hailey's Favorite Mayan Site
Another great site is Caracol. Caracol remain the name given to a tremendous ancient Maya archaeological site, located in what is presently the Cayo District of Belize. Inside the Sky Palace you see three temples and four palaces. Rooms in the palace were originally painted white with decorations in vivid red paint. Additionally, there are over 100 excavated tombs within the city center.
It is approximately 40 kilometres south of Xunantunich and the town of San Ignacio. Beautiful waterfalls and landscapes surround Caracol. Rent a car and explore the area with friends and family!
Cahal Pech - Easiest Top 10 Mayan Site
Then, there is Cahal Pech. Located in the Cayo overlooking the small town of San Ignacio and the Macal river. Maya settled this area around 1200-1000 BC. Cahal Pech sits in the lush jungle setting only a short 0-2 minute walk from town’s center giving urban visitors easy walking access from their hotels. If you’re looking for a hostel in San Ignacio – we suggest Bella’s Backpackers.
By setting up in San Ignacio, you can easily navigate yourself to Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Xunantunich in the matter of two days.
Marco Gonzalez - San Pedro's Own Top 10 Mayan Site
Next, there is San Pedro, Belize’s own little Maya site. This Mayan site and reserve located in the southern area of Ambergris Caye salt production. Fishing and trading were the primary activities for Maya at Marco Gonzalez. During 800 BC -500 AD salt production was at its peak. Although international tourists rarely visit this site, it is just a 45 minutes golf cart ride from Drift Inn.
This is one of Belize’s largest ceremonial centres. Lamanai is a Mesoamerican archaeological site and was once a major city of the Maya civilization. The site’s name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam’an’ain. The most popular route is by the New River Lagoon, a waterway rich in the natural history where your guide will describe fauna and flora enroute to the Maya sites. To read more about Lamanai click here.
It is located in the north of Belize’s Orange Walk District. At present Lamanai is accessible by road from San Felipe Village in an SUV during the dry season. However, the trip is much more lovely and informative on the full day boat tours.
Now, Cerros is another lesser visited Top 10 Mayan sites in Belize. It is perfect for travellers that love to go off-the-beaten-path. The site location in the peninsula in Corozal Bay, making it the only Mayan site in Belize on the coastline. While driving around Belize, you could hit up this spot and enjoy its good views and Maya ruins.
Next, in the modern town of Corozal you have the ancient Maya centre of Santa Rita. During the Late Post Classic Period (c.a. A.D. 1350-1530) and up to the time of Spanish contact in the 1500s Santa Rita was important. The largest building in the central core were excavated and consolidated. Archaeological investigations showed Santa Rita to be a part of the ancient province of Chetumal where a large part of the Post Classical civilization thrived. Use public transportation to reach Corozal from Belize City or take a short flight away from San Pedro.
Then, Lubaantun is the site of “the fallen stone”, which is a site located in the village of San in Toledo. This is the largest Maya site in Southern Belize. The site is well known for its unusual style of construction. All structures consist of limestone blocks with no visible mortar binding them together. The strength of each structure lies in every hand-cut stone. Each stone was carefully measured and shaped to fit snugly next to each neighboring block. The sense of serenity and ambiance are overwhelming when you visit this underrated Maya site. Explore massive stone structures with bright green moss. Feel cool breezes rustle through the huge canopies as birds and insects orchestrate around you.
Nim li punit
Finally, the small ruin, Nim li punit, can be found in Toledo district. The site is known for its 25+ stelae found around the site. Stelae are carved monuments often having texts and ornamentation. The Mayan site is set on a ridge in the foothills of the Maya Mountains consisting of two ceremonial plazas.
To get there: From Belmopan, take the Hummingbird Highway for 45 miles until you reach the Southern Highway Exit. Turn right onto the Southern Highway and travel an additional 50 miles (1 hour) until you reach Indian Creek Village. Exit to the right on the gravel road and continue for about 1/2 mile until you reach the reserve.