Located approximately 24 miles south of Orange Walk Town in northern Belize, is the longest occupied Mayan site in the country. Known as Lamanai, which is Mayan for "submerged crocodile," it was inhabited for an impressive amount of time from 1500 B.C. to as late as A.D. 1700. In addition, what makes the site so interesting is its location on the western bank of a spectacular 28-mile long lagoon, one of just two waterside Mayan ruins in the country.
|Photo by L. Bulm|
|Photo by L. Bulm|
Getting to the Lamanai Ruins
The most interesting and practical way to reach Lamanai is by taking an organized boat tour. The trip takes a little less than an hour and the boats depart from the Tower Hill Bridge on the New River, which is approximately six miles south of Orange Walk Town. For those looking for an excursion from the cruise-ship port in Belize City, Belize Cruise Excursions offers roundtrip transportation to Orange Walk Town as well as the boat trip, guide, and ample time to explore the site. Tours can be arranged by going to their website at www.belizecruiseexcursions.com
What to See at Lamanai
Visitor Center and Museum: Before exploring the site, make sure to stop by this informative museum to learn more about Lamanai. It includes educational displays that cover the site's history and daily life of its residents as well as pottery and statues that date back more than 2,500 years. With some of the shelves cluttered by fragments of pottery and statues, it gives you perspective about how this site once thrived with more than 35,000 residents.
|View from the Top|
Mask Temple: Located north of the High Temple, this temple (formally known as Structure N9-56) is often called the Mask Temple for its spectacular and well-preserved stucco mask representing the Sun God, Kinich Ahau. Facing the front of the temple, the 13-foot mask is located on right side and you can just imagine this amazing feature either causing fear or praise for anyone who stepped in front of it. The temple is the smallest of the three excavated temples at the site and it was first built in A.D. 100 with the final phase of construction occurring between A.D. 550 to 650. In the spring of 2011, an identical mask was uncovered on the left side, which marks the tradition of symmetry in Mayan design.
|Photo by Ekem|
Ball Court: Located just south of the High Temple, is the ball court. It is such a simple name for an area that usually meant death for the losing team. On the other hand, the winners were treated as heroes and usually given an elaborate feast. These "games" were directly connected to the Mayan belief that human sacrifice was an important factor in the civilization’s future success. These ball courts can be seen in just about every Mayan ruin throughout Central America.