Mayan Empire map
Belize Mayan Ruins Map
The Top Maya Sites to Visit in Belize
The Mysterious World of the Ancient Maya
The land that is now Belize was once the heartland of the ancient Maya Empire. Although the various areas all spoke a common language and shared a common religion, the empire was actually a patchwork of ever-shifting kingdoms and principalities that formed alliances with or went to war against one another. The ancient Maya civilization surged and ebbed with periods of growth and prosperity mixed with periods of war, civil unrest, and even starvation. After several millennia of existence, the civilization began to break apart for unknown reasons between 600 to 900 A.D., leaving the once-mighty cities to be swallowed up by the jungle. By the time the Europeans arrived on the continent, the Maya civilization was almost completely gone.
Cahal Pech guided tours include visits to the top Maya cities and religious sites in western Belize. We offer daily tours to Xunantunich, Caracol, Cahal Pech and Tikal (just across the border in Guatemala).
Maya Ruins in Belize
Belize’s pleasant weather, rich soils, and abundance of marine life in the rivers and estuaries as well as the offshore Belize Barrier Reef fueled a population explosion during the time of the ancient Maya. Large cities were built that housed hundreds of thousands of people. The Maya used the Belize River as a “super highway” to transport goods throughout the country and connect with the big city-states in Guatemala. The powerful city-states of Belize traded with settlements further inland like Tikal.
In addition to the well-excavated ruins that can be found in Belize such as Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Nim Li Punit, and Altun Ha, many more other large cities are still awaiting exploration in the jungles and rainforests. Some of these cities have been identified from aerial photography but many more remain to be discovered.
Caves were important ceremonial sites for the ancient Maya, and many caves in Belize have been discovered filled with artifacts and treasures left behind by Maya priests. Archeologists have found altars, religious carvings, and the remains of sacrificial victims in some of these caves.
Today, many ethnic Maya continue to live in Belize, particularly in the southern parts of the country.
Belize’s most impressive Maya Ruins are: Altun Ha, Xunantunich, and Caracol.
The Maya Ruins listed below are available to visit:
Carozal District – Santa Rita & Cerros
Orange Walk District – Lamanai & Cuello
Belize District – Altun Ha
Cayo District – Caracol, Cahal Pech, El Pilar and Xunantunich
Toledo District – Nim Li Punit & Lubaantun
Cahal Pech Maya Ruins
Cahal Pech means “place of ticks” in modern-day Maya, and refers to the fact that the surrounding area was once used as pasture land. However, this was the royal acropolis-palace of an elite Mayan ruling family who lived here during the Classic period. Cahal Pech was settled around 1000 BC and abandoned by 800 AD.
Xunantunich was the first Maya ruin to be opened for visitors in 1950, because of its proximity to San Ignacio. Extensive archeological work has been carried out at the site providing a wealth of historical information about the Mayas.
EL Pilar is a 100 acre Maya site situated 12 miles northwest of San Ignacio in the quaint Village of Bullet Tree Falls. The abundance of natural water sources in this vicinity is possibly the origin of the name El Pilar (“pila” being Spanish for watering basin). Read more…
Caracol Maya Ruins
Caracol Maya Ruins is located in the Cayo District, deep in the jungles of the Chiquibul Reserve and the tour includes a visit to the on site museum that hosts the ancient artifacts narrating the story of Caracol in it’s era. Read more…
Historic Print (L): [The Bab-i Hümayan (Imperial Gate) located in Ayasofya] / Constantinople, Abdullah
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