Altun Ha is located approximately 45 minutes north of Belize City on the Old Northern Highway. A two-mile dirt road connects the main road to the site, which encompasses 3.1 square miles. According to the Belize Institute of Archaeology, the site's name means "Rockstone Water," and is a Yucatec Mayan approximation of the name of the nearby village of Rockstone Pond. In Yucatec Mayan, haltun is a stone water deposit or cistern, and ha means water.
The area around the Altun Ha is rich in wildlife including armadillos, bats, squirrels, agouti, paca, foxes, raccoons, coati, tyra, tapir and the white-tailed deer. Two hundred species of birds have been recorded and there are large crocodiles that inhabit the Maya-made water reservoir.
Dating back to 900 BC, Altun Ha was a wealthy ceremonial center boasting two main plazas and thirteen structures (including the Temple of Sun God or the Temple of the Masonry Altars). Just 6.2 miles west of the Caribbean Sea, Altun Ha formed part of a unique cultural zone along with other coastal sites. The discovery of rich tombs over the years, indicates that the ruling elite enjoyed access to substantial amounts of exotic goods.
The largest of Altun Ha's temple-pyramids, the "Temple of the Masonry Altars", is 16 metres (52 ft) high. A drawing of this structure is the logo of Belize's leading brand of beer; Belikin
Lamanai is a remote Mayan site located on 958.5 lush acres of rain forest. Reaching the site is an adventure in itself. After an hour’s drive North from Belize City, guests board a water taxi for a 45 minute jungle cruise. On the way, you’ll see giant iguanas and crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of this tropical river.
The site is located on the banks of the New River Lagoon. Lamanai is the Maya word for "submerged crocodile." The site's name - "Lamanay" or "Lamayna" was recorded by Franciscan missionaries in the seventeenth century. It is one of the only sites retaining its original name and is among one of Belize's largest ceremonial centres. The name Lamanai helps to explain the numerous crocodile motifs at the site. Crocodile effigies appear on figurines, vessel decorations, and on the large headdress on a limestone mask at one of the principal structures at the site.
Lamanai is renowned for its exceptionally long occupation spanning three millennia, beginning in the Early Preclassic Mayan period and continuing through the Spanish and British Colonial periods, into the 20th century.Unlike most Classic-period sites in the southern Maya lowlands, Lamanai was not abandoned at the end of the 10th century AD.
The site contains impressive examples of Mayan architecture, including the high temple; an enormous pyramid, rising 108 feet (33 m) above the plaza level. It was first built around 100 BC and modified several times but its impressive height was already reached in the initial construction phase. This makes it one of the largest securely dated Maya structures from the Preclassic period.
The ruins of Xunantunich (the “Xu” is pronounced like “shoe”) is one of Belize’s most popular Maya archeological sites. It is a scenic 2-hour drive (about 80 miles west of Belize City), near the town of San Ignacio and the border with Guatemala. Xunantunich is most famously known for the second tallest temple in Belize: “ El Castillo” (Spanish for “The Castle”). Today, visitors approach the site by crossing over the Mopan River on a hand-operated ferry and then climb up to the limestone ridge that serves as the foundation for the city.
Once a prosperous city state during the Classical Maya era, Xunantunich was home to some 200,000 people; equivalent to two-thirds of Belize’s current population. Abandoned by the Maya nearly 1,000 years ago for unknown reasons, Xunantunich was claimed by the jungle until archeologists began conducting excavations in the mid-1890s.
The name Xunantunich, Yucatec for “Stone Woman,” was given by the local Maya because the site was regularly reported to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, usually depicted as being dressed entirely in white with glowing red eyes.
Belize is home to the most extensive cave system in Central America. Just a 45 minute drive from Belize City is the unique river-cave system of Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve. Here, the Caves Branch River flows through a series of 9 caves, connected by limestone tunnels.
The ancient Maya used these caves for sacred ceremonial purposes. Everywhere throughout this incredibly beautiful cave system are remnants of the Mayan culture. Intricate drawings cover the walls and ceiling and pottery shards are scattered throughout.
The Cave tubing experience through the Caves Branch system is by far the most popular tourist activity in the country. It starts with a 25 minute hike through the rain forest to reach the mouth of the first cave. There, you’ll be outfitted with a float tube, life jacket and helmet (with light). Your tour guide will then navigate the way through the 4.5 mile route, as the gentle current pushes you along. It’s truly an adventure of a lifetime!
Belize is one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet. Pristine rain forest covers more than 70% of the country; home to more than 4,000 different native flowering plants and 700 different species of trees. This beautiful rain forest is also home to the Yucatan Black Howler Monkey (known locally as a baboon); the largest monkey in Belize and one of the largest in the Americas.
Of course there is no better way to experience this amazing ecosystem than by soaring through the rain forest canopy on a zip line, as high as 250 feet above the ground! There are a total of 7 zip lines and 12 platforms that will have you flying through the jungle at the speed of Tarzan!
Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by the exotic sounds and sights of the rain forest. Belize has more than 500 species of birds and 5 species of large cats, including the elusive Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay and Jaguarundi.
Your Zip Line tour takes about 45 minutes, and is sure to be the highlight of your Belizean adventure!