Located in the heartland of a vast empire that stretched from Mexico in the north to El Salvador in the south, Belize has more ancient Maya ruins than anywhere else.
Here are just a few of the most famous Maya ruins in Belize:
Once spread out across 200 square kilometers, Caracol was a thriving metropolis that was the seat of power for several powerful Maya dynasties. Dozens of temples, palaces, and stelae still exist.
One of the largest and most powerful city states in Maya history, Xunantunich vied for domination of the region with Caracol, Naranjo, and Tikal (now just across the border in Guatemala).
Built as a residence for the Maya elite, Cahal Pech sits perched high up on the river bank across from the modern city of San Ignacio.
Only opened to the public in the past few years, Uxbenka is a rather small site located in southern Belize near Punta Gorda. Although small and without giant buildings, the undisturbed nature of Uxbenka gives a great glimpse into what a ceremonial Maya site looked like.
The only ancient Maya site for which we know the original Maya name, Lamanai was continuously occupied right up through the years of the Spanish conquest. Remains of burned Catholic churches can be seen amidst ancient Maya buildings.
Located on the coast of Chetumal Bay across from Ambergris Caye, Cerros was a trading city that was first founded more than 2,400 years ago. Several buildings still survive, including temples and plazas.
The modern city of Corozal was built right on top of what is now called Santa Rita, although archeologists believe its original name was Chetumal. Despite the modern development, a few ancient buildings still survive.
The iconic “Temple of the Masonry Altars” measures 16 meters (52 feet) high and is used as the logo for Belikin Beer, Belize’s biggest domestic brewery. Located just outside of modern Belize City, Altun Ha is a vast complex.
Lubantuun’s unique architecture includes many buildings made from large stone blocks without the use of mortar, a technique that modern engineers are still trying to understand.
Nim Li Punit
The name translates as “Big Hat” in the local Maya language. Located in the far south of the country, Nim Li Punit has ball courts, pyramids, and several large plazas to explore.