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On a Western Caribbean cruise we took an excursion to see the Lamanai Mayan Ruins of Belize. It is nothing like I expected and a thousand times better than I could have ever imagined. The Lamanai Mayan Ruins of Belize is an ancient city of ruins that means “submerged crocodile” which is a nod to the reptiles that live in the nearby New River.
Lamanai Mayan Ruins of Belize
We visited three temples at Lamanai: The Jaguar Temple, named for its boxy jaguar decoration; the Mask Temple, adorned by a 13-foot stone mask of an ancient Maya king; and the High Temple, which has a panoramic view from its summit.
We almost canceled our trip to the ruins because it was pouring rain. It was the monsoon season of Belize and a rainforest…so you can imagine the rain. We knew we had 3o minute speed boat ride down the New River and honestly the ride to the ruins was horrendous. At that point we wished we had canceled.
We have no pictures or video of our trip to the ruins because the rain and storm was that bad. In fact, our tour guide stood at the front of boat in the pouring rain, screamed, “Let the tour begin” at the same time a bolt of lightning and crack of thunder roared. It would have been funny but we were all miserable.
By the time we reached the ruins, the rain had let up and we were able to ditch the rain gear and walk the grounds of Lamanai.
How to reach Lamanai?
From our ship in Belize, we took an hour bus ride and then a 30 minute speed boat ride down the New River. (Tours can also be organized from Orange Walk Town along the New River, or by dirt roads through the Mennonite area of Shipyard.) Lamanai has a small museum that exhibits local artifacts and provides a historical overview. We took a tour offered through our cruise, but there we saw other tours were offered. Lamanai wan’t busy (could have been the weather) and tours stayed together allowing only one or two tours at each ruin at a time.
Can you climb Lamanai?
On the Lamanai grounds, there were a couple ruins that could be climbed. Climbing to the top of the High Temple was amazing. And the view from the top was stunning.
Howler monkeys could be hurt out in the rainforest, but didn’t see any where we were.
Walking the grounds of Lamanai was pretty easy, but climbing to the the top of the High Temple was HARD. They actually built stairs around the back, but even those were hard to navigate, the bonus was there was a handrail. However, once to the top of the stairs the only way to the very top of the High Temple was to climb. Sadly, my asthma and a health issue kept me from going to the very top, but my family did and said it was amazing.
Seeing the ruins in person was an amazing experience. We’ve seen them on tv, in books, and of course online, but nothing compares to how amazing these temples are in person. They are inspiring and wonderfully crafted.
So, How old is Lamanai?
The city of Lamanai was occupied as early as the 16th century BC by the Mayans and it wasn’t abandoned until the end of the 10th century AD.
Despite the gloomy clouds, the weather cleared for our time at Lamanai and we enjoyed cooler temperatures in July. It was humid, but luckily it wasn’t too hot.
This was one trip we will never forget. Have you ever been to Lamanai or another Mayan ruins site?