Lamanai picture
Simon Dannhauer/Getty Images

Key Info

Northern Belize

Details

Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.2scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Perched on the New River Lagoon in northern Belize, this sprawling 960-acre Mayan site stands masked in crocodile art. Lamanai means "submerged crocodile" in Yucatec Mayan, which should give you a good idea of what you'll encounter here: artifacts depicting representations of the reptile, plus crocodiles (and iguanas) crawling along the banks of the New River to catch some sunlight.

Inhabited from about 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1700, Lamanai is the longest-occupied known Mayan site in the world. Its dense compound features three Mayan pyramids, the remains of a 16th-centruy Spanish Church and several noteworthy plazas and temples established during Pre-Classic Mayan rule. You won't want to skip climbing the High Temple, and you'll also want to visit the Mask Temple, which includes ancient artifacts linked to Mayan, Aztec and Olmec rulers. Just come prepared with sunscreen, light clothing and plenty of water.

Lamanai welcomes visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance to Lamanai costs 10 Belize dollars (roughly $5). You can reach Lamanai from Belize City via the Northern Highway. Locals recommend traveling up the New River by water taxi or a guided river tour from Caye Caulker. Reliable companies that offer tours include Lamanai Belize Tours and Belize Fun Tours and range from $60 to $75 per person.  

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Ambergris Caye
Great Blue Hole
Type
Time to Spend
1 of 9
#1 Ambergris Caye

With its plentiful outdoor activities, this 25-mile-long island off the coast of northern Belize caters to the snorkeling and diving set. The island was originally inhabited by the Mayans to serve as a far-extending trade route, spanning from present-day Mexico to as far south as Honduras. Today, Ambergris Caye welcomes thousands of visitors seeking easy access to the barrier reef that surrounds the island. Snorkelers and intrepid divers alike will want to explore Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Most of the diving and snorkeling shops and instructors are found in San Pedro, including the Belize Pro Dive Center, Tuff E Nuff Tours and Scuba School Belize, which all offer a variety of daily excursions. Prices vary depending on the type and length of tours, plus any certification fees for diving.

When you're not underwater, explore San Pedro, Ambergris' main town. Here you'll find beachside restaurants, lounges, shops and luxury hotels. You'll notice the difference between this tourist hub and the more urban Belize City as soon as you step onto its cobblestone streets, which are filled with golf carts and bicycles, rather than cars.

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