The Mayan Ruins at Lamanai (Belize)

During a cruise which included a stop at Belize, we took an excursion to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. The ruins are not as popular or as easily accessible as the ruins at Altun Ha, but I was attracted to the fact that getting to the ruins included a 40 minute riverboat ride. Two excursions in one!

After an hour van ride, we arrived at the riverboat launch site on the New River.  (Lamanai is not accessible by any road.)


The New River is fairly wide.


During the ride, we saw various wildlife, including birds, turtles, and a crocodile. “Lamanai” means “submerged crocodile.”


Not sure what the blue bird is.

Lamanai was not discovered until the 1950’s. It may have been occupied as early as the 16th century BC and until as late as the 17th century AD. Due to its location along a river, it was able to survive longer than other, inland Mayan cities. The river allowed irrigation of crops and also provided an additional food source.

We learned from our guide that, after the death of a king or other luminary involved with a structure, the new luminary would build on an existing structure, including removing or covering up parts of it. The temple below was modified at least three times


Jaguar Temple (jaguar face on left)


Closeup of jaguar face.


Ceremonial temple with remnant of carving of king’s coronation


Closeup of coronation carving (bottom had cracked)


Bed in king’s home


Closeup of reconstructed mask at Mask temple.


The “high” temple cannot be climbed using the steps; there is a staircase at the left side.

There are “howler” monkeys at Lamanai. If you didn’t know it was a monkey, you’d think a big cat was stalking you and run away as fast as possible. I have a “basic” WordPress site and it does not support videos. However, I have uploaded a video of the howler monkeys to a website I have and you can view it at this link.

The Lamanai excursion takes a whole day, but it is well worth it. We did not book through the cruise line, which marks up the price. We booked directly with a smaller provider: There was a total of just four of us and the guide was a student of Mayan history who attended scholarly seminars and other educational gatherings whenever he could. The $75 per person cost included all transportation, admission to the ruins and lunch. I was glad not to be on a tour with 25 folks!