The Belizean Jungle and the Mayan ruins of Lamanai had always been an area I longed to see ever since I did an Essay in high school on the Mayan Civilization. As soon as I was old enough to travel on my own, I’d booked a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. I explored the whole coast, all the way down to Tulum, experienced some fantastic bird watching in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere (the UNESCO World Heritage site) on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and then wandered around in awe in Tikal, one of the largest archeological sites of pre-Columbian Maya civilization in Guatemala. It took my breath away and ignited a spark in me to see more archeological and historic wonders in the world.
Lamanai – meaning “Land of the Submerged Crocodile” in Belize, is the third largest and possibly most important archaological sites in Belize. It soon became one of my dream destinations. So, in true New Jetsetters spirit, knowing that life is too short to just sit and think about living your dreams, we set aside the time and money for a visit to Lamanai.
Ambergrise Caye in Belize is one of those small, dreamy islands where you can have a fantastic time that won’t break the bank, find a good selection of clean, comfortable lodgings, and feel very safe and secure when you sleep at night. It is also a great jumping base to explore some of the most diverse and exciting landscapes anywhere – the vast jungle filled with exotic janguars, ocelots, monkeys, and toucans; the second largest reef in the world at your feet, the Great Blue Hole, where the massive Whale Sharks migrate annually within easy reach. With our focus being a tour of Lamanai, we chose beautiful Victoria House as our hotel.
Needless to say, I was so excited to be on that boat trip up the New River towards the site of Lamanai, accompanied by tour guides Carlos and Carlos (yes, two Carlos!). The somewhat long journey was never boring, as Carlos #1, expertly trained and at ease in the Mangrove lined maze of waterways snaking through the thick jungle. We cruised slowly so that Carlos could point out various species of the national flower of Belize, the Black Orchid, or the profile of some of their colorful, native birds (Toucans, Ibis, Motmots, Stilts, hummingbirds), and then would speed up the boat on the wider stretches to cool us off and get to our faraway destination in good time. Occasionally we would stop to marvel at wonders such as dozens of beautiful bright blue crabs scrambling for cover in the roots of the large Mangrove trees, or to inspect incredibly huge termite nests in the trunks of thickly entwined trees. Once or twice we observed small American crocodiles with just their eyes and snout poking up above the surface of the water. I understood why this place was called Lamanai - “Submerged Crocodile”.
Our guides were very good, educating us about the local flora and fauna. Mahogany trees were pointed out as being one of the most important trees for Belize economically, as well as the “Chicle”, which gives us the ingredient for gum (we all have had Chiclets, is this not true?) Other valuable trees like Cashew, Coconut, and Custard Apple are very important also, as well as Guava, Mango and Papaya, Banana, and Pineapple.
Finally we arrived at the entrance to Lamanai, which is located in the “Orange Walk District”. The complex sits atop a bluff of the New River Lagoon and is surrounded by very impressive pristine rainforest. Lamanai was occupied continuously for over 3,000 years. It is said the fact that it was so very remote contributed to it’s being able to last well beyond most other Maya sites, until at least 1,650 AD.
I will always remember the haunting sound of the Howler Monkeys as we took our first few steps down the path to the temples. They would follow us as we walked along the jungle path, swinging high above us from tree to tree, visible from the corner of your eye like fleeting ghosts. The jaguar, one of the most revered animals of the ancient Maya, were audible but not visible. As we walked, our guide told us to stop and listen. We could hear a keening call in the distance, which our guide said was the sound of a Jaguar. Carlos explained that they were very difficult to catch sight of, the best chance being in the peace of early morning dawn. The other four native cats of Belize are the puma, ocelot, margay and the jaguarundi. Lamanai is also home to various species of Monkeys, and “The Community Baboon Sanctuary” was established in 1985 to protect one of the few healthy black howler monkey populations in Central America.
Once or twice we heard rustling in the bush. Our guide explained that it could be a Tapir, although they are normally nocturnal. They are the national animal of Belize but have pretty much disappeared in the rest of Mexico and Central America. We were told to keep an eye out for snakes, especially the very vicious fer-de-lance, an extremely disagreeable and extremely poisonous reptile. Two iguanid species also live in Belize: the green iguana or “bush-chicken ” and the black or land iguana, locally called a “wish-willy”. “Jesus Christ” Lizards can also be found here. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History lists over 530 species of birds that have been sighted here, including more than 200 migratory birds from North America who winter in the tropics. In many parts of the inland forest, it is not unusual to see as many as 120 birds over a period of as little as four or five days. At the request of the Belize Audubon Society, seven small mangrove cayes were declared bird sanctuaries. These cayes are nesting rookeries for Wood Storks, Great and Cattle Egrets, Boat-billed and Tricoloured Herons, Reddish Egrets and White Ibis, as well as Magnificent Frigatebirds, Anhingas and other birds.
Suddenly our path opened onto the most picturesque Mayan ruins in Belize: Lamanai. There are three large pyramids, some restored stelae, and some open plazas, as well as a small but unique ball court. There are also the ruins of two 16th century Spanish churches nearby but we wouldn’t have time to see them today. Lamanai was still occupied by the Maya when the Spanish arrived, so it is one of the few sites in Belize to preserve its traditional name. The large numbers of crocodile representations found in carvings seem to suggest that the animal had a very important role in the local mythology.
I was so excited to see “The High Temple”. It was enormous, rising 108 feet (33 m) above the plaza level, built around 100 BC. Some brave souls were climbing it, but I was pretty hesitant. It looked a long way up! However, Steve said, we did not come all this way to stand around and look. The next thing you know I was holding onto a rope for dear life and panting my way up the crumbling stone steps. At the first plateau I did not dare turn around to look down or I knew I would lose my courage. I squeezed my fingers around that rope and started up the next level. There, I decided to risk a look around. My breath caught in my throat. The great panorama of the Belizean jungle laid out all around us, punctuated here and there with blue waters of rivers and cenotes. I knew I had to make it all the way to the top, just to say I had done it. With my legs shaking, I grabbed the rope and kept going. At last! Finally I was at the top! The view was even more amazing. I felt like a bird that had flown to the tallest tree in the forest. A few photo’s later, we were so hot we had to get down. Thank goodness for that rope, because it is a long ways down! I would only recommend this climb to people who are very sturdy on their feet and fairly fit, or you could get into serious trouble.
Finally back on solid ground, we walked the short distance to the south of the High Temple ball court, the only one in Lamanai, dating to around 900-950 AD. It has a circular stone marker with a mysterious story…. It covers up a mysterious chamber where liquid mercury and several pieces of jade were found. Hmmm!
The Jaguar Temple (named because of a jaguar mask excavated here) is another of Lamanai’s huge pyramids. It was initially constructed around 500-550 AD, but is twelve feet shorter in exposed height than the High Temple. It was amazing to hear that a large amount of this temple still lays unexcavated, the memories still buried deep under the ground. The MaskTemple is named after a 13 foot high carved mask of a humanized face with a crocodile headdress and dates to the late 5th to early 6th century.
There is still so much more at Lamanai to be discovered! Due to the cost of excavating archaeological sites, it may take many, many more years for the rest of the area to be revealed to us. I hope I am still around when the time comes, for this is one place I would love to return.
Nearly every travel magazine and media outlet has included Belize in their round up of “must visit” destinations for 2012, mainly because the end of the Maya calendar takes place on December 21. And the recent visit by Prince Harry certainly did wonders for putting Belize on even more travelers’ radars.
I guess for once I was ahead of the curve on something as I’ve been traveling to Belize regularly since 2005. I already know how cool the country is. But thanks for the backup National Geographic and TIME Magazine.
Belize is a really a country that has it all for me – rich history, vibrant culture, and certainly no shortage of amazing cuisine. Those elements, along with the very special friendships I’ve made during all my trips, are the main things that bring me back at least once a year.
I’m often asked by many first-time Belize travelers which is the best Maya ruin site to visit if you only have time for one. While I certainly have not explored every Maya temple in Belize, my recommendation is visit Lamanai.
Lamanai is located in the Orange Walk District, which is in the northern part of Belize. Its name is commonly translated to “submerged crocodile”. Lamanai is one of the largest Maya sites in Belize and provides one of the more scenic trips just getting there.
Lamanai Maya Ruins known as "Submerged Crocodile"
History of Lamanai
Named for the nearby once thriving population of crocodiles, Lamanai is believed to date back to 700 BC and was occupied until the 17th century AD. It was largely unexcavated until 1974, when a team uncovered much of what is seen today – which is estimated to be less than 5% of what is actually there.
Experts believe there are around 700 buildings in the complex, but thick forest has covered much of the structures that made up this Maya powerhouse of over 35,000 residents.
Maya Temples at Lamanai
If you choose to do an organized tour to Lamanai, you will likely have a bit of free time to explore the onsite museum that houses some artifacts and gives a pretty good introduction to much of what you will see at the site. Then, you have the opportunity to explore several of the excavated temples at Lamanai. Since the site has protected status, you are likely to encounter a wealth of wildlife during your tour. It’s not uncommon to see howler monkeys and toucans during your visit.
Here is an introduction to the important structures you will see at Lamanai:
Mask Temple (Structure N9-56)
Your guide will talk about the interesting history of the Mast Temple, the faces of which are cut from blocks of limestone and are said to resemble Olmec iconography from the Gulf Coast of Mexico, especially in their upturned lips and broad noses. The masks are both adorned with headdress representing a crocodile.
High Temple (N10-43)
This is the tallest of the temples (33 meters) at Lamanai. Most people try to climb this as the views are quite mesmerizing, but just remember the trek down may not be that easy – note the rope that many people use to help them get back down!
This temple represents a pivotal time in history as remnants of tiny houses were found below. While a shift from residential to ceremonial use is not necessarily odd, it’s the size of the temple that indicates a major change in the community prompted this statement of wealth and power.
Jaguar Temple (N10-9 Complex)
This temple was built during the early Classic Period in the sixth century and saw modifications in both the eighth and thirteenth centuries. Tiny shrines at the foot of the stairs are believed to have been added in the 1400’s or later.
Other Notable Structures at Lamanai
Although one of the smallest, the Ballcourt has the largest marker found to date. Beneath the marker, they found an offering that contained a lidded vessel resting in a pool of liquid mercury – the first discovered in the Maya lowlands.
This is the only monument found in the original location according to Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History. The figure depicted on the stela is Lord Smoking Shell with dates that celebrate the anniversary of his reign. Festivities took place March 7, 625 AD.
Under the stela, there is a burial that contained five children. Due to the absence of signs of violent death and the fact that children’s remains are not typically associated with the dedication of monuments, it is believed this burial had a special significance.
Getting to Lamanai
While you can access Lamanai by road, tour packages include a scenic 26 mile boat ride up the New River where you have the opportunity to see all kinds of animal and plant life.
Monkeys, crocodiles, various birds, interesting river fauna and more are visible during your journey up the river. The guides are pretty knowledgeable on where to find different animals – my last visit to Lamanai several weeks ago resulted in crocodile sightings and even a couple monkeys coming abroad our boat!
Monkeys who came aboard our boat on the New River
You can visit Lamanai from the Cayes as well, but it does make for a long day trip and is certainly more expensive. You are typically picked up by 7 a.m. at the latest and it’s fairly common to get dropped back off between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The bonus is the long boat ride and the typically endless supply of rum punch and Belikin Beer. The only downside is you may be so tired from the long day and the rum punch that you call it an early night!
Mayan ruins in Belize: Treasures more undiscovered than in more famous sites
“Just look!” says the woman beside me, and I do. The view is simply amazing: lush, green jungle as far as the eye can see.
We are standing atop the High Temple at Lamanai on the Yucatan peninsula in northern Belize, part of a stunning collection of ancient stone structures with even more ancient secrets.
Like Belize as a whole, Lamanai is growing in popularity as a tourist destination. With air and hotel packages available, Belize is an attractive alternative for Canadian travellers seeking a change from the vacation experience in Mexico just to the north.
But there are differences, too. The pace is slower, the crowds smaller, and the Mayan treasures more undiscovered than other world-famous sites in Mexico such as Chichen Itza or Tulum.
You can get to Lamanai by road, but it’s much more enjoyable to split the journey in two by first driving for an hour north from Belize City and then taking a small boat another hour up the historic trade route of the New River, splashing past exotic wading birds, baby alligators, sleeping bats and the occasional fishermen waiting patiently for a nibble.
Some visitors head out in small groups. Others come in larger numbers from the cruise ships that dock in Belize City each week.
Just before we arrive at Lamanai, we get a first glimpse of grey-black stones poking just above the tree line along the river. It’s not until we follow the short trail inland that we realize how enormous this majestic Mayan ruin is.
The High Temple alone is 35 metres, or 10 storeys, tall. Nearby is the Temple of the Jaguar Masks, the Mask Temple, and the Ball Court, all of which are must-sees with hardly any crowds. Wait for just a minute or less and you can find yourself all alone — lost in thought about what life was like here long ago.
Next we move on to Stella 9 at Lamanai, which contains a part of a carving and hieroglyphs (or “glyphs”) about Mayan life that our guide says is “a masterpiece carved in stone.”
Suddenly the wind in the trees blows and a howling monkey makes an eerie racket that suggests perhaps we should not linger too long in this mystical place.
A Mayan settlement for about 3,000 years, Lamanai — which means submerged crocodile — was home for some 60,000 people and was part of a civilization whose traces can still be found in parts of modern-day Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Belize.
Lamanai was rediscovered in the 1970s and over the years archeologists, including Canadian David Pendergrast from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, have been busy mapping, uncovering and decoding it all.
Learning about Lamanai and other Mayan ruins in Belize “is like peeling back the layers of an onion,” explains our guide, Wilfredo Novelo.
What’s been found so far has made it one of the most impressive in Belize, along with other Mayan ruins including Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, and Xunantunich, which Prince Harry visited on March 3.
“It’s simply amazing that they found all of this at Lamanai just 25 years ago,” a woman from Massachusetts says.
Also amazing is that visitors to Lamanai can do something that’s increasingly forbidden elsewhere: climb to the very top of an ancient Mayan ruin. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that shouldn’t be missed, even if the ascent on prehistoric stone steps is somewhat perilous.
We carefully navigate our way up the steep structure and then back down again, with only a rope to steady us while a warm sun shines down.
It’s like making a trip back in time, a little off the beaten track and well worth the while.
Speedboat trip up the New River to the Belize Mayan site of Lamanai (submerged crocodile). According to our guide, 50 thousand people inhabited this one location at its peak. Monkeys, crocodiles, and colorful birds are seen on New River and at Lamanai.
#448169 - 10/06/1208:11 AMRe: Lamanai: The Land of the Submerged Crocodile
VIDEO: Lamanai Belize, High Temple, U.S. Military Helicoptors?
Eco Tour day trip from San Pedro to Lamanai...surpriseingly and unexpected guest from the sky. We usually see Dragonflys and Howler Monkeys from here, today was a first for aircraft. Tour Operator, Seaduced by Belize, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
#450074 - 10/30/1207:36 AMRe: Lamanai: The Land of the Submerged Crocodile
VIDEO: Lamanai Series One, First Stop Bomba - Seaduced"
Mayan Ruin Day Trip to Lamanai. Here's a look at the first leg of the trip up The Northern River to the wood carving Village of Bomba.
Lamanai Series Two- The Outpost, The New River "journey by boat"
A scenic 26 mile boat ride up the New River is the easiest way to get to Lamanai. For the aware "birder" it may be the most productive of rare and unusual sightings Belize has to offer as you travel through miles of virgin river fauna, viewing majestic trees with overhanging air plants and colorful Orchids.
#452778 - 12/05/1209:07 AMRe: Lamanai: The Land of the Submerged Crocodile
Lamanai was occupied continuously for over 3,000 years and it's remoteness contributed to it's continuous occupation, well beyond most other Maya sites, until at least 1,650 AD. The vast majority of the site remained unexcavated until the mid-1970s.
#454646 - 01/05/1308:37 AMRe: Lamanai: The Land of the Submerged Crocodile
A Maya pyramid at Xunantunich, one of many ancient structures in Belize. Photo by Cheryl Blackerby
By CHERYL BLACKERBY
ORANGE WALK, Belize — A white-hot sun bore down on the small boat as we rode upriver through the thick jungle of northern Belize.
We were headed to the ancient Maya city of Lamanai. It’s a place of dark secrets, not the least of which was the cause of its demise. The city, which once had a population of 50,000, was buried by dirt and foliage for four centuries until archaeologists started an excavation in the 1970s.
Only five buildings have been uncovered. About 732 buildings remain hidden in the firm grip of the jungle, an entire city never seen by modern eyes.
The boat cruised up the New River past crocodiles resting on the muddy banks, seemingly immobilized by the tropical heat. One of them came to life and slid into the river, his ridged tail propelling him swiftly across the surface, his eyes locked on the boat. Just when I thought he was going to come aboard, he dropped like a stone to the river bottom.
The commotion startled a roseate spoonbill, which flew across the river to a high branch, its 4-foot hot-pink wingspan and spatula-shaped bill a sight to behold. A red jacana’s long toes allowed the bird to spread its weight and run across the water on lily pads. Bats napping on the shady side of a tree trunk below stalks of banana orchids didn’t budge.
As the boat slowly rounded the next bend in the river, we were in for another surprise, a half-dozen naked Mennonite farmers cooling off in the water, their pale skin — except for sun-reddened forearms, necks and faces — clearly visible in the shallow water. Straw hats, blue work shirts and overalls were piled on a pier.
Not shy, they waved enthusiastically. I automatically waved back, but my eyes were busy scanning the water for submerged crocs. The Mayan word “Lamanai,” by the way, means “submerged crocodile.”
Two hours into the jungle from the town of Orange Walk, we finally tied up at a pier, and walked up the hillside toward the ancient city. The dense canopy of trees filtered the sunlight down to an eerie twilight.
A hairy tarantula, as wide as a man’s splayed hand, scurried across the dirt and into a burrowed hole. A troop of endangered black howler monkeys followed us, swinging from the treetops. Suddenly, the unearthly quiet was pierced by a monkey’s fierce roar, a blood-curdling howl that can be heard for 20 miles.
The monkey, I thought, was warning us away, but we soon saw the High Temple through the mahogany and strangler fig trees. At 108 feet, it is the tallest of the city’s four temples. From the top, you can see the New River Lagoon, the largest body of fresh water in the country, and the mountains in the distance.
The three of us, the guide and a friend, automatically halted as we stepped from the jungle and stood transfixed in front of the temple. A breeze brought the heady fragrance of allspice, bay leaves and the seeping resin of the copal tree, which was made into an intensely aromatic incense burned at the temple long ago. With no other people on the paths, it was easy to imagine the ancient civilization that lived in this jungle.
Nearby was the Mask Temple with 9-foot stucco masks flanking the entrance. It is one of the country’s most significant ceremonial monuments.
Continuously occupied for 3,000 years until the Spanish came in the 1500s, the city had eight major plazas. An ancient port on the lagoon was nearby. A huge platform about 270 feet by 330 feet once supported several large buildings standing about 84 feet tall.
Belizeans like to joke that their history is right under their feet, which is true. Pieces of painted pottery and obsidian, which the Maya used for tools, are everywhere on the walkways and more appear after every big storm.
Ancient people have left the remnants of their civilizations scattered throughout Central America. But nowhere in the hemisphere is there a more intense concentration of Mayan archaeological sites than in Belize, which is tucked between Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean coast.
About 1,500 years ago, more than 1 million Maya are believed to have lived in Belize, roughly four times the country’s population today. Archaeologists have uncovered more than 35 major sites, many more smaller ones and hundreds more that are still mostly hidden by the jungle: evidence of a complex and enigmatic civilization’s development through the centuries.
Consider this: The country’s largest man-made structure is not a high-rise in Belize City but the Canaa (Sky Place) pyramid in Caracol, an ancient Maya city built deep in the Chiquibul Forest near the Guatemalan border. More than 200,000 people lived there at its peak.
So what happened to the people of Lamanai?
Scientists now believe it wasn’t disease or Spanish conquest that brought down this great civilization. The current theory is that the Maya did themselves in by cutting down trees, slashing and burning, wiping out animal habitats, and devastating the land around them. Sound familiar? It is a warning from the ancient past that we might heed.
By late afternoon the monkeys’ howls became more urgent, and it was time to go.
Two eco-resorts popular with archaeology buffs and birdwatchers are near Lamanai:
* Chan Chich Lodge has 12 cabanas; call (800) 343-8009 or (011) 501-223-4419. Rates range from $530 to $610 for two depending on the time of year. Rates include all meals, Belikin beer and sodas, taxes, daytime walks and vehicle tours. Visit chanchich.com.
* Lamanai Outpost Lodge has 20 cabanas; call (888) 733-7864 or (011) 501-672-2000. There are a number of room and activity packages. Visit lamanai.com.
El antiguo Imperio Maya abarcaba un vastísimo territorio que actualmente está integrado en cinco estados: México, Guatemala, Belice, El Salvador y Honduras.
Desafortunadamente la mayoría de los viajeros que llegan a Belice no lo hacen para conocer el esplendor que la cultura maya legó al país, si no para disfrutar de sus preciosas islas, rodeadas de la segunda barrera de coral más grande del mundo.
Y es una auténtica pena, porque algunos de los recintos arqueológicos que se encuentran en el país, como por ejemplo Caracol, una de las ciudades mayas más grandes que nunca existieron, deberían se ser excusa suficiente para que Belice formara parte de los planes de muchos viajeros.
Nosotros decidimos visitar el recinto de Lamanai, que en lengua maya significa Cocodrilo Sumergido y que está situado en el distrito de Orange Walk. El viaje en sí, ya es una aventura. No es fácil encontrar tours organizados en Belice y los que hay, a menudo son caros. Además, para llegar a Lamanai, hay que tomar una combinación de autobús y lancha rápida, que tiene unos horarios muy concretos y reducidos. La experiencia, sin embargo, vale la pena, sobretodo, si ya has disfrutado de unos días en las extraordinarias islas de Belize.
COMO LLEGAR A LAMANAI.
Mono araña, de camino de Lamanai
Encontramos algún tour organizado, especialmente preparado por los clientes de los cruceros que en temporada alta llegan a Belice. El coste era de unos 110 USD por persona y se podía contratar en el Tourism Village, que está justo donde se encuentra el puerto de cruceros.
Como nos pareció un poco caro, decidimos hacer la excursión por libre, aunque no teníamos nada claro que la pudiéramos hacer sin dificultad.
Primero de todo hay que tomarr un autobús en dirección Orange Walk, capital del distrito homónimo. Los buses salen cada media hora desde la estación de autobuses de Belice. Tarda más de una hora y media para recorrer los 90 kilómetros que separan las dos ciudades. Pero cuidado, no hay que bajar en Orange Walk, pues los embarcaderos desde donde salen las lanchas que van a Lamanai están situadas unos cuantos kilómetros antes de llegar a la ciudad. A ambos lados de la Northern Highway los podrá ver, por lo que debe estar atento, o si no, decirle al conductor que le avise. El precio del autobús fue de 5 Dólares de Belice, es decir 2.5 USD.
Preguntamos a dos empresas que había y las dos nos dijeron que la lancha salía hacia las 9 y que si queríamos, había lugares libres. Una nos cobraba 50 USD y la otra, 40 USD. En el precio está comprendido el precio de la entrada, el guía y el almuerzo en Lamanai. El trayecto en lancha que remonta el New River dura poco más de una hora y media y es muy entretenido. A la ida hizo varias paradas donde nos enseñó un montón de aves que había a ambos lados de la autopista que supone el río. También vimos algun mono araña, pero no tuvimos suerte con los cocodrilos, aunque a menudo se pueden encontrar. A la vuelta, la lancha hizo menos paradas y el trayecto se acorta a poco más de una hora. Destacar que a medio camino pasamos por las tierras de una comunidad de menonitas, que emigraron desde Europa Central, donde eran perseguidos. Aún ahora conservan su cultura y su lengua y están considerados gente enormemente honesta y trabajadora, de manera que aunque se relacionan poco con el resto de beliceños, no tienen ningún problema de persecución religiosa ni cultural. Aunque vimos de lejos sus granjas, de menonitas no vimos ninguno. En cambio en Belice City, sí que nos habíamos encontrado alguno, y días después, en Guatemala, también. Los menonitas siguen vistiendo como en el siglo XVII o XVIII y reniegan de casi todo lo que no sea manual, por lo que es difícil verlos con coches o móviles, por ejemplo.
Avifauna en el New River
EL RECINTO ARQUEOLÓGICO DE LAMANAI
Mapa de Lamanai
La ciudad de Lamanai fue relativamente importante en el período Preclásico maya, entre los siglos IV y I antes de Cristo y parece ser que tubo presencia humana hasta el siglo XVII, ya después de la conquista española. En cambio, los trabajos arqueológicos no se realizaron hasta la década de los 70 del siglo pasado.
Lamanai es un recinto de tamaño medio. No es ni Tikal ni Chichen Itzá, de manera que con un par de horas tienes de sobra para visitarlo tranquilamente, sin prisas y subiendo a lo alto de algunas de las pirámides.
Los tres templos principales son el Templo del Jaguar, el Castillo y el Templo de las Máscaras.
Después de dejar el embarcadero, un corto paseo te lleva hasta la zona de servicios, donde hay algunas tiendas de recuerdos y los lavabos. Enseguida pero, llegas al templo del Jaguar que data del 625 AC. En la base hay dos máscaras de piedra, recubiertas de estuco, que caracterizan un rey de Lamanai. A lo alto de la pirámide, hay un Templo. Aunque se puede subir de alto de la pirámide, nosotros guardar fuerzas para más adelante.
Justo en frente de esta pirámide hay una zona que era la Acrópolis del recinto, con el Palacio Real. Y siguiendo unos metros más allá, llegamos a un pequeño juego de pelota, que no tiene las dimensiones del de Copan o el de Chichen Itzá, pero que está bien conservado.
Templo del Jaguar
Justo enfrente está el templo más impresionante de los que encontramos en Lamanai, el Castillo, que es a su vez, el más alto. Se alza hasta los 33 metros y la inclinación de su escalinata frontal es bastante importante, por lo que hay una cuerda para que puedas ayudarte en la subida, y sobre todo, en la bajada. Ni que decir que las vistas desde la cima son realmente espectaculares, con toda la selva beliceña a tus pies y con la silueta del New River que se dibuja a poca distancia.
El último templo que visitamos es el Templo de las Máscaras, que aunque no es tan alto como los dos anteriores es también muy bonito y en el que destacan, especialmente, las dos enormes máscaras de piedra que hay situadas a ambos parte de la escalinata central. Nos hicimos unas cuantas fotos en este templo y recorrimos el último sendero que nos llevó de nuevo a la zona de servicios, donde comimos.
La comida estaba realmente buena. El guía nos explicó que la preparaba cada día su madre. El Rice and Beans habitual de Belice fue acompañado esta vez por un gustosísimo pollo con salsa. Para postre, plátano.
Después de comer, todavía tuvimos tiempo de volver atrás, dirección al Templo de las Máscaras, para subir hasta arriba del todo y tirar algunas fotos más.