The Best Mayan Ruins to Visit in Belize

Mayan Temple at Tikal National Park, Guatemala
Mayan Temple at Tikal National Park, Guatemala | © Diego Grandi / Alamy Stock Photo
Patrick Foot

Most of Belize’s Mayan population retreated into the Guatemalan highlands when Europeans came to colonize the country. In doing so, they left behind some stunning examples of Mayan city building. Today, these sites make for some of the best — and least visited — ruins in all of Central America.


Caracol is the biggest site in Belize and, at 43m (141 ft), its highest pyramid is one of the tallest buildings in the entire country. At its peak, the city housed around twice as many people than Belize City does today, and was around 200 square kilometers in size.

Tourists climbing the pyramid of the Astronomy buildings, Caracol

Just a fraction of Caracol is excavated, and the best areas are Plazas A and B. These still give an incredible insight into the size and power of the city all those centuries ago, when it was a serious rival to Tikal in Guatemala.

Caracol, Belize


For a trip to some jungle ruins that will really make you feel like Indiana Jones, visit Lamanai. Most visitors arrive by boat, which is also a great way to spot some of Belize’s most colorful birdlife. After that, it’s a walk deep into the jungle accompanied by the booming sounds of howler monkeys in the trees overhead.

The ruins themselves don’t disappoint either. Lamanai was inhabited as early at 1500 B.C and — unlike most of Belize’s Mayan cities — wasn’t abandoned when the Spanish arrived; in fact, it was populated up until the 20th century. After three millennia of inhabitation, Lamanai is remarkably well preserved with beautiful stone carvings and architecture.

Mask Temple at Belize Lamanai Mayan Ruins

Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize


Another place to spot some impressive Mayan stone carvings is Xunantunich. El Castillo, its tallest structure, is home to some fascinating Mayan hieroglyphics — though what you’ll see near the top of the structure today are replicas. The climb to the top also features breathtaking views over the site, and the miles of jungle landscape that surrounds you.

Archeological site Xunantunich

Xunantunich is located an easy bus ride away from San Ignacio in Belize’s Cayo District. Once you step off the bus, you’ll have to board a hand-cranked ferry, which takes you across the short river before a hike up the hill (or taxi ride) to the site itself.

Xunantunich, San Jose Succotz, Belize

Altun Ha

Altun Ha is probably Belize’s best known Mayan site, if only because its main temple features on the label of the national beer, Belikin. It’s also the easiest to visit, with lots of tours running from Belize City, San Pedro, and more. For that reason, it’s usually the busiest of Belize’s Mayan ruins. While that means sharing Altun Ha with a few other tourists, it’s also made Altun Ha the country’s best excavated and restored site.

The Temple of Masonry Altars in Mayan ruins, Altun Ha

Altun Ha, Belize


If you like your Mayan ruins a little more off the beaten path, then Lubaantun in the deep south should fit the bill. Tourists rarely venture too far below the beach resort of Placencia, making these ruins one the country’s best kept secrets. This is also where most of Belize’s contemporary Maya live, offering an excellent chance to see the ancient and the modern side by side.

Lubaantun itself is an interesting ruin, which gained notoriety in the mid-20th century as the alleged finding place of the infamous Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull. Anne Mitchell-Hedges, daughter of an explorer who visited Labaantun in the 1920s, claimed she found the skull while visiting the site with her father. It has since been proven that she in fact bought it at a Sotheby’s auction.

East Ballcourt at Lubaantun, Maya ruins

Lubaantun Archaeological Reserve, Belize


While not within Belize’s borders, anyone visiting the country can make the short and easy trip over the border to see Guatemala’s most famous Mayan ruins, Tikal. Staying in San Ignacio, the trip can be done in a day without much fuss. But to avoid the considerable crowds that Tikal attracts — and the worst of the jungle heat — stay overnight either at the ruins themselves, or in nearby El Remate.

Tikal Pyramid ruins, Guatemala

Tikal, Guatemala

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.


Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.