Getting into Maya Ancient World. Part 2

Today, let me to introduce you to some of the lesser known Maya ruins in Belize, but with no doubt they are two of the most beautiful Mayan sites in this country. I’m talking about Nim Li Punit and Lamanai. Both ruins are off the beaten path but it’s worth to visit them because of their special charm and mostly because you will be the only one in the whole archaeological site.

We didn’t know how to get to these fantastic sites but with The Belize Collection, they were happy to organize this for us. Just let them know where you want to visit and explore and they will arrange all you need in order for you to enjoy and experience Belize!


If you decide to visit Nim Li Punit you will find out not only an amazing Mayan site dated back to the Late Classic Period (250 – 900 AD), but you will also have the chance to discover the southernmost district of Belize, Toledo.

Nim Li Punit Belize
Arriving to Nim Li Punit. We were there alone! That was priceless!

Nim Li Punit is sometimes known as Big Hat or Top Hat; the name is Kekchi Maya for “Big Hat”, referring to the large elaborate head-dress on a stela sculpture found on site depicting one of the site’s ancient kings. The stelas sculptures are well preserved and you can even read the meaning of some of the intricate and gorgeous Maya words that appear on them with the help of your guide and a simple dictionary.

Stelas at Nim Li Punit
Our guide at Nim Li Punit teaching us about the stelas and maya alphabet

The ball-court still has the central score round rock and you can easily imagine two Maya teams playing and fighting to honor their kings and gods. Just one curious detail, the winner team was sacrificed to the gods! The gods only wanted winners and strong people in heaven.

Ball Court Nim Li Punit
The Maya ball court in the middle of the jungle at Nim Li Punit

I loved the feeling of being practically alone in the middle of one of the plazas of Nim Li Punit listening to the sounds of the Rainforest.



One of the biggest and more excavated Maya sites in northern Belize, Lamanai lies 24 miles south of Orange Walk Town, up the New River. Lamanai is on the banks of the New River and the most interesting way to travel to the site is by means of water taxi up the river. The trip by river is also a nature-lover’s haven for numerous species of water birds living along this rich and diverse waterway. We were so lucky to see the spectacular and rare Jabiru, one of the biggest birds in the world.

Jabiru Stork Belize
The rare and amazing Jabiru. One of the biggest birds in the world!

Lamanai is one of the longest occupied Mayan cities and was inhabited for over two millennia. Lamanai has more than 719 mapped structures, including two 16th century Christian churches as well as an intact 19th century sugar mill. But the most impressive structure for me was the Mask Temple, which has two 13ft stylized masks of a man in a crocodile headdress emblazoned on its west face to the north and south of the main stairs. Dating from about AD 400, these are considered some of the finest big masks in the Maya world. Just amazing!

Lamanai Mask Temple
In Lamanai at Mask Temple!

From the first moment we arrived by boat to Lamanai we had a special feeling in this place, we were completely alone in the whole site located in the middle of the deep rainforest.

Lamanai High Temple
High Temple in Lamanai surrounded by pure nature.

One of the best memories that I will keep in my heart is the incredible sunset that we had the opportunity to delight on at the top of the High Temple, which rises 125ft above the jungle canopy and the lagoon. We kept silent for a while enjoying the views and listening the wind through the treetops… and suddenly we realized that we had a family of howler monkeys and a couple of toucans just before us playing and feeding, while the sun was going down. That was one of my best days in Belize for sure!

Sunset at Lamanai
Unforgettable sunset at the top of the High Temple with the rainforest below us.