The Caribbean may be a modern-day playground for sun seekers, but for those prepared to explore beyond the powder white beaches, there is a treasure trove of history deep within its forested heart.
No trip to Belize is complete without a speedboat ride through steamy jungle waterways to explore ancient ruins of Mayan cities. It’s a good hour-long bus ride to the launch site on the Rio Nuevo then a 90-minute speedboat ride that only slows to pause for photo opportunities with bird life, howler monkeys, three-toed sloths or crocodiles. Finally the river opens and the boat arrives at the Mayan city of Lamanai – the name means ‘submerged crocodile’ – which was occupied for more than 3000 years.
The further you venture into the jungle, the heavier the humidity feels, but exploring the ancient city is worth any discomfort. The scale is incredible and only matched by the precision architecture and stonework. You’ll likely want to linger and capture incredible images, as expert guides provide in-depth information that helps you to imagine the bloody history of this complex and long-lived civilisation.
Unless the stones have been made slippery by rain, it is possible to climb the largest pyramid, known as the High Temple, to take in the commanding views over the jungle. Venture deeper into the site to see the Jaguar Temple with amazing carved stone heads depicting the big cat. With much of this site still yet to be excavated and documented, so many more discoveries are yet to be made.
The Lamania Ruin & New River tour is an excursion available on Hurtigruten’s Caribbean and Central American cruises that dock at Belize City. It costs about US$150 a person.
Get into the rhythm of the jungle. This highlight was provided by Hurtigruten, but we think it’s great.