- Category: Tours
- Published on Thursday, 08 September 2011 01:54
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The ancient city of Lamanai is relatively easily accessible, and one of the most popular traveler attractions in Belize. The Mayans occupied the site between the 9th century BCE to the 17th century CE, making it the longest continually occupied Mayan site in existence. Spanish records provide the city's name, which is thought to derive from Lama'anayin, meaning "submerged crocodile". Numerous representations of crocodiles have been found carved on buildings, pots and figurines.
The location of this impressively large site has been continuously known for 3,000 years. The Spaniards built a church here in 1544, and attempted to introduce Christianity to the Maya of Lamanai over the next hundred years. In 1640 the Maya destroyed the church and allied themselves once more with their own, time-honoured religious practices. English archaeologists visited the site in the early 1900s, but archaeological work did not start in earnest until 1974. Much of the site remains reclaimed by the forest (it covers over 3.5 square miles and has more than 700 structures), but enough has been restored to make it a fascinating place to visit. You are allowed to climb the highest pyramid for a wonderful view 120 feet up, well above the forest canopy. Going up, the challenge is physical; coming down, it's psychological.
The site is accessible by organized boat trips along the New River from the Tower Hill Bridge on the Northern Highway, south of Orange Walk Town (boats leave around 9.30am each morning, and the 6 hour tour includes a good lunch prepared by your guide's mother!). It is also accessible by dusty unsurfaced road (around 31 miles of it), but the river trip is much more fun: you'll see a lot more wildlife and the progress through the riverine forest to the Lamanai Lagoon is breathtakingly beautiful. There is a small but informative museum on site which exhibits local artifacts and provides a historical overview. There is also a number of small shops, and a picnic area.