Archaeological sights in Belize
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High upon a hill, overlooking the twin lakes of Laguna Yaxhá and Laguna Sacnab, this late Classic Maya site is the third-largest in Guatemala. Yaxhá translates as ‘green water,’ likely in reference to its lakeside location. (By the way, don’t be tempted to swim in the lakes, as the crocs will get you!) During its heyday in the 8th century, Yaxhá was home to a population of 20,000. Its 400-plus structures included five acropolises, two astronomical observatories and three ball courts. These days, excavations are ongoing, but it takes at least a couple of hours to look around the main groups of ruins. The high point (literally), towering above all else, is Templo 216 in…
Belize's most accessible Maya site of significance, Xunantunich (pronounced shoo-nahn-too-neech), is reached via a free hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River at San José Succotz. Climb to the top of El Castillo, the largest structure set 40m (130ft) above the main plaza, to enjoy a spectacular 360-degree view.
Set on a leveled hilltop, Xunantunich may have been occupied as early as 1000 BC but was little more than a village until the 7th century AD, when the large architecture we now see began to be built. A good visitors center, between the ticket office and the hilltop ruins, explains Xunantunich's history.