UNSPECIFIED - FEBRUARY 07:  Old ruins of a Mayan Temple, Lubaantun, Stann Creek District, Belize  (Photo by DEA / M.BORCHI/De Agostini/Getty Images)

De Agostini/Getty Images


Southern Belize

The Maya ruins at Lubaantun, 1.3 miles northwest of San Pedro Columbia, are built on a natural hilltop and display a construction method unusual in the ancient Maya world of mortar-less, neatly cut, black-slate blocks. Archaeologists postulate that Lubaantun, which flourished between AD 730 and 860, may have been an administrative center regulating trade, while nearby Nim Li Punit was the local religious and ceremonial center. The Maya site comprises a collection of seven plazas, three ballcourts and surrounding structures.

At the entrance is a small visitors center displaying pottery, ceramic figurines, maps and panels detailing the controversial 'crystal skull,' said to have been found here in 1926 by 17-year-old Anna Mitchell-Hedges. Lubaantun is known for the numerous mold-made ceramic figurines found here, many of which represent ancient ball players.

In 1924, Belize's then-chief medical officer Thomas Gann, an amateur archaeologist, bestowed the name Lubaantun (Place of Fallen Stones) on these ruins. More professional archaeological work has taken place since 1970 and much of the site is now cleared and restored.

There are two entry points to Lubaantun from the Southern Hwy, either via Silver Creek (signposted just north of Big Falls) or San Pedro Columbia. Either way it's around 23 miles from Punta Gorda along dirt roads once you leave the highway. Village buses running between San Pedro Columbia and San Miguel can drop you at the turnoff to the site, then it's about half a mile further.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Southern Belize attractions

1. Chaos Oasis

0.24 MILES

One of the stranger things you're likely to see in Belize is this 'Earth Ship' structure, made even more incongruous because it's so close to the entrance…

2. Living Maya Experience

5.22 MILES

Two Kekchí families in Big Falls village have opened up their homes as a cultural experience for visitors and both are excellent. The Cal family…

3. Blue Creek Cave

7.88 MILES

About a 20-minute walk along a jungle path from the bridge is Blue Creek Cave, which you can only enter with a guide. The cave has a ‘wet side,’ where you…

4. Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary

7.94 MILES

About 13 miles northwest of Punta Gorda and 2 miles off the Southern Hwy, the village of Laguna is the starting point for the 8.6-sq-mile Aguacaliente…

5. Uxbenka

8.02 MILES

The Maya ruins of Uxbenka are close to the village of Santa Cruz on the road from San Antonio. The site is mostly undeveloped and the visible part is…

6. Nim Li Punit

9.31 MILES

The Maya ruins of Nim Li Punit stand atop a natural hill half a mile north of the Southern Hwy, near the village of Indian Creek. The site is notable for…

7. Río Blanco National Park

10.07 MILES

The 105-acre Río Blanco National Park, just west of Santa Elena village, is a compact protected wildlife area that's home to a variety of flora and fauna…

8. Clock Tower

16.16 MILES

The clocktower is a useful landmark in the center of Punta Gorda's downtown, as well as being a small cafe.