Explore Belize, The Maya Heartland

More than 4,000 years ago, a unique civilization arose in Central America. Eventually stretching from Mexico in the north to El Salvador in the south, the Maya civilization built a series of impressive stone cities, astronomical observatories, pyramids, and temples. At the heart of the empire was the land now known as Belize, home to more Maya ruins than anywhere else in Central America.

Whether it was due to climate change, endemic warfare, or other factors, the mighty civilization that once fed more than 1 million people rapidly crumbled around the year 900 AD, abandoning its enormous cities to be reclaimed by the jungle. Today, however, the Maya have begun to reclaim their heritage, serving as guides to some of Belize's most significant archeological sites, ancient ruins, and sacred caves, giving visitors plenty to see and learn on their vacation.

Many of the enormous cities carved out of the jungle by the ancient Maya were only rediscovered in the past few decades, and archeologists know that new treasures are still out there, waiting to be found. In 2015, an expedition led by University of California San Diego archaeologist Geoffrey Braswell discovered an enormous jade "megajewel" covered in hieroglyphs at the site of Nim Li Punit in southern Belize. Beyond the technical mastery used to carve the jade plate measuring 7.4 inches wide but just 0.3 inches thick, the hieroglyphs are of historical importance, describing one of the last kings to rule the city before it was abandoned just a few decades later.

At the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich, a site first rediscovered in 1892, archeologists discovered the second-largest royal tomb ever unearthed in 2016. Buried under more than 15 feet of rubble, the royal tomb holds a wealth of valuable artifacts, including obsidian blades, ceramic vessels, and a complete deer skeleton. Also hidden in the tomb were two panels inscribed with hieroglyphics that tell the story of the Snake Dynasty that once ruled a vast empire.

Other impressive Maya sites include Barton Creek Cave, a vast subterranean river flowing through a cave used for ceremonial purposes, and Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave where priests once conducted human sacrifices in an attempt to appease angry gods.

The professional staff at Caves Branch can arrange for tours to the best Maya sites. Whether you want to gaze out over the jungle from atop a pyramid or explore the depths of a sacred cave, there is a Maya tour right for you. Contact us today and we'll craft the perfect Maya adventure package for your Belize vacation.

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