Belize Mayan Ruin Tours
For more than 2,000 years, the ancient Maya were the dominant civilization in Central America. The heartland of the Maya world lies in what is now Belize, and modern-day visitors can explore more than two dozen ancient sites that have been clawed back from the jungle. The Maya created an enduring civilization of incredible complexity and architectural prowess. Many of their finest temples, pyramids, and buildings have lasted virtually unchanged for thousands of years.
Today, archeologists are still not sure what led to the large-scale collapse of their civilization and the abandonment of most of their still-intact cities, pyramids, and temples. Competing theories of climate control, civil war, and societal unrest have been put forward to explain how the Maya nearly vanished in the centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.
At the height of their civilization, it is estimated that the Maya had a population of more than one million, more than four times their current population. Although greatly reduced in numbers by the vagaries of history, the Maya continue to thrive in Belize, proud preservationists of their language, traditions, crafts, dance, music, and healing knowledge.
Beyond the impressive stone cities rising out of the jungle, other important Maya sites in Belize include sacred cave complexes. Believed by the ancient Maya to be a nexus between the world of men and the world of the gods, sacred caves such as Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) were the site of some of their most important religious rituals, including human sacrifice.
Perhaps the most iconic Maya ruin in Belize is Xunantunich in the country's western Cayo District. The site of impressive pyramids and a panoramic view of the Mopan River, Xunantunich is where archeologists in the summer of 2016 discovered the largest Maya royal tomb ever unearthed.
One of the most famous Maya city states to have been rediscovered in the modern era is Tikal just across the border in neighboring Guatemala. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal is home to soaring temples measuring 154 feet (47 meters) high.