Mayan Ruins in Southern Belize

The ancient cultures have always fascinated me. It doesn’t matter in what part of the world, it has always perplexed me how they achieved such amazing things in such a primitive time. No part of the world is more renowned for ancient civilizations than the Americas. From the Incas to the Aztecs to the Mayans, it just keeps getting more and more interesting. Today I toured two of the archaeological sites in Southern Belize and was reminded of why it’s such a cool thing to see in person. However, the best thing about seeing the ancient Mayan ruins in Southern Belize is that there aren’t any other tourists.

After a lengthy delay in Livingston, Guatemala this morning for an unforeseen and seemingly inexplicable 3.5 hour delay, we arrived back to Belize through Punta Gorda.

Punta Gorda is the southernmost town of any size in Belize. Most travelers, if they go there at all, go there to catch a boat to Guatemala. We had the chance to look around for a bit and I must say there isn’t much to keep the visitor for long but according to my boat captain the nightlife is pretty good. Take that as you will, as we did, and then we made our way northwest up to Dump, yes Dump. From the aptly named Dump, we caught a dirt road out to Lubaantun.

Lubaantun is an ancient Mayan archaeological site that apparently flourished between AD 730 and 860. It is built on a natural hilltop and displays a construction method unusual in the ancient Mayan world of mortar-less neatly cut black slate. Typically they used limestone.

The site contains seven plazas, three ball courts and surrounding structures. It is a pretty big site but the main temples and pyramids have crumbled. They resemble large piles of rocks. However, there are still some signs of their former size and greatness. It is certainly fun to stroll around in the scorching sun and imagine the beheadings and such that took place over a millennium ago.

The best thing about Lubaantun is that there aren’t many tourists at all; we didn’t see any. You literally have an ancient Mayan site all to yourself. The men working the little welcome house are very polite and will answer any of your questions about the site and any other Mayan site in Belize. They sell brochures to each for B$2.

After rattling your way through the small towns and dirt roads back to the Southern Highway, we hopped off to visit Nim Li Punit which is only about 8 miles away once you’ve reached the highway and head north.

Nim Li Punit is a relatively small Mayan site in Belize and isn’t nearly as spectacular as Lubaantun or certainly the sites in the north of the country. However, it has some cool subtle qualities including the Plaza of the Royal Tombs; which has some interesting excavated tombs. The articles that were found are actually on display in a small museum at the welcome house.

Aside from that, it’s a pleasant site to walk around, again with nobody else there, and imagine what it must have been like around AD 250-1000. We didn’t spend a ton of time there because it only takes a few minutes to walk around the whole site but my friend Pete did manage to buy a wooden Mayan flute. Why you ask? Who knows?! That of course is on top of a random small pumpkin he bought at a store we stopped to get water earlier!

I am now relaxing up in Placencia where I will be staying for the next few days and can’t wait to enjoy the beach, pool and get some sun.

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  1. Hello Mr. Lee. This looks amazing. I hope one day to visit Central America

  2. Christian says

    I love when you’re traveling because there are always a lot of cool stories to read. Looks awesome. I’ve never heard of any of these places but that’s normal when I read you’re stuff. Safe travels Lee.

  3. Great pictures, looks beautiful

  4. I was recently at Machu PIcchu so I know what you mean about ancient civilizations being really fascinating. I’ve never heard f those two sites but still cool to see the picturess and read about them

  5. Can I come on your next trip? Seriously, you do such fun things that I wouldn’t even know about! I love reading your stories.

  6. Never heard of either place I like Chichen Itza

  7. Are you going to Tikal on your trip?

  8. I hope to get to Tikal agan this trip as I will be heading up to northern Belize next week. I am not sure yet, it will depend on a few things as it’s a bit of a stretch distance wise with my time frame. I haven’t been there since 2003 so we’ll see.

  9. Looks awesome Lee…thanks

  10. I love Belize, soooo jealous you’re there!

  11. Love, love, love this promo for Southern Belize! My buddy and I spent a good 2 1/2 weeks traveling around this amazing country back in July 2009, and the Punta Gorda area was one of the top highlights for us. We didn’t get time to check out these specific Mayan ruins, but we did an overnight stay in a Mayan village 10 minutes up the road from town and about an hour hike into the bush. We also got to play soccer with the kids. 🙂

    Not sure when/if you will get a chance to return to Punta Gorda in the future, Lee, but definitely look into that Mayan Village stay program. A guy like you would certainly would appreciate it given some of the other village stays you’ve done elsewhere in the World. The guy who started it is an an American ex-pat named Chet, so he would be able to help you out in finding a home stay program.

    Oh, and if you spend a night in Punta Gorda, then check out Cool Runnings (if it is still around). It’s a cool little Reggae bar/restaurant.

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