Two and a half hours from San Ignacio—up dirt roads and through villages—are the ruins of Caracol. The city boasts more than 35,000 buildings, including Belize’s tallest. More than 140-ft high, Caana (sky palace) is similar to some of Belize’s other pyramids in that it has 13 doorways. In Maya mythology, 13 represents the number of levels in heaven.

Actun Tunichil Muknal

Southeast of San Ignacio, Actun Tunichil Muknal—the Cave of the Stone Sepulchre—is accessed after a 45-minute hike through the jungle and a swim across a deep pool to the cave’s entrance. Once inside, it’s an hour-long trek to the main chamber, which is filled with artifacts and skeletons—most notably the thousand-year-old remains of the Crystal Maiden.

Actun Tunichil Muknal, photo by Jad Davenport/Alamy

Pook’s Hill

Located at the foothills of the Maya Mountains in the Roaring Creek Valley of central Belize, Pook’s Hill is a private reserve set on 300 acres. At the heart of the property lies the remains of a small Maya settlement, known as a plazuela (Spanish for a small plaza.) The site includes a temple, feasting hall, residential structures and a rare domed sweat house.

Photo courtesy of Pook’s Hill Lodge


Lamanai is considered to be the longest continually occupied site in Mesoamerica, having only been abandoned roughly 200 years ago. Instead of being built around a main plaza like other Maya cities, Lamanai has no main square and instead follows the bank of the New River. So far, only five per cent of the city has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Mask Temple, Lamanai, photo by Vadim Nefedov/Getty Images


[This story appears in the November 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]