Land of the Maya
The Maya site of Lamanai is located about 20 miles south of Orange Walk Town at the edge of a lush tropical forest on the banks of the New River. It is one of the most important Maya sites in Belize. You can drive to the site but one of the best tours available in Belize is the boat ride up the new river from Orange Walk to the spectacular Maya Site at Lamanai. You can catch the boat at one of the river tour operator's dock, or many of the hotels in Orange Walk will arrange pickup the hotel. Within a few minutes of leaving the dock, you are out of town and into the tropical jungle. The knowledgeable guides slow the boat every few minutes to point out the many varieties of birds, iguanas, and crocodiles you'll see along the banks. Each twist and turn through the convoluted passageways of the river takes you face to face with more unique vistas and fascinating wildlife. Your guide will regale you with tales of the area - from the history of the area to how Orange Walk got its name to detailed information about the wildlife you'll be seeing.
The river tour take about two hours. They pull up to the dock at Lamanai. As you meander along trails carved out of the dense, tropical jungle, your guide will point out interesting tidbits about the plants and animals you're seeing. And then you come around a corner - and there it is. The High Temple in all its glory. The tallest Mayan ruin in all of Belize, the High Temple is made for climbing - even if the steps are too high for comfort and it's a long way to the top! The view of the jungle and river from the top is something not to be missed!
Records kept by Spanish missionaries indicate that Lama'an'ain, which translates from Maya as "submerged crocodile", was probably the real name of the ancient city. There have been many artifacts depicting crocodiles found at the site.
Lamanai had the longest known occupation of the Maya era, beginning in 1500 BC and thriving up until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th-century. Lamanai's High Temple was built around 100 BC. At 125 feet, it is the tallest known Maya Pre-Classic structure. The view from the top is breathtaking.