Lamanai means “submerged crocodile” in the Maya language and it’s also the name of the third largest, and possibly most interesting, archeological site in Belize.
Located in the Orange Walk District, the Lamanai temple complex sits atop the western bluff of the New River Lagoon and is surrounded by pristine rainforest.
Lamanai was occupied continuously for over 3,000 years and it’s remoteness contributed to it’s continuous occupation, well beyond most other Maya sites, until at least 1,650 AD.
Set in tropical forest, and providing spectacular views from several of its large temples, Lamanai provides a unique experience into the culture of the Maya and the biological diversity of the tropical forest.
Lamanai features the second largest Pre-Classic structure in the Maya world and unlike other ruins, much of Lamanai was built in layers where successive populations built upon the temples of their ancestors, instead of destroying them.
Although hundreds of ruins are said to remain unexcavated in the nearby jungle, three of the most impressive temples have been renovated: the Jaguar Temple, named for its boxy jaguar decoration; the Mask Temple, adorned by a 13-foot stone mask of an ancient Maya king; and the High Temple, offering visitors a panoramic view from its summit.
What remains of two 16th century Catholic missions are also nearby. Maya natives rebelled and burned the churches to the ground as part of a regional uprising. A make-shift Maya stelae, standing in front of what remains of one church, is widely interpreted as renouncing all allegiance to Christianity.
The site’s protected status provides for an abundance of wildlife inside the park. There are a growing number off howler monkeys that make Lamanai their home and you will most likely see them peering down through the branches as you wander the trails. In addition, the marshlands around the lagoon supports many species of water birds and wildlife, including crocodiles.