According to the Spanish missionaries “Lamanai” means “submerged crocodile.” But literally translate to “drowned insect.” No worries, it was meant to be a crocodile, the Mayan translation was misspelled and actually changed the meaning. The real name should be "Lam'an/ayin” Take a look at the photos, tell me if you see the “submerged crocodile.” The steps up the structure appear to be the notches in the tale and back of the crocodile. The first day sign of the Mayan day signs is the crocodile. It is also known by the name Imix and symbolizes a new beginning and new potential. The Mayans believed that an ancient Crocodile lived in the underworld of the ocean. The secrets of the underworld were carried on his back and brought to the material world which gave humanity a connection to the earth. Visiting Lamanai was my first trip to Belize, and I really thought it was fitting to go see the ruins. There is so much history out there to explore, I am blessed to be able to take this trip with my travel club. If you are ever in Belize, this trip is worth the hike that starts with a scenic trip down the New River. It is a 26 mile boat ride from Orange Walk Town up the New River is the easiest way to get to Lamanai. A small museum exhibits local artefacts and provides a historical overview. Tourist facilities and small shops are available.
The entrance fee is BZ$10 or US$5.
History of Lamanai
Lamanai has one of the longest histories of all the Mayan sites. At its peak it has been said to have supported up to 35,000 people. It was continuously occupied from around 500 BC, for which there is ceramic evidence, until 1675 or perhaps even later. Spanish attempts to convert the Maya to Christianity resulted in the construction of two Roman Catholic churches around 1570 AD. Little did the Christians know, these churches were met with resistance from the beginning? Our tour guide told us that many of the churches had hidden crocodile figures at the entrances. So as the Mayans entered, they were really worshiping their own gods. Eventually, the hostility grew enough to lead to a revolt. In 1640, as part of this revolt, the Maya burned the churches down. The Lamanai site was abandoned shortly afterwards and over time the city was swallowed by the jungle.
The High Temple is an enormous pyramid, rising 108 feet (33 m) above the plaza level. So here I stood on one of the largest securely dated Maya structures from the Pre-classic period. I was a little winded when I finally reached the top, but the view is breath taking. You can see for miles down the New River. The Mayans could see anyone coming into the area. You need to be relatively fit to make the climb, but if you are able, I would definitely recommend it. The view at the top was amazing! And I didn’t travel all this way, not to climb it. From the top, I could see the Belizean jungle all around me and the blue waters of the NEW River.
A short distance to the south of the High Temple is a ball court, the only one in Lamanai, dating to around 900-950 AD. It has a circular stone marker which covers a mysterious chamber where liquid mercury and several pieces of jade were found. It is unknown what the liquid mercury was used for. As you are standing at the base of the court, you can picture the spectators cheering on each of the opponents from the stands where they are seated close to the action.
The Jaguar Temple is another of Lamanai’s massive pyramids, was initially constructed around 500-550 AD. Its name was given for a jaguar mask what was found there. The structure is twelve feet shorter in exposed height than the High Temple. However a significant amount of this temple is under the ground.
The smallest of the three excavated temples at Lamanai is the Mask Temple, named after a 13 feet (4m) high carved mask. It represent a humanized face with a crocodile headdress and dates to the late 5th to early 6th century. You can see me posing atop the mask structure in the picture to the right. I can't imagine how amazing the details of these structures were when they were new and first built.
If you’re traveling to Belize and are in the area of Belize City, This is a must see. Located about 106 km (66 MI & 2 Hrs) Northwest of Belize City Via Orange Walk, Orange Walk, Belize. The cost of the tour may vary. I found it was from $138 for to $800 (if you want a full day with fishing too.) Just the river boat Lamanai Maya temple tour is from $138 to $300. For me, I didn’t worry too much about this as it was included in the price of my trip through my travel club which makes it an easy decision to go. Honestly, I would have gone anyway but to not have to make the arrangements or pay for it as an extra is a great perk of the club. If you want to know about how to get excursions and perks out of your next trip, Like my facebook page Vacationgypsy or comment on my blog post below. Another source and more about the tour itself can be found here: http://www.lamanaibelizetours.com/
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