Toledo District Mayan Villages & Ruins Attractions
The Toledo District offers visitors a chance to experience the rich cultural heritage of the Maya, in both the past and present. Several Mayan villages and archaeological sites can be explored, as well as some interesting natural attractions in the area.
Lubaantun Mayan Ruins
The Lubaantun (Place of Fallen Stones) Mayan ruins cover 1sq.mi/3sq.km and consist of several jungle-covered temples. Only partly excavated, evidence suggests Lubaantun flourished until the 8th C AD. The people of Lubaantun are believed to have been merchants who traded with Maya on the offshore cayes, Mexico and Guatemala. Lubaantun was one of the last major sites to be inhabited before the collapse of the Mayan civilization.A few impressive structures can be seen on the site, and the architecture of Lubaantun is distinct because the temples and pyramids are built without the mortar that holds together most other Mayan buildings. Also, Lubaantun is one of the ruins in Belize that features curved stone corners. The site was first reported in the 1800s but was not formally investigated until 1903. Excavations of Lubaantun took place in 1915, 1926 and 1970. An on-site visitor's center exhibits Mayan artifacts.
Nim Li Punit Mayan Ruins
The Nim Li Punit Mayan site was important during the Late Classic period and is notable for its large collection of stelae, which are pillar monuments. Nim Li Punit (Big Hat) is named for the large headdress on an etched figure on Stela 14. At 33ft/10m, Stela 14 is the longest Mayan stela yet discovered. Oil workers discovered Nim Li Punit in 1976 and excavation of the site began in 1983.Situated on a ridge along the foothills of the Maya Mountains, Nim Li Punit's city center consists of three groups of structures; the ceremonial centers as well as two civic and one elite residential area. Some of the plazas have been cleared, but most structures remain unrestored. The ceremonial center (South Group) is of the most interest, and contains a ball court and 25 stelae. Stela 15 is also of note, Nim Li Punit's oldest work dating from 721 AD.
San Antonio, Belize
Association's Village Guesthouse Program
Run by the Toledo Ecotourism Association (TEA), the Village Guesthouse Program places travelers in 13 traditional Mopan Maya, Kekchi Maya, Garifuna and Creole villages in the area. The guesthouse program includes village tours, tours of the jungle and nearby caves, ruins and waterfalls, as well as accommodation in guesthouses built specifically for the program.Guests are invited into local homes for meals, and craft lessons and performances can be arranged. This unique program promotes sustainable tourism, with more than 80% of the profits of the tour fee staying in the village.Accommodations are very basic.
Uxbenka Mayan Ruins
Uxbenka (Old Place) is a small Mayan ceremonial site consisting of one main plaza and six smaller ones. Six structures line the main plaza, the tallest one reaching 26ft/8m. While the site is not extensive, 21 stelae (pillar monuments) have been discovered at Uxbenka, which also features terrace cut stones that have never been found outside of the Toledo District.Although Uxbenka was known about for years by the local Maya, archaeologists did not learn of the site's existence until Belmopan received reports of looting in 1984. Attractive vistas of the foothills of the Maya Mountains can be enjoyed from Uxbenka.
Hickatee Cottages and Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm
Set on a hilltop with panoramic views of the Maya Mountains and virgin rainforest, Hickatee Cottages with Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm is one of Southern Belize's notable lodges. There is excellent hiking in the area, and apart from the butterflies, several bird species can be spotted in the on the grounds. Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm has been closed to the general public for several years now, and tours are available only to guests of Hickatee Cottages in Punta Gorda Town.
Address: Box 23, Belize
Pueblo Viejo, Belize
Pueblo Viejo, Spanish for "Old Town", is a small village home to several hundred Mopan Mayas. This village was the first settlement of the Mopan Mayas who fled Guatemala in the mid-1800s and settled in the Toledo District of Belize. An attractive waterfall is nearby.
San Jose, Belize
Situated in the foothills of the Maya Mountains near the Guatemalan border, San Jose is a Mopan Mayan village surrounded by rainforest. The villagers earn their livelihood through agriculture, and San Jose is known for practicing organic farming techniques.
San Jose Succotz Festival
Held annually in April, the San Jose Succotz Festival is a local fair celebrating the patron saint of the village.
San Pedro Columbia, Belize
The Toledo District's largest Kekchi Maya village, San Pedro Columbia is home to about 700 villagers. The village is situated on the banks of the Columbia River, which offers canoeing opportunities. San Pedro Columbia is close to other Mayan villages and only an hour's hike away from the Lubaantun Mayan ruins.
Blue Creek, Belize
About 279 Mopan and Kekchi Maya live in Blue Creek, which receives many day visitors en route to the adjacent Blue Creek Rain Forest Preserve.
Blue Creek Rain Forest Preserve & Cave
The Blue Creek Rain Forest Preserve & Cave offers hiking and exploration of the Blue Creek Cave and pools and channels of the creek system. Guided nature hikes including a canopy walk are offered, and there is an on-site observation deck. There is also a lodge / field station in the area offering some interesting options.
Located west of Punta Gorda, Laguna is a small village home to a few hundred Kekchi Mayans. The town is quite primitive and named for the nearby lagoon.
Aguas Calientes Wildlife Sanctuary
Aguas Calientes Wildlife Sanctuary is a birding sanctuary featuring hot springs and other natural pools, along with hiking trails.
San Miguel, Belize
The small village of San Miguel is home to about 400 Kekchi Maya. Life here is centered around the Rio Grande river which runs through the village.
Santa Cruz & Santa Elena, Belize
These small villages have a combined population of 500 Mopan Mayans. Mayan ruins and waterfalls are nearby, the most well known being Rio Blanco Falls.