Lamanai Archaeological Reserve

Lamanai Archaeological Reserve

Lamanai Archaeological Reserve
4.5
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MikeLondonSE13
London, UK8,293 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Friends
1/2/24 - Thursday morning

We three middle aged guys from London were keen to see the local pyramids to Orange Walk.

We expected a different atmosphere then the busy impressive and large Mexican examples.

We took the earlyish morning LET speedboat tour (reviewed separately) which was amazing.

This is a review of the reserve itself.

From the approach by boat to the arrrival jetty you hear the howler monkeys (apparently this location was used in the film Jurassic Park). The approach by the bumpy long land track might be different. It's quite intimidating! You worked not here it from inside an air conditioned, good suspensioned coach or car.

On walking through the dock's planted forest shelters (for the tour lunches) you see plaques about the funding of the dock, including 2015 European Union helping The Government for tourism, including the shelters. It helped Belize concentrate on sustainable tourism instead of drilling for oil near the extensive sensitive reefs off the coast.

The Visitors' Centre is worth a tour if you have time (the boat tour allowed not enough) to learn about the indigenous peoples through their pottery and artefacts found at the site. Some pieces are obviously in the National Museum and are replaced by replicas but they are good enough to get the feel. Another plaque acknowledges the sponsors of the centre including a bank and a plastics company (interesting).

Various interpretation also highlights the Spanish and British colonial past, baccaneers, wars, battles and the sugar industry developed since.

There were only one bin available at the centre's desk so people are expected to take their rubbish back with them; which is a good thing.

Toilets are by the museum, I did not use them personally but my friends said they were fine.

There is no cafe (producing lots of waste and using lots of energy of imports) which reinforces the practice of environmental sustainability. Tours bring their own lunches; eaten after the tour. There was thankfully no litter in the entire site apart from a few remnants of building/restoration detritus.

Take water on the tour as it can get hot! Take the bottle back and reuse it too! There is none on sale.

On the tour there are many labels on plants such as the indigenous black orchid, incense tree bullet tree etc..

The uncovered monuments were impressive and two were climbable. If you are scared of heights beware as the first is quite high and steep! If was not as high as ChickenPizza, Mexico, which I climbed years ago before they stopped tourists ascending. It was still impressive though. There is no H&S in terms of ropes or taking when you are at the top.

The revealed temples are surrounded by mounds of forested unrevealed structures. There is so much there and barely 10% has been exposed, rebuilt and preserved.

Interesting find was a pot of liquid Mercury found under the centre stone of the games pitch. The macabre practice of sacrificing the winners was explained by our guide. That would not work in the Premier League!

The speedboat tour was far more extensive then the cruise liner tours that arrived by coach from Belize City Cruise Liner Terminal (Belize's only concession to mass tourism then). The local speedboat tour arrived earlier so had the place to themselves, with the cruisers following behind then disappearing after a couple of temples. We did not see them at the dock picnic shelters. I wonder how much they paid? We had our 10 entrance included in the tour.

Interpretation plaques were dotted around the site to explain in English some artefacts, structures and history.

This howler monkeys were in troupes high above, sometimes over paths so keep your eyes out and avoid being directly below them otherwise you may mess up your hair or clothes!

On leaving the museum towards the exit jetty of the dock there is a collection of shops run by the local peoples' various charities or coops. If you have time please support them. The boat tours did not really allow enough time to patronise them properly so they must feel annoyed to watch potential spenders hurry by.

I read that Mexico is building a railway line from Cancun to Chetumal, Train Maya, which when opened at the time we were in Belize saw ChickenPizza had its biggest ever visitors' day. At some point tourists will discover the ruins en masse and make their way by the highway (hired car of coach) to Orange Walk.

As long as they are environmentally friendly doing it that should be OK. The speedboat 'Eco' tour was not quite Eco as it was very fast, noisy and no doubt technically polluting.....but it was exhilarating! Boat trips may be limited at the moment and maybe in the future as they do seem to disturb the wildlife community (although a lot of its members seemed oblivious including ospreys, crocodiles and howler monkeys). One wonders just for how long and what frequency of human interaction they can tolerate.
Written 28 March 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Claire M
Brooklyn, NY38 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Couples
Stunning Mayan archeological site on the mainland of Belize. You are allowed to climb up two of the pyramids which is an amazing view & really helps you imagine what life may have been like 1000 years ago. Absolutely go with a guide (shoutout Tuff e Nuff tour agency) to learn about the history, plants, and see some howler monkeys! We took the speed boat ride to reach the site and it was cool to see the wildlife on the shores. Apparently there’s also a road that you can drive there on, but it’s bumpy and takes longer. My main tip would be to apply bug spray and sun screen early and often :)
Written 25 February 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kimberly S
4 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2023 • Couples
We booked our tour through Tuff E Nuff and started out from Ambergris Caye. We were escorted from our resort to the airport after a stop at a local deli for a breakfast sandwich (delicious). We took Maya Airlines over to Belize City and were greeted at the airport by “Mission” for an hour ride to the New River for a boat ride to Lamanai. Mission pointed out interesting things along the way and even taught us a little local dialect. Eddy met us at the river where we took a boat ride. He stopped multiple times along the way to point out interesting things and birds. He was very patient with me when I was trying to get a picture of something I found intriguing. Once we got to Lamanai, he was great about explaining everything we saw. He even pointed out a large boa constrictor hidden in the underbrush that we would have never noticed. He pointed out so many things I would have not known about. After touring the site, which is mostly easy walking unless you want to climb the temples, we ate a nice lunch. Here’s where we got extremely lucky. Because it was the slow season the entire trip was a private tour! Literally no one else was around except the two of us and a guide. It was amazing! Once we got back to the start at the river, Mission was waiting to take us back to the airport. Unfortunately, the vehicle developed an issue but Mission was able to quickly arrange for another vehicle and we made it back to the airport with a few minutes to spare before our flight back to Ambergris Caye. Breezy met us at the airport and offered some suggestions for dinner and then we were safely delivered back to our resort. Awesome trip and worth every penny!
Written 16 September 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

GeneralShamu
New York City, NY1,114 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Couples
We did the self-drive option in our rental car after debating whether the road conditions would be too bad for us to get there. All that concern is for naught - the roads are not paved for 90% of the way when you get off the Northern Highway but they are some of the best kept dirt roads we have seen in all of our travels. You will be driving through Mennonite communities so you will see plenty fo wooden, horse-drawn carriages on the roads. If they can go, a car can definitely make it. It took about an hour to get there from the main highway and then about two hours to see the ruins and read about everything in the museum. Our guide, Vidal, was excellent and super knowledgeable (clearly has a university level understanding to the ruins). He was also on the excavation teams that worked there for years to reproduce the temples as you see them.

Benefit of not going in the cattle-corral process of the big bus transfer to the boat waiting area, waiting, then loading onto the boat like cattle, etc… etc… is that when we got there early afternoon, all the masses had already left so we were literally the only ones at the ruins at that point. There were 500-600 visitors that day from 8:00a.m. - 1p.m. And 2 from 1:30p.m. - 4:30p.m. (Us). I would NOT arrive past 1:30 though as you will end up driving back to Belize City in the dark or the guides may have left for the day. So target an arrival time of 12:30 - 1:30.
Written 22 June 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Peter W
Woking225 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2023
Fantastic site and well worth a visit. You can climb to the top of the Jaguar Temple, and maybe others (although not at the time of our visit). Previous reviewers have mostly visited the site as part of a tour but it's a walk of only a mile or so from Lamanai Outpost Lodge if you happen to be staying there - but it is a hot walk so take plenty of water as you still need to walk around the site as well. The museum has some items that were excavated from the site but they are all damaged and I suspect that the better pieces, especially jade, are kept in a better protected museum elsewhere. But there are 20 or so well-written wall posters providing information about the life and times of the Maya people and it's worth reserving 30 mins for reading them if you can.
Written 4 March 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ken Q
Denver, United States851 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2022
We enjoyed our visit to Lamanai. The boat ride to and from was also part of the adventure. The site itself is fascinating.
Written 25 February 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gabrielle
24 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2023 • Friends
This was my first time seeing some of the Mayan ruins and it was beautiful. I think this trip is worth it but keep in mind the travel to the ruins, especially if you are staying in San Pedro.

I was staying up North in San Pedro and the tour we booked had us on the 7am Maya Air to Belize City and from there it was 1.5 hr drive and then about an hour boat ride to the site. The boat ride was lovely and very scenic! I think if you want to see a couple of Mayan ruins sites, start your trip on the mainland and stay in the jungle and then travel to San Pedro. The day started at 7am and we got back to San Pedro at 4;30pm.

I liked this site specifically because there was a lot to see, a little hike about 12 minutes to the last temple but the views were beautiful and it was awesome you got to climb 2 of the 3 temples.

Beware of cruise tours, I think they are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so there are huge groups of people. The only plus is that they have to move quickly.

Book with Belize N Me for a guide tour, we learned so much history!
Written 12 February 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Wade
11 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2022
It's hard to get to - your best bet might be AyinHa adventures unless you're coming from the north, as that lets you bypass hours of driving in favour of a relatively quick and pleasant boat cruise.

Though if you do drive in, you'll likely pass through towns like Shipyard which are largely populated by Messonites, which I found really fascinating to observe.

It's pretty remote - there's not really any services nearby, such as for food - and the site itself is mostly overgrown by jungle. Only a couple of significant structures have actually been excavated - mainly the High & Jaguar temples - and the rest are partially or completely hidden.

It would have earned only 4/5 if it weren't that I encountered several Howler Monkey troops there. I spent as much time watching them as I did exploring the ruins. If you aren't fortunate enough to see them, your experience may be lesser.

I drove from Burrell Boom - about two hours each way - and don't regret it per se, though it did make for a long, somewhat monotonous day. I went to Altun Ha first - you can easily fit both into a single day.

There were a few mosquitos around, but a dash of DEET keep them at bay.

Curiously I was the only person there all afternoon. At Altun Ha there were many dozens of people. So if you want something a lot less crowded, this might be your preference.
Written 11 December 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Stephen S
Petal, MS557 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2022
We loved seeing all the ruins but we also enjoyed the river ride over and the short little hike through the rain forest and jungle. You could hear the howler monkeys off in the jungle and there was even a rain shower but we barely got wet thanks to the large leaves of the palms and plants that provided a natural canopy. This is a must do if you ever visit Belize.
Written 4 March 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mark k
Green Valley, AZ185 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2021
Great, compact set of excavated ruins with very few people. We took a boat down the New River for about 45 minutes to the ruins. That was really fun and we saw lots of wildlife and countryside including some unique birds and crocodile.
There were less than 30 visitors when we were there and our guide, Amir was excellent.
Written 4 January 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Orange Walk District

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