Visiting the Mayan Ruins of Belize

With the Maya Calendar coming to an end this year, speculation on the fate of the world is rampant. What better time to visit Belize and learn about this ancient culture?

I decided that a good place to start was with a visit to a Mayan ruins site. Belize has many sites to explore, but I chose to travel to the far southern reaches of the country to a site often overlooked by tourists.

Lubaantun (“Place of the Fallen Stones”) sits atop a hill surrounded by streams and dense rainforest. This spectacular site dates back to the late classic period (700AD -900AD). Believed to have been the ceremonial center for the Mayans of Southern Belize, Lubaantun has three ball courts and spectators stands. There are also secret ceremonial sections with altars…for sacrifices!

The site exhibits some of the finest masonry of the Mayan world. Hand-cut black and slate limestone blocks fit together so tightly that the buildings don’t need mortar. It’s truly remarkable considering the primitive tools these builders had to work with.

The mysterious Crystal Skull was allegedly discovered at Lubaantun. History tells us that Mitchell Hedges, a British explorer and amateur archaeologist, visited Belize and explored the site of Lubaantun in 1924. He returned with his step daughter, Anna Mitchell Hedges, in 1926 and she found the Crystal Skull on her 16th birthday.

Some Mayans believe the story to be a hoax but the speculation and the mystery provides for a bit of entertainment—albeit a bit creepy.

Wandering through Lubaantun, the reality of the tragic collapse of the Maya Ancient Society comes to life. Mayans consider the ruins sacred and Shamans still visit the sites for ceremonies at special times during the Maya Calendar. The sites also serve as educational, historical and patrimonial places for generations of Maya descendants who are sadly losing their customs and traditions due to modern influences.

Curiosity about the Mayan culture is bringing more tourists into Belize this year than ever before. I admit I was curious to learn what the Mayans thought about the end of the calendar. Do they really believe the world will end this December? My guide at Lubaantun assured me the world was not ending…changing, yes, but not ending.

This experience is just one of many I had during my time in Belize. While I realize many tourists visit Belize and have their own unique experiences, tourists are in Belize for vacation. I was there for work.

Touring the Mayan ruin sites and speculating on the fate of the world probably doesn’t sound like work—unless maybe you’re a professor or philosopher. I’m neither. I’m a travel writer.

I travel all over the world to research destinations and write about my experiences. And when the trip is over and the story written and published…I get a paycheck. It’s just that simple—and it’s open to anyone.

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