Situated high on the Vaca Plateau deep in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, Caracol is the most extensive Mayan site in Belize and was only re-discovered as recently as 1936. The site of Caracol covers over 80 square miles with 30,000 structures and at its peak supported a population in excess of 150,000. Situated at 1600 feet above sea level (one of the highest located sites of the southern uplands region) with no natural water body close by it remains a mystery why such a huge population center like Caracol evolved where it is. However, the close proximity to both extremely hard stone and copal, two commodities highly prized by the Maya may help explain this enigma. At the heart of the site lies the massive pyramid of Caana (Sky Palace) which is now almost fully restored and reaches a height of over 135 feet. From the top you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over the forest clad mountains. The drive to the site in the early morning occasionally allows guests to glimpse tapir, jaguar or ocelot as they break their forest cover to cross the road. The sprawling site contains huge ceiba, mahogany and sapodilla trees and is superb for birding (the rare Keel-billed Motmot is a resident of the site). Wildlife such as howler and spider monkeys, Oscillated Turkey, coatimundi, gibnut and grey fox are often sighted while quietly wandering along the site’s causeways or along trails connecting the plaza groups.
Departs: 8:30 am Returns: 3:30 pm
Attire: Long pants, t-shirt, bug spray, sunscreen, tennis/hiking shoes *Total travel time - 3 Hrs. Drive
Level of Difficult: Moderate
Driving back down the mountain and through the town of San Ignacio, we head to the village of San Jose Succotz, where we take a hand-cranked ferry over the Mopan River to the site of Xunantunich (Maiden of the Rock). Xunantunich flourished during the Classic-period and appears to have survived the Maya ‘collapse’ to remain an important population center until around AD 1000. The site has 5 main plazas, although only 3 plazas are evident to visitors today. Dominating the site is El Castillo, rising to over 120 feet. A steep, but short climb to the top is highly recommended. This vantage point provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding Mopan and Belize River valleys, as well as Guatemala to the west. You will also get a close look at the restored portion of two unique stucco friezes. The visitor’s center and small museum are excellent and there are many small restaurants in the area serving authentic local food, or you may choose to bring along a picnic lunch and eat at the site.
Departs: 8:00 am Returns: 2.00 pm
Attire: Short/Long pants, t-shirt, bug spray, sunscreen, and tennis/hiking shoes *Total travel time - 3 Hrs. Drive
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Perhaps the most visually stunning of all Maya sites, Tikal’s five monolithic temples pierce the jungle canopy (Temple IV reaching a height of almost 230 feet) and ancient plazas, stelae and ball courts tell of a rich and powerful history when Tikal’s population reached almost 100,000. By the beginning of the Classic Period (AD 250) Tikal was competing for regional domination with Uaxactún and Calakmul and later Tikal was briefly dominated by a powerful alliance of Caracol and Calakmul from AD 562 until AD 682. From AD 682 onwards Tikal flourished again under Lord Ah Cacau and continued to dominate the region into the 9th Century. Today the site is justifiably recognized as one of the archeological wonders of the Americas. Its unspoiled jungle setting within the Tikal National Park makes it a paradise for birders, nature lovers and amateur archaeologists. This tour takes an entire day, leaving the Lodge after a quick Continental breakfast and returning around 5 – 6 pm in the evening. On the return trip, you have the chance to do some shopping in the Guatemalan town of Melchor.
Departs: 6:00 am Returns 6:00 pm
Attire: Short/Long pants, t-shirt, bug spray, sunscreen, and tennis/hiking shoes *Total Travel Time - 6 Hrs. Drive
Border Crossing Fee is paid directly by guests.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate