Rediscover hidden temples and palaces that have stood in forested splendor for thousands of years… boat down a lazy river where the elusive crocodile floats among lily pads…sink your toes into the white sandy beach in the land of the Garifuna… travel with our archaeological specialist, who has intimate ties with the country and its people. For even more travel options, browse our wider range of Tours of North and South America, including our Mexico Tour: In the Path of the Ancient Olmec.
Far Horizons proudly offers our Belize archaeology tour – a colorful abundance of archaeology, culture, and natural history. During this special 9-day trip, explore lost Maya ceremonial centers concealed by jungle shadows, and meet people from the country’s varied ethnic groups, while seeing spectacular wildlife that other countries around the world label “endangered.”
Long thought to be a backwater of the ancient Maya civilization, archaeological work here has proven the opposite. Explore Caracol, conqueror of Tikal in the 6th century; Lamanai, an important commercial center for more than 3,000 years; Xunantunich where recent excavations have uncovered the tomb of an important king; Altun-Ha, a major center that controlled the Maya trade routes along the Caribbean coast; and the remote southern cities of Lubaantun and Nimli Punit, where yet another inscribed stela has recently been found.
Keep reading to learn more about this incredible Belize archaeological tour, and please get in touch if you have any questions.
Founded in 1983 by Sharon Matola, the Belize Zoo is home to more than 175 animals of about 48 species, all native to this environmentally rich country. An exciting opportunity has arisen as the 945 acres next to the zoo is for sale, and it adjoins 1700 acres of land which is currently a conservation parcel. Several rare and endangered species are found here, including tapir and yellow-headed parrots. Won’t you help support this worthy cause? Please click here to find out more about the project and to donate. Thank you!
Arrive on an overnight flight bound for Belize.
Upon arrival, we will drive north to the New River. From here, a river cruise through unspoiled lowlands takes us to our lodgings for the next two nights, the Lamanai Outpost Lodge. Along the way, we may see hawk-like snail kites, ospreys, gray-necked woodrails, and northern jacanas, locally known as Jesus Christ birds or “lily trotters” as they appear to walk on water.
Our accommodations at the lodge feature charming wooden casitas built on a bluff overlooking an uninhabited lagoon on the edge of Lamanai National Park. Join a sunset cocktail cruise before gathering for a special welcome dinner at the lodge. (D)
We spend today at Lamanai. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site was occupied as early as 1500 B.C. Maya were still living here in 1641 when Catholic priests attempted to convert them — there is evidence that the city had a continuous occupation for over 3,000 years.
One of the most intriguing pieces found here is Stela 9, a finely-carved monument carved in 625 to commemorate Lord Smoking Shell, who had died 17 years earlier. As we walk through the ruins, we may also visit the historic section of the site. Standing in front of the ruins of the church is an unpainted stela carried here by the 17th-century Maya from the prehistoric part of the site. (B/L/D)
Today, we depart back down river and drive to Altun Ha, the first archaeological site in Belize to be scientifically excavated. Occupied since 1000 B.C., the site flourished throughout the Classic period before being abandoned around A.D 900.
The site’s many pyramids cluster around two large plazas and many unusually rich tombs were discovered within them. One of these, nicknamed the “Sun God’s Tomb” contained the largest carved block of jade ever found in the Maya area, and was thought to portray the Sun God himself, K’inich Ahau.
You will overnight tonight in The Great House, a Belizean landmark located in the renowned Fort George area. Built in 1927, this magnificent four-story residence is probably the largest classic wooden home still in existence in Belize. Originally built as a family home, it is now a small hotel that will take us back to the early colonial times of Belize. (B/L/D)
The day begins at the Belize Museum, housed within a two-story brick fortress built in 1857 that was once Her Majesty’s Prison. Home to some of the most hardened criminals from Belize’s colonial period to shortly after Independence, today the transformed Museum of Belize provides visitors with a historical roadmap into Belize’s vibrant past while retaining mementos of the building’s former residents.
As we drive southwest from Belize City, we will stop at the Belize Zoo, dedicated to the preservation of Belize’s magnificent biodiversity. Here, Sharon Matola, the Founding Director of the zoo (and former lion tamer!), will meet with us to introduce us to the Belizean indigenous animals housed at the zoo. Overnight for three nights at Sweet Songs Lodge, a jungle lodge in western Belize’s Cayo District. (B/L/D)
Cahal Pech, situated along the west bank of the Macal River, offers a commanding view of the Maya Mountains to the south and the fertile valleys of the Belize River below. The city’s late Preclassic temples and two separate ball courts display fine examples of Maya craftsmanship, suggesting this site was a royal hilltop residence. We will meet with the project director of this site for a private tour.
After lunch in a local restaurant, continue to Xunantunich, reached only by hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River and a mile hike on the other side. The tallest pyramid at this site, towering over the surrounding countryside, displays a splendid 30-foot long stucco frieze dating to A.D. 800-900 at a time when much of the rest of the Maya world was collapsing. If available, Dr. Jaime Awe, the project director, will join us to tell about the discovery of a royal tomb in 2016 that suggested tantalizing connections to the Snake Dynasty. (B/L/D)
Hidden deep within the Maya Mountains lies the remote Maya city of Caracol, one of the largest of the ancient American cities and the largest in Belize. It is noted not only for its size, but also for its prowess in the Snake Kingdom war that includes the defeat of Tikal in 562 AD and subsequent conquest of Naranjo in 631 AD.
In 1986, a ball court marker was found that recorded the military victory of Yajawte’ K’inich of Caracol and his allies over the warlords of Tikal. This magnificent city was built in an area without a natural water source, but the ancient Maya constructed a reservoir system that is an engineering masterpiece that still functions today. There will be time to walk through the canopy deck to observe the animals that appear after dark. (B/L/D)
Our drive along the Hummingbird Highway takes us to the town of Dangriga, home to the Garifuna, a unique Belize ethnic group. The Gulisi Garifuna Museum will be our first stop to see the displays about Garifuna history and culture.
Lunch will be at the Pelican Beach Resort, with views beyond the white sand beach to the sparkling azure sea beyond. We will then continue south across river after river to Punta Gorda and the Cotton Tree Lodge, a resort that is a Jungle Lodge, organic farm and a 12,000-acre nature reserve. This is our home for the next two nights. (B/L/D)
Today’s all day tour takes us through the spectacular jungle-shrouded Maya Mountains to two archaeological sites. Lubaantun was a late Classic ceremonial center noted for its unusual style of construction, distinctive for southern Belize. Shadowed by the jungle canopy and standing on stone terraces are large temples made of dressed stone blocks with no mortar binding them together.
Nim Li Punit was an important city during the Late Classic Period, and may have held a special relationship with nearby Lubaantun. Of the more than 25 stone monuments found at the site, at least eight are carved. One of them is 32 feet long and is the tallest inscribed stela in Belize. Nim Li Punit means “Big Hat” in the local Maya language, and is named for the impressive headdress worn by the ruler depicted on the monolith. Enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel. (B/L/D)
Fly from Punta Gorda to Belize City in time for our flights back home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for a mile or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging 3-4 miles of walking. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 30 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking for a mile or two every day. We feel that this preparation will increase your enjoyment of the trip. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.
Belize’s tourist infrastructure is quite different than what you may be used to. We will sometimes be traveling into remote areas where roads are dirt or partly paved. The road systems will at times be relatively undeveloped, so even relatively short distances may take a long time to cover.