Caracol Mayan Ruins – All You Need to Know Before You Go
Experience the Grandeur of Caracol, Belize’s Largest Ruin
Mayans settling Caracol in several waves bestowed two names upon the community: “Three Water Hill” and then “Three Hills Lord,” though its current name wasn’t chosen by Mayan settlers, but by Belize’s Archaeological Commissioner A. H. Anderson in 1938. The largest Mayan site in Belize, Caracol sprawls across 75 square miles, an area greater than Belize City. Of course, that much room was necessary to house a huge population that, at one time, boasted almost 200,000 residents! Learn more about this fascinating epicenter when you visit.
Caracol Mayan Ruins
Tour the central core of three plaza grounds bounded by two ball courts, an acropolis, buildings, temples, palaces and sacred sites that include altars and places for ceremonial worship. Perhaps the most often written about attraction at Caracol is the Sky Palace (Caana), the tallest man-made structure in Belize. It towers above the settlement at a height of 136-feet, but for those eager to get a complete picture of this ancient world, the stele, tombs, hieroglyphic inscriptions and intricate architectural details will fill in the voids.
Why you should visit Caracol Mayan Ruins
The main reason to visit Caracol, in addition to seeing Caana, is to take in the grandeur of a destination that contains over 35,000 buildings. This factor alone makes Caracol a one-of-a-kind attraction. There’s an astronomic observatory within the community and you may have a chance to marvel at reservoirs and causeways that reflect the sophistication of the society that built this empire. One of the most prominent city states of the Classic Period, the people of Caracol used their power mightily, defeating neighboring societies during violent wars waged for territory and superiority.
Where in Belize is it located?
Reach the Caracol site by starting in the Cayo District and traveling around 25 miles south of San Ignacio to the Maya Mountains foothills where the Chiquibul Forest Reserve welcomes travelers to the former Mayan stronghold. Prepare for a slog. Caracol is situated amid tropical rain and pine forests that could require an arduous trek to reach the site. As recently as 2009, 3D maps taken of Caracol reveal much more to be unearthed about agricultural terraces and paved causeways, reason enough to return in the future.
When is the best time to go?
Travel to Caracol year-round, as long as you’ve sorted a dependable tour guide or vehicle to get you there. Jungle and rainforests can get muddy and difficult to traverse during rainy season, but this shouldn’t stop you from visiting if you’re the adventurous sort. Despite the fact that archaeological restorations are still underway in Caracol, you will still have your run of a 30-square-mile portion of the ruin, so wear good shoes.
Best way to get there
Take the Mountain Pine Ridge Road south from either Georgeville or Santa Elena in the Cayo District to Caracol. Follow signs once you’re in the vicinity and–if you didn’t bring a guide–you may be able to hire one at the visitor’s center, but no guarantees. A more relaxing experience can be had if you let your resort sort a tour for you or hire an independent contractor in San Ignacio.
Best way to experience Caracol Mayan Ruins
Take advantage of the on-site museum and visitor’s center to get the lay of the land before you head out to explore. A guide can point out the best jungle trails and cave sites during your sojourn, but if you only want to wander the plazas and pyramid, go straight to the city center and fan out among the structures. One of the greatest ways to prepare for a visit is by perusing data found on the Caracol investigations team website: http://www.caracol.org/dig/