Lubaantun: Put the Largest Mayan Complex in Belize on Your Must-see List!
If you believe that size matters, a trip to Lubaantun, a one-of-a-kind ruin in Southern Belize that has the distinction of having unique architectural and construction features, should top your list of must-see attractions. Lubaantun has nothing in common with most other Mayan sites and for myriad reasons, perhaps the most dramatic being its huge size. This village was so expansive, it served as commercial, residential and religious hubs, all of which you’ll experience when you tour this magnificent site.
Lubaantun Mayan Ruins
Lubaantun’s 11 large, towering structures–plus five plazas and three ball courts–are marvels that have no equal, according to Belize’s Institute of Archaeology and archaeologists who oversaw excavation of this landmark. There are no doorways to be seen, and building corners are round rather than square. You’ll have to imagine thatch and wood structures that once topped these buildings because they’re gone now. Green moss peeks out from every crevice, reminding visitors that Lubaantun thrived during the Classic Period (730 to 890 AD) but remains nothing more than an echo of the past today.
Why should you visit Lubaantun?
No need to be a big fan of architectural style to be impressed by buildings made of limestone blocks held in place by nothing more than air! Mayan builders used advanced construction methods, literally hand-cutting every block to align with those surrounding it. As a ceremonial center, Lubaantun had no equal, though over time, that mortar-free construction led to this site’s disintegration, further eroded by Thomas Gann. In 1924, the archaeologist used dynamite to reveal aspects of the compound, and as a result, he’s credited with bestowing Lubaantun’s current name which translates as “Place of the Fallen Rocks.”
Where in Belize is Lubaantun located?
Despite its high elevation—200 feet above sea level—you might think this attraction easy to find, but in fact, rainforest obscures Lubaantun until one gets close. It’s situated above the Columbia River and about 1.5 miles from San Pedro Columbia Village in the Toledo District. Some speculate that Lubaantun once served as a military overlook due to its lofty elevation.
When is the best time to go to Lubaantun ?
A visit at any time of year is appropriate because even rain won’t obstruct sightseeing. That said, be cautious during your visit if it’s raining because wet stone can make walking a slippery experience.
Best way to get to Lubaantun
If you’re starting from Punta Gorda Town in the Toledo District, travel about 26 miles to San Pedro Columbia Village and you’ll be less than two miles from the entrance. Park in the lot and follow the trail for approximately 70 yards–all downhill–to reach the visitors center.
Best way to experience Lubaantun
On-premises caretakers are delighted to show off their Mayan ruin. If they’re not otherwise engaged, they’re happy to give you a guided tour that lasts about two hours. Alternately, browse the visitor center’s displays of figurines, maps, pottery, tools and artifacts discovered when the site was excavated to introduce you to Lubaantun before you roam around on your own. As you do, imagine 600 residents of this thriving village going about daily tasks, participating in religious ceremonies and collecting water from streams at either end of the ruin. While on premises, ponder a mystery that’s baffled many: Why is this huge, advanced ceremonial center completely devoid of stelae, usually found at sacred sites? If you find the answer, you must return again to Belize to share your revelation!