Series – Belize Family Adventures 2015
Next on our Belize vacation is the immense Mayan archeological site of Caracol, the largest Mayan ruins in Belize, and one of the largest in the Maya world. At it’s peak, more than 100,000 Mayans considered Caracol and its surrounding lands home.
Caracol was abandoned more than 1000 years ago for reasons not fully understood. Today, much of these ruins remain buried deep within the jungles of the Maya Mountains, a time capsule of a civilization just waiting to be unearthed. Those structures that have been unearthed provide Caracol’s visitors with a glimpse into a life long since vanished.
Are you ready to explore Caracol? Buckle up, then. It’s a long drive from just about anywhere to Caracol. It’s worth it though! Unlike other, more well known Mayan ruins, you probably won’t have any crowds to contend with once here.
Caracol is located deep within the Cayo District’s Mountain Pine region, and is an adventure in itself to get to. Our own adventure required a stop at a military outpost for a Belizian military escort the last ten miles into this remote site. Still not sure why.
The reward at the end of the road? Ruins relatively void of other visitors. Caracol’s ruins are not nearly as well cleared nor excavated as other ruins in the region, but that only adds to the mystery and magic that permeates throughout the site. Not to mention a lot less visitors!
Just imagine walking past these ancient buildings, no one standing between you and these incredible, amazing displays of ancient Mayan hieroglyphic texts, stelae, alters, ball-court-markers, capstones and wall facades. Here at Caracol, this was as crowded as it got!
Many hieroglyphic inscriptions remain intact through out Caracol, right down to remnants of the red paint that once adorned them. Wonder what they meant to the Mayans who created them? What stories could they tell if only we could understand them?
Explorations Atop Caana, aka Sky Palace
Rising over 140 feet above the jungle floor, Caana, also known as Sky Palace, is the tallest Mayan building in Belize, and still stands today as the pinnacle of this once grand civilization. No journey to Caracol is complete without climbing to the top of Sky Palace.
Though the climb may not be for the feint of heart, those who brave the impossibly narrow stairs to the top of this Mayan masterpiece are rewarded with views beyond compare and an insight into ancient life at Caracol. Just be careful going back down. Those stairs are steep!
Take a moment to stop and contemplate what this massive civilization might have looked like so many years ago. Imagine yourself standing in the very spot that Mayan royalty also once stood as they surveyed their kingdom far below.
Caana was Caracol’s crowning jewel. This massive pyramid contains four royal palaces, and is topped by three temples, a labyrinth of stone walls, and ancient tombs just begging to be explored.
Weave in and out of centuries-old stone walls. Look closely upon the walls, and the stone carvings along the way. The palace rooms were originally coated with white stucco and decorated with red paint which can still be seen today!
Climb down into an ancient Mayan tomb. Who was buried here? Perhaps a Mayan king? Maybe a high ranking priest? More than 100 tombs have been found here, with several left open for the public to experience.
Meanderings Around Ancient Mayan Ruins
Caracol began around 1200 BC, and reached it’s peak between 600 and 900 AD. By this time, Caracol rivaled it’s neighbor, Tikal, in both size and prowess in war. Caracol’s infrastructure also grew to include a large central acropolis surrounded by three plazas, and two ball courts.
A walk along the Central Acropolis ruins follows ancient causeways past temples, ball courts, palaces, a funerary building and an eerily overgrown reservoir. It’s hard to imagine that much of Caracol remains unexcavated still today.
Meander through these storied structures. Ponder upon the exquisitely carved stone stelea depicting Caracol victories over its rival Maya cities of Tikal and Naranjo. Image their stories, what they could tell us about this ancient civilization.
Explore the ins and outs, every nook, every corner. Wander into the chamber of a crumbling residential house. Wonder what it would have been like to live within these stone walls.
Stand atop a Mayan ruin, surveying the jungles that have taken over this ancient city. Close your eyes, imagining it filled with thousands of Mayans going about life so many years ago, the surrounding jungles replaced by even more stone buildings and farmlands as far as the eye can see.
Have You Explored Ancient Maya Ruins?
Imagining life as it might have once been by experiential adventures such as the Caracol ruins are a long standing family favorite activity. How about you? Do you and your family revel in exploring ancient sites? Have you explored Mayan ruins like Caracol, or Tikal? What do you think? Was it an experience you’ll recall for years to come?
Check out the rest of our adventures during our Belize 2015 vacation:
- Belize – 7 Adventures in 8 Days
- Tikal – Exploring Inside Ancient Mayan Ruins of Guatemala
- Actun Tunichil Muknal – A Journey Into An Ancient Mayan Underworld
- 7 Reasons You Will Love the Mystic River Resort, Belize
All images by C.Biederman