Mayan Ruins: Caracol, Belize
Our trip to Carocol was us two, and a small group of college students with their professor, along with a terrific guide. The Prof told us it was his favorite site to visit, because it was often just you and your guide -- and he was right. The guide is a local, with some Mayan in his blood, and he was terrific. The site is incredible. You can imagine what life was like, and our guide gave us such wonderful explanations it was easy to see. He set the scene, and also explained how the site has been excavated and what they've learned so far. Climbing up to the top of some structures you could see into Guatamala. The sights and sounds of all the jungle birds and howler monkeys -- well, that can't be duplicated in any zoo.
The ride was enjoyable, and really, we were glad not to be driving it ourselves (as we usually do). Coming back we stopped at some giant caves, and were going to swim in a river, but a storm came up quickly so we had to head back.
The largest Mayan site in Belize, it is home to the tallest pyramid temple in the country. Dating to the Classic Period (200-900 AD), the city rivaled Tikal in nearby Guatemala and even defeated it in a series of wars.
The site is vast comprising a number of temple pyramids around 3 major courts. It is here one can climb the highest of Mayan Pyramids in Belize. The site is also great for wildlife observation as there are Howler Monkeys, small animals and numerous birds.
Visitors travel to the site as part of a caravan for security. Admission is charged and there is a souviner and refreshment stand.
Apres deux heures d'une route defoncée,traversant des forets superbes, arrivée sur le site de Caracol.
The best way is to get a guide and driver, in the hotel they have many because the road is unfair, and directions are not precised. Then 2 hours later you are in Caracol, that's not a road, but a trail...very interesting place very large and a big temple...
The best part about my trip to Caracol...
I was hiking up to the top of a ruin and when I FINALLY reached the top (very tired and out of breath), there was a group of monkeys taking a nap in a very nearby tree branch! I immediately pulled out my camera..and realized it was out of film! Ah! The monkeys then started to wake up and leave! Luckily my husband wasn't too far behind me with our digital camera, and he was able to snap this pic of me before all the monekys left.
Since most of the activities we did in Belize took place in the jungle, I was sure we'd encounter some snakes. However, the only snake we saw the entire trip was this tiny little thing our guide pointed out to us at Caracol! Since I HATE snakes, this made me very, very happy.
Caracol is the biggest Mayan city in Belize. The road to Caracol was VERY bumpy, probably the worst roads we'd encountered in Belize. It's ruins are smaller than Tikal, but still very impressive. This site also contains many stone tablets, set aside for closer viewing, that contain original carvings and designs. Caracol is in the middle of the jungle, making it great for spotting wildlife. During our visit, I saw a group of monkeys sleeping in a nearby tree branch! In addition, the bird-watchers in the group were very excited at all the interesting birds they saw.
One unique aspect of Caracol is that it's the only Mayan ruin in Meso-American to contain a slope. Our guide explained that most archeologists though it was either a garbage dump or used to carry stellas up to the top of the temple, but one particular archeologist thought it was a landing strip for alien spacecraft! Doubt it!
If you go with a guide, make sure he shows you the ancient Mayan painting. In order to view it, you have to enter a very narrow cave-like tomb (its more like a crack in the ruins), stick your head into a hole in the ground, and then look at the wall directly below and behind you. Basically you are sticking your head through the ceiling of a tomb, and you have to look behind you to view the wall. I'm not sure if that made sense....!
The painting is thousands of years old, and BRIGHT red! I was surprised at how vibrant the color was. I used a disposable camera in an attempt to take a picture (I didn't want to drop my digital one), but sadly I missed it...my photo is of a blank wall!
We rented an Isuzu Trooper from Matus Car Rental in San Ignacio. It was the most expensive thing we did in our 3 weeks in Belize but also the most incredible. We drove the 86 kms to Caracol (restored Mayan ruins) stopping at the Rio on Pools to go swimming and the Rio Cave. We must have been lucky because everywhere we went there was nobody else there! The best part was being on our own, stopping where we wanted and taking in the incredible mountain jungle scenery. The village of San Pedro is beautiful and worth a stop if you have time. Beware, gas is expensive! but the road is safe and easy to follow.