When you disembark in Lamanai, you are likely to be greeted by local children from the indigenous Mennonite community who sell peanuts and souvenirs. Lamanai is one of the few Mayan sites for which we know its original name. Translated as “submerged crocodile,” there are dozens of carvings of crocodiles throughout the complex, including a huge 13-foot high limestone mask engraved on one of the central temples. Visitors can also explore the remains of a 19th-century missionary settlement that included a sugar mill and the charred remnants of two Catholic churches. The local Maya people were fiercely resistant to attempts to convert them to Catholicism, and burned both churches after Spanish missionaries demolished a temple to make space for the new buildings.
Spreading across more than 12 square miles, Lamanai was once one of the biggest ceremonial sites in the Mayan empire. Today, visitors can explore more than 100 buildings and other structures, including a ball court. Four big plazas are dominated by huge temples, including the Temple of the Mask, the Temple of the Jaguar Masks, and the High Temple. Visitors unafraid of heights can climb to the very top of the High Temple to see a panoramic view of the entire site and surrounding jungle. Only about 5% of the site has been investigated and archaeologists are continually making new discoveries as Lamanai yields more of its secrets.
Accommodations and Guided Tours to Lamanai
Conveniently located just outside of Orange Walk Town, the riverside cabins of El Gran Mestizo offer modern conveniences like free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and cable TV. Built on the scenic banks of the New River, El Gran Mestizo has an on-site restaurant and riverside bar and grill.
The resort also offers guided package tours up the New River to the nearby site of Lamanai. With experienced English-speaking local guides, you’ll get the most out of your trip to Lamanai with a packaged tour from El Gran Mestizo.