Belize City and Altun Ha: A Tale of Ten Centuries
Belize City, Belize
- Altun Ha: Explore the ruins of a city covering five square miles and dating back almost 2,000 years. Learn how the Mayans lived, and climb to the top of the Temple of the Green Tomb.
- Temple of the Masonry Altars: Featured on Belize currency, Altun Ha's largest ancient structure rises 54 feet from the grassy plaza and holds the mysterious Temple of the Sun God.
- Belize City: See landmarks like the red-brick St. John's Cathedral, built in 1812, and the colonial mansion once occupied by British governors; enjoy complimentary drinks at the Smoky Mermaid.
About this Belize City tour
The $2 bill tells you a lot about Belize.
On the front is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth; Belize was known as British Honduras until 1981, and Belize City was the capital (British influence remains strong, as you'll see on our drive through town.) On the back are three ancient Maya sites, with the Sun God's temple from Altun Ha on the left. Two bucks gets you a rich history in Belize.
Yet much of that history was unknown. Altun Ha was only discovered in 1963, and by accident local villagers found a jade pendant in a quarry. Archeologists descended on the site and began digging a once-thriving city out of the rainforest, discovering treasures like a 9-pound jade carving of the Mayan sun god. Perhaps even more valuable were the ancient hieroglyphs depicting coronations, births, deaths, and human sacrifices on the Mayan equivalent of city hall. Deciphering them took years, but helped build a picture of what life was like for the generations of Mayans as many as 10,000 people at its peak who made Altun Ha a center of culture and trade.
Howler monkeys and toucans chatter and squawk as you roam the green plazas and ball fields here, enthusiastic accompaniment as your guide describes the succession of discoveries that gradually pieced together the Mayan timeline. It's the tale of a young nation with a very long history that it's just beginning to understand, and which is a source of great pride: The same temple on the $2 bill adorns the label of Belikin beer, Belize's leading brand. So go ahead and order one as your tour wraps up at the Smoky Mermaid. It's the perfect refreshment after your explorations. And there aren't many beers where you can look at the label and think, "Wow, I climbed that!"
Cracking the code
Understanding the Altun Ha hieroglyphs would not have been possible without the breakthrough work of Russian-born American architect Tatiana Proskouriakoff. She began studying Mayan ruins in the 1930s. In 1958, while sorting jade artifacts, she cracked the Mayan code in the dank basement of Harvard's Peabody Museum. She was the first to determine that hieroglyphs were basically biographies of Mayan rulers.
Cruise ship travelers: Please proceed pier side to meet your GoBe Rep. Look for our displayed logo sign. Staying at a hotel? Be sure you specify the name at check out so we can meet you in the lobby.
Climbing temples is optional and requires climbing 100-150 steps to the top of the temple.
Private Tour, Cultural, Family Friendly, Shopping
Generally, a 15-seat Van
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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