DISCOVER MAYA TEMPLES
You know… Chichen Itza, Mexico
Every year, the Maya temple complex of Chichen Itza cites new record numbers. Some 2.2 million people now visit the site in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula each year, and while its stepped pyramids are breathtaking, the volume of tourists can make it an energy-sapping day.
But what about… Caracol, Belize
By comparison, the jungle ruins of Belize’s ancient Maya city of Caracol receives barely a trickle of visitors. Its footprint spans nearly 200 sq km – bigger than the capital, Belize City – and set deep in the dense rainforest nudging the Guatemalan border, it can be tricky to reach. From the nearest hub San Ignacio, it’s a three-hour 4WD journey through the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, prowled by cougars, jaguars and Baird’s tapirs.
The site was one of the largest of the Maya world in its heyday, home to 35,000 buildings. Climb the Ca’ana temple (43m), said to be the largest man-made structure in Belize, and the canopy-baiting Observatory. Spy the ‘ball courts’, where games were played to determine who was to be sacrificed to the gods, and ponder how something so huge could only be discovered by chance by a mahogany logger in 1938.