Belize Travels: Caracol

Between visiting ATM and spending a day touring around San Ignacio, we spent a day at the Mayan site of Caracol. When I was planning our trip I had to decided between a visit to Tikal or a visit to Caracol. Both are Mayan sites, Tikal is bigger but Caracol won out because it is a less visited site.

We toured with Pacz Tours again and were just as happy with our guide. It was just Jon and I on the tour so once we were ready to go we set out with our guide, Bruce. The road into Caracol isn’t great, so it is about a 2 hour drive to the site. The route goes through something called the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest which is exactly what it sounds like – a pine forest – before sharply turning back into jungle before the site. While in the Mountain Pine Ridge area we stopped at a large cave, the Rio Frio Cave, to stretch our legs and look around.

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The entrance to Rio Frio

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The other end of Rio Frio

After our break we finished the drive to site and ended up being the first group of the day there. We started with a jungle walk, which gave Bruce a chance to explain some of the site history, and stop at this giant ceiba tree. The ceiba was very important to the Maya and there are a few large ones still on the excavated part of the site.

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After that we wasted no time in heading to the biggest structure on site, Caana. Some guides build up to the big structures by viewing the rest of the site, but I was happy that we went right away since it gave us a chance to explore it before any other visitors arrived.

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caana

We climbed up the stairs to the very top to check out the view, and the different parts of the structure on the way up.

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Jon part way up

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Some restored carvings on the structure walls

Mayan stairs are larger than normal, so the next day I had pretty sore calf muscles. Even though it was only about 10:30 am it was also starting to get really hot!

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It is pretty amazing to climb to the top of an ancient structure where you can see over the top of the jungle and not spot another person there. I loved that it felt like just us and our guide were at the site.

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From caana we walked across the site to the astronomical complex while Bruce shared with us the history and significance of the structures. Only a small portion of the city has been excavated but there is still lots to see.

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We again got to clamber up on the buildings and spent some time just poking around the ruins. It is really amazing what they were able to build!

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The rest of our visit included the royal housing complex, a look at the water cisterns, the two ball courts and some carvings and monuments. We chose to walk back to the parking lot on another jungle trail (because it was just so hot) so we also had a chance to look for pottery shards and other artefacts along the trail.

We finished around noon and ate lunch in the shade by the site museum. The whole time we were on site we saw only a handful of people and I was amazed that such a large site had so few visitors.

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Had to use the camera timer since there wasn’t anyone else up there to ask

After lunch we headed back towards San Ignacio, stopping at the Rio Frio Pools (natural rock pools and falls) for a refreshing swim. We both struggled to stay awake on the ride home and promptly went back to our hostel for a nap when we made it back to town. Another excellent adventure in San Ignacio and one I’d definitely recommend!

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