Lamanai is in Northern Belize. The name Lamanai means "submerged crocodile".
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To reach Lamanai, one must travel up the New River for a 26 mile scenic boat ride through dense jungle. The trip is best organized in Orange Walk Town, where several hotels can book a boat trip for you. If you are arriving by Cruise Ship, you can prearrange your Lamanai Excursion online. Along the New River one can see a variety of wildlife including exotic birds, Morelet's crocodiles, and howler monkeys. You can also see native people on makeshift canoes swimming and fishing along the New River. As you travel further down the river you pass many Mennonite villages that have been there since the 1700's. In fact young Mennonite children greet you as you arrive at Lamanai selling peanuts and homemade cookies. It is hard to turn down the barefoot innocence of these young entrepreneurs.
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The ancient ruins of Lamanai are not completely uncovered yet. As you walk around you see many temples that are uncovered and many hills that upon closer observation are temples yet to be excavated. Wildlife is abundant around Lamanai. You see and hear howler monkeys and it has been known that jaguars are nearby. This is reflected in the stories of the locals as well as the architecture.
As for the temples you do see they are amazing. The temples rise from the jungle floor to a spectacular view above the jungle canopy. The temples have many carvings into them of the jaguars and crocodiles that inhabit the New River Lagoon. In fact on one of the temples, "El Castillo", you have the ability to climb to the top at your own risk. There is a rope and very narrow, tall, steep steps leading to the view of jungle. It is approximately 100 feet to the top resulting in a breathtaking view.
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The main tourism route tour of Lamanai is incredible, 6 main structures and about 4 plazas. There is also two Spanish Churches built in the 16th and 17th Centuries which is incredible in terms of historic and archaeological value. The archaeological site of Lamanai also offers a 18th Century British Sugar Mill that again historically is so worth seeing, the jungle has help preserve this ruin with the deep roots and strong branches of the Strangler Fig tree. The British Sugar Mill is only about a 7 minute walk from the main visitor area.
The village of Indian Church offers overnight stays that could include:
- Re-Visiting and enjoying the jungle and ruins of Lamanai (12 minute walk) - Tropical Forest and Open Air Road/Forest Birding (as well as lowland savanah birding) - Traditional Cooking Hands-on Lesson offered by Las Orquedia's Woman's Group Restaurant - Community Development Work and Volunteering (Beyond Touring.com) - Belize Cuisine and laid back relaxed and friendly, safe village life experience - Village includes, homestays, guest rooms, library (with regular weekly hours), soccer field, government school (4 - 14 years of age), churches, stores, and ADVENTURE! - Very few tourist overnight here, secluded and private experience
Cruise ship passengers arriving into Belize City are able to arrange tours to see Lamanai Mayan Ruins. These should be prearranged as port times can be limiting. The tour is approximately 6-7 hours and it is recommended that you go in a small group for the best experience.
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There are three small shops on site that help support local families from Indian Church Village.
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The villas of Indian Church with approximately 250 people less then a quarter mile from the ruins of Lamanai. You can overnight there at the Gonzalez Guest Rooms or Blanca Esquivel also has rural 'hotel' rooms. These are very basic but clean and safe. Prices vary from $20 - 25 US per night per person. This is a wonderful place to stay and see the real Belize. If you need help booking you can contact Beyond Touring, Laura Howard can help with this.
The rooms have electricity from 7 - 10pm and sometimes longer, there is no hot water but there is a private bath and shower for each room. Meals are available at Las Orquedia's Woman's Group Restaurant.
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