The largest Maya ruin dredged in the Maya Mountains of Belize’s Cayo District, Caracol is 200 square km and is located within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, a rain forest full of flora, fauna, and howler monkeys. It lies on a high plateau 500m above sea level. This now ancient city started as a small village growing to more than 100,000 people – bigger today than the city in Belize!

The site was discovered in 1937 by Rosa Mai, a logger looking for mahogany. After it was discovered, the archaeological commissioner, A.H. Anderson named the ruins, Caracol, meaning “Snail” in Spanish because of the winding roads leading to the site.  The Caracol site was occupied in 1200 BC and one of the last Maya sites to finally be abandoned in 1050 AD. Its rich history is carved and inscribed on stone, telling about a day in the life of the ancestors and their achievements.

The center of the community is a massive pyramid known as Caana (Sky Palace), the tallest man-made structure in Belize. In aerial laser mapping producing 3-D imagery conducted in 2009 over 35,000 buildings with more than 100 tombs were discovered.

Caracol is said to be a sister-city of Tikal and emerged as one of the most important cities of the Mayan period. They have immense agricultural success, but ultimately its savvy warfare lead to its survival of the initial collapse of the Maya civilization. Today, there are no scientific answers as to why the Mayan civilization disappeared, all we know is that they did in fact, disappear.

Map of Caracol with 3 Must See Spots

Caracol Map


3 MUST SEES @ Caracol

1 | The most famous attraction and largest pieces of architecture is the Sky Palace. Inside the palace you can find three temples and four palaces. The Maya city has a lot of secrets that are yet to be discovered. Visitors are free to climb and enjoy the view from above. 

2 | Ball courts (Mesoamerican ballgame – often to the death). 

  • Also known as Pok Ta Pok, an ancient game played by two opposing teams. 
  • The Mayans played with a very heavy ball made out of chicle (a raw material extracted from Mesoamerican trees)
  • The ball weighed about 3 to 4kg (6 to 8lbs), they could only play using their hips, knees, shoulder, and elbow.
  • Played for competition and success – for various reasons such as political, decision-making, sports  

3) | Stelae is a unique monument, huge/tall stone slab with carvings telling a story on each side. Stories are told about Mayan kingships and their successes and hardships. The Mayans considered the Stelae as te tun “stone trees”. The core purpose of the stelae was to glorify the king. The inscriptions on the stelae contained details of the royal ruler, key dates celebrated such as marriage, military victories, and even political entry.