Lamanai Belize, a.k.a. Submerged Crocodile:
The Mayan ruins of Lamanai Belize once belonged to a sizable Mayan city in the Orange Walk District. "Lamanai" comes from the Maya term for "submerged crocodile", a nod to the toothy reptiles who live along the banks of the New River. The ancient Mayan site is only accessible via a 90 minute riverboat cruise through the Lamanai Belize jungle, which brims with exotic birds and hydrophilic iguanas.
An Antique Empire:
The ruins at Lamanai Belize are truly ancient. Archaeologists believe the Mayan site was of moderate size as early as 1500 BC. However, some of its later structures were occupied as recently as the 18th century AD, signifying over 3200 years of occupation. Although Spanish conquistadors held considerable sway over Lamanai by the 16th century, even establishing a Christian church near its center, a native rebellion eventually drove the Spaniards out.
Layers of History:
Unlike other ancient ruins, much of the Lamanai Belize archaeological site was built in layers. Successive populations built upon the temples of their ancestors, instead of destroying them. Although hundreds of ruins are said to remain unexcavated in the nearby jungle, three of the most impressive temples have been renovated: the Jaguar Temple, named for its boxy jaguar decoration; the Mask Temple, adorned by a 13-foot stone mask of an ancient Maya king; and the High Temple, offering visitors a panoramic view from its summit.