Lamanai was occupied for more than 3,000 years, up until European contact. The Archaeological Reserve not only contains a museum with ancient Maya artifacts, but visitors can also see the remnants of two (2) 16th century Spanish churches and a colonial sugar mill established in 1860.
A major attraction of Lamanai is the well-preserved mask of a Maya ruler emerging from a crocodile headdress.
Lamanai, one of Belize’s largest Maya sites, sits on the bank of the 30-mile-long New River Lagoon in the Orange Walk District. It features monumental architecture of temples and palaces dating from the Classic and Pre-Classic Periods. Set in tropical forest and providing amazing views from several of its large temples, Lamanai provides you a unique glimpse into the culture of the Maya and the biological diversity of the tropical rainforest.
Lamanai is the community with the longest history of human habitation in Belize. It was settled around 900 B.C and was still occupied two and a half thousand years later, when Spanish missionaries arrived to the site in 1544. During their almost century- long domination, the Spanish built two "Ramada" Churches that were used in their efforts to Christianize the site's inhabitants. Eventually, in 1640 the Maya in several frontier towns rebelled against churches and villages throughout Belize. By the 1800's, investors began a sugar operation at Lamanai. A dramatic fall in world sugar prices, and outbreakes of malaria among the workers resulted in failure of the enterprise, and the mill and farm were abandoned, just a few years after its establishment.
Liquid mercury was discovered in an offering that was placed below the ballcourt marker at this site! This represents one (1) of only two (2) examples of mercury found in the Maya world (the other was at Caracol, also in Belize).