The major attractions on Ambergris Caye are cultural festivals, some of the world's finest diving and snorkeling opportunities, and guided tours through tropical wilderness reserves. Amateur anthropologists and spiritual wanderers often choose Ambergris Caye as a base for their journeys to the ruins of ancient Mayan civilization.
Making of an Island
The island is itself a creation of the Mayan civilization. Once a thin peninsula jutting off of present-day Mexico, the Mayans cut a channel to allow trading vessels a means of bypassing the second-largest barrier reef in the world. An estimated 20,000 Mayans lived on the island at this time in fishing villages that quickly became coastal trading centers after the channel project. Mayan civilization is believed to have spread to the peninsula around 2,000 B.C. The civilization had declined a great deal by the time of the first European contact in 1508, but Mayans remained on the island. The first Spanish explorers remarked on the ease of their lifestyle and the large number of annual festivals.
In the 17th century, British pirates found the island to be a great hideout, and it was not long before the British crown laid claim to the land. The Mayan structures had long fell to ruins, and some of their structures can still be seen. The channel remains the largest remnant, and it is now called Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve. The Chac Balam ruins can be visited by boat. It was a major trading post over 1,500 years ago, which now serves as a ranger station for the reserve. Other ruins of the island are easily accessible on your visit to Ambergris Caye Belize.
Additional Facts About Mayan Civilization
- Mayan homes have been excavated in the lone city of San Pedro.
- The Marco Gonzalez ruins are found at the southern tip of the island. The 2,000 year-old site is now officially protected and open to the public with a museum and and guided tours.
- The southern side of the island hosts the Basil Jones site where you'll find stone walls and mounds of undetermined purpose. This and the 16 other recognized Mayan ruins of the island are as of yet unprotected by law.
Island Base for Visiting Nearby Sites
For those tourists still craving more after the ruins on Ambergris Caye, several tour companies make it easy to visit many other nearby sites from lodging in San Pedro. Altun Ha is one of the most popular. It is a short boat trip followed by taxi ride to reach the site.Â This Mayan city covers a five square mile area and features the Sun God's Tomb dated to 600 A.D. and several other Mesoamerican pyramids.
A visit to Ambergris Caye in Belize is full of opportunities. Visitors interested in the Mayan civilization will find satisfaction in the numerous ruins and knowledgeable guides. You just have to shop around for tour companies matching your trekking desires.
When you're ready to explore what Ambergris Caye has to offer, book your trip to the island by embarking on a Chill Weekend. For more information on how you can test-drive island living, visit GrandBaymen.com