Affectionately called " Sugar City," Orange Walk is located about 55 miles north along the Northern Highway and a drive of about 65 minutes from Belize City . The country's only tollbooth signals the entrance to Orange Walk Town, and after paying the small toll of about US 35 cents, one immediately notices two distinctive sites: the scenic New River with its tour guide operators hugging its banks and the smokestacks of the sugar mill.
Sugar, though, no longer reigns supreme in Orange Walk. In addition to the economic boost from ecotourism, there has been agricultural diversification in recent years.
This, for example, has seen the recent introduction of fields of soybeans planted. The year 2002 saw farmers who had diversified into soybean production with an expected harvest of two million pounds that year. Orange Walk is also important for its production of dairy products, citrus fruits, beef and rum production.
If reaching Lamanai by vehicle, one travels for an hour and a quarter from Orange Walk, winding through the villages of Yo Creek and San Felipe. Lamanai is believed to have been occupied from approximately 1500 BC through 1650 AD. It was still inhabited when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. Archeologists believe that Lamanai's main temple was built around 100 BC.
Lamanai translates to "submerged crocodile"; records kept by Spanish missionaries indicate that Lamanai was probably the name of the ancient city. Many artifacts depicting crocodiles have been found at the site.
Lamanai has one of the tallest buildings found in the Mayan world (112 feet) and the views from the top are breathtaking. Several hundred buildings have been uncovered, as well as royal ball courts. Lamanai is one of the most important Mayan sites in Belize . On your rather vigorous climb to the top of the ruins, you will see a variety of flora and fauna; of particular note is the strangler fig tree which engulfs cohune palms; while this destroys the cohune tree, it becomes a habitat for thriving bird life.
Tours of Lamanai can be arranged by local travel agencies or your hotel. Additionally, the Lamanai Outpost Lodge offers 18 rooms, 24-hour power, hot water, private baths, fans, and meeting facility for 32. The lodge is within walking distance of the major Mayan site. Tours can also be arranged for spotlight night river safari, as well as archeological and other research education programs.