In the last edition of this epic trilogy of posts concerning the Mayan ruins of Central America, we take a look at the major sites of located in Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.
Tazumal: El Salvador
In K’iche Mayan, Tazumal mens: “the place where the victims were burned”. Similarly to the Zaculeu site in Guatemala, the restoration project at Tazumal involved encasing the pyramids with concrete. However, fortunately in 2004, heavy rains caused a concrete wall on one of the pyramids to collapse. It was decided that instead of repairing the concrete, to completely remove it and go to work on investigating what lay beneath. They discovered burials and artefacts pointing to a history of invasion and Mexican influence that had not been known of before. Read more about it HERE. It makes you wonder what else lies beneath the myriad of temples strewn across Central America!
HOT TIP: Get to Tazumal from San Salvador by taking a bus headed to Ahuachapán. It’s only about 85 kilometres from the capital.
Along with the Bay Islands, the real drawcard for tourism in Honduras are the ruins at Copan. The site is really close to the Guatemalan border, and it is possible to do a day trip there from Antigua if you are super keen. Whilst the size of the temples at Copan isn’t anywhere near as grand as those of other popular sites such as Tikal, the intricate detail of the sculptures and stelae there is beyond compare. One of the highlights at Copan is the hieroglyphic stairway, a temple ladened with more than 2000 glyphs forming the longest known Mayan hieroglyphic text. Maybe even more impressive than the site itself however is the neighbouring museum. It is unusual in that it is actually well put together! The one at Palenque is probably the only other one we have come across that does justice to the ruins themselves. Right as you enter the museum (through a cool tunnel) you are faced with the giant reconstructed Rosalila temple, complete with stunning paint-job. The actual temple was discovered near completely intact below another temple built over the top of it.
HOT TIP: There is an option to pay a significant amount extra to visit the tunnels in Copan. Save your cash for the museum instead, you won’t regret it.
The largest site in Belize, it is believed Caracol once defeated Tikal in war! Quite an achievement considering Tikal is known as one of the most powerful Mayan cities ever. The tallest pyramid, Caana, stands 140 feet tall and overlooks the jungle canopy. There is a lot of archaeological work continuing at the site. It is expected to proceed into the years ahead. If you get there in the dry season, chances are you will see a few hard working archaeologists floating about. While a lot of excavation work has been completed, you can still expect many of the structures to be engulfed in jungle. Remember, this means means more wildlife and more feeling like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. Get to the ruins from the town of San Ignacio.
Hot Tip: If you like your ruins with not too many people, get to this one pronto. The Belizean government has invested a substantial amount in turning this site into a tourist hotspot, probably using the success of sites such as Tikal as models. A paved road has already replaced the old dirt wreck, and a visitor centre has been constructed as well.
Thanks for getting to the end of our third and final post in the series. Now its time for you to get out there and experience it for yourself!