Though Ambergris Caye's Mayan ruins are smaller than many landmark sites like Chichen Itza, there's no need to sacrifice your plans to see a larger Mayan ruin during your stay. Altun Ha, an important ruin, is located on the mainland, but is easily accessible by Ambergris Caye, and you'll find plenty of tours that will take you to Altun Ha and back within a day. If exploring a Mayan ruin is one of the activities on Ambergris Caye you most want to do, Altun Ha is worth a look.
The History of Altun Ha
What you'll see at Altun Ha is a plaza surrounded by Temples, but the city of Altun Ha once covered far more than that. Primarily an agricultural and trading center, it began in 900 BC and lasted all the way up to the collapse of the Classical Mayan culture in 900 or 1000 AD. It was restored from 2000-2004, and the site is currently in pristine condition.
Getting to Altun Ha
Altun Ha is located about an hour from Belize City. The trip to Altun Ha involves taking a boat from Ambergris Caye to a mainland lagoon and then by bus or car. You'll definitely want a tour guide; the site is hard to find without one.
What will you see at Altun Ha?
What remains of Altun Ha are religious monuments. The Temple of the Masonry Altars, thought to be the ceremonial center of the area, is the largest building at the site; it is most famous for the Head of Kinich Ahau (the Mayan Sun God), an enormous jade-carved artifact that stands 6 feet tall. The artifact was found in one of the temple's numerous tombs for priests. This temple is a tremendous photo opportunity: you can climb up the stairs and see a panorama of Altun Ha from the top.
The Temple of the Green Tomb is the next stand-out building. It's named for the 300 jade objects that were found in the tomb of a priestly king, hidden deep inside the structure. Temple A3 is smaller, but is notable for the intricately carved altar at the base of its stairs.