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Hickatee Cottages - a jungle bed & breakfast

Mile 1.5, Ex-Servicemen Road, Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Southern Belize

tel: (++501) 672-4475

email: hickatee@gmail.com

© 2019 Hickatee Cottages

TALLER THAN TIKAL

Toledo, with its vast swathes of jungle and protected areas, is dotted with dozens of Maya archaeological sites which have yet to be excavated and studied, along with caves and other burial and sacred sites.

There are four major sites which are partially excavated and/or studied and well worth a visit depending on how far off the beaten track you wish to venture, including Pusil Ha where the Gateway Hill Acropolis rises to a height of 79m! And, yes, that is taller than Tikal!

> pusil ha

Uxbenka is a fairly small Maya site situated about 9 miles east of the Guatemalan border in the Toledo District. Located on the foothills of the Maya Mountains the site overlooks a vast panoramic view.

 

To reach Uxbenka one travels west from San Antonio towards Santa Cruz Village. Uxbenka means “Ancient Place” and consists of one main ceremonial plaza on the top of the hill with smaller plazas located lower down on the slopes. There are six structures which surround the sides of the central plaza. There are 21 stelae, 6 of which are carved. The tallest structure rises 27 feet above the plaza. One stela appears to be Early Classic, suggesting occupation in a period not commonly encountered in southern Belize.

More reading...

Click for the Institute of Archaeology web page on Uxbenka

TALLER THAN TIKAL

Toledo, with its vast swathes of jungle and protected areas, is dotted with dozens of Maya archaeological sites which have yet to be excavated and studied, along with caves and other burial and sacred sites.

There are four major sites which are partially excavated and/or studied and well worth a visit depending on how far off the beaten track you wish to venture, including Pusil Ha where the Gateway Hill Acropolis rises to a height of 79m! And, yes, that is taller than Tikal!

> NIM LI PUNIT

Nim Li Punit is famed for the 26 stelae found at the site, including the longest stela in Belize which depicts a figure wearing a large headdress which gives the site its Kekchi name of "Big Hat". At some 30 feet, it is also one of the longest stela found in the Maya world.

 

The site is located on a hilltop in the village of Indian Creek,  with some lovely views of the coastal plain and the Caribbean sea beyond. The small visitors' center houses many artifacts, as well as information posters on the history of the site and the Maya culture.

 

The site is composed of three main areas - the east, west, and south groups - and is characterized by the terracing and filling of the area's hilly landscape to create a series of plazas and platforms. Nim Li Punit has well-kept grounds with a number of large trees providing ample shade and a great habitat for birds, and many butterfly-attracting flowers around the visitors' center.

More reading... click for the Institute of Archaeology web page on Nim Li Punit

> lubaantun

Lubaantun (meaning Place of the Fallen Stones) is the largest ceremonial center in the Toledo District, located near the village of San Pedro Columbia above a tributary to the Columbia River. Built in the Late Classic Period it consists of eleven major structures, grouped around five main plazas, and is noted for its stonework, and features "rounded corners".

 

You can read about the (in)famous Crystal Skull which was supposedy 'discovered' at the site, and talk to Mr Katarino who will happily show you the latest 'finds' as well as telling you some of the Kek'chi Maya legends.

 

Lubaantun is also known for its many ceramic whistle figurines, and Katarino makes excellent reproductions of the ocarinas they have found at the site.

More reading...

Click for the Institute of Archaeology web page on Lubaantun

Click for an article about the Crystal Skull

 

And, don't forget, you can combine a Friday visit to Lubaantun

with a trip to Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm!

> UXBENKA

Uxbenka is a fairly small Maya site situated about 9 miles east of the Guatemalan border in the Toledo District. Located on the foothills of the Maya Mountains the site overlooks a vast panoramic view.

 

To reach Uxbenka one travels west from San Antonio towards Santa Cruz Village. Uxbenka means “Ancient Place” and consists of one main ceremonial plaza on the top of the hill with smaller plazas located lower down on the slopes. There are six structures which surround the sides of the central plaza. There are 21 stelae, 6 of which are carved. The tallest structure rises 27 feet above the plaza. One stela appears to be Early Classic, suggesting occupation in a period not commonly encountered in southern Belize.

> PUSIL HA

Pusilha was one of the largest cities of the region throughout much of the Classic period. Pusilha was rediscovered in the late 1920s, and is one of only a few sites in the Maya World with evidence of a bridge built to cross a river, and its Gateway Hill Acropolis has been described as 'one of the most imposing architectural complexes in the Maya world'. The hill itself is a natural feature that was substantially modified to form a massive acropolis consisting of eight distinct terraces that rise to a height of 79 m.

 

Whilst Pusilha was investigated by several teams in the 1920s little or no further work took place until 2001 and, today, it appears very 'jungly' and unexcavated. Few people visit Pusilha, and even fewer write about it so we consider ourselves very lucky to have the following report from Cathleen and Jan who stayed with us in 2014:

A mini Maya Expedition to Pusil Ha

Who wouldn't want to play a bit of Indiana Jones by visiting a site that is still relatively unexplored, where you need a guide in front with a machete to penetrate the jungle undergrowth of the steep and rocky climb, and you don't mind driving for a few hours down heavily rutted dirt roads?

 

Much of the enjoyment of the expedition was getting to the site. The journey took us through Maya villages that are not tourist destinations but which show, unvarnished, how the Maya currently live: people walking everywhere (there are virtually no cars and only one bus a day into the hinterland), thatched roof houses (we were lucky enough to see a collective house raising), no electricity, and lots of piglets and chicks running around.

 

There are no road signs, so getting around is definitely a challenge, but head towards Blue Creek, and continue south-west from there, stopping to check with people that you are on the right road!

The payoff is a nearly pristine Maya site nestled remotely in the foothills of the southwestern Maya Mountains with expansive vistas across southern Belize and Guatemala – views that the Pusil Ha dynastic rulers called “lord of avocado” would have enjoyed when they occupied the site from about AD 571-798. The more impressive ruins were the remains of the Mayan bridge that was ingeniously constructed to ford the river on the way to the Pusil Ha acropolis. The Mayans diverted the river to construct a massive stone bridge to gain access to the acropolis. This linked the Sacred Way with its Ball Courts and Stela Court to the acropolis. Today a relatively rickety wooden footbridge is used to cross the river – definitely part of the adventure!

 

While there is not much to see at the upper reaches of the site – some cornerstones of terraces, and the large rough boulders that protected the entrance to the acropolis – the spirit of place is compelling with beautiful views and some thoughtful ideas about preservation. Our guide showed us the facings of the stone terraces that were once covered with limestone plaster and painted with colorful frescoes which are all gone now. The paintings were buried for hundreds of years but once the protective rubble is removed, the rain washes away the plaster. Just goes to show you that the ruins can preserve themselves and we must be mindful of how we protect the past...

 

We left sopping wet from the heat and tired from the challenging climb. But we were thrilled with our mini Maya expedition.