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Trueblueky

2 days of ruins too much?

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We will cruise to Cozumel, Costa Maya and Belize. Thinking of visiting Lamanai and Chaccoben.

Have you done two days of ruins? Pros/cons, please.

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We did Altun Ha in Belize and that was plenty for us. We did many other things other than the ruins that day as well, but it was cool to at least go see them.

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If you're a big archeology buff or history fanatic, then you'll enjoy the nuances between the Mayan cultures in inland Quintana Roo and coastal Belize. Otherwise, you might just feel like "seen one set seen them all".

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We did Lamanai and Chacchoben in consecutive days and thought both were well worth it. Neither day seemed too long or stressful.

 

 

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My only hesitation would be if you're doing this during summer, as it will be oppressively hot and humid. A full day of ruins in the middle of summer can be draining and having a less stressful excursion the next day might be a welcome change.

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I'd recommend doing only one of them (instead of both on consecutive days). Chacchoben is the "easy" version which is a half-day, bus-ride only version. Lamanai is the full-day version where you have bus, speed-boat down a river (continuous breeze and see some wildlife), and then can climb the tall pyramid (which gives a view out towards the coast). You can get great pictures at both. Lamanai seems like a bit more of an adventure but is a long day - I would probably only do this through the cruise line unless you had a fair amount of buffer time in your port call.

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Unsure if OP has sailed yet but thought I'd add our experience.  We did a 7 day cruise this summer (late July/early summer) on Princess and did ruins in two different ports, back to back.  Our group consisted of my husband and me, his mother (90 years old but very active) our three adult kids (early 20s) and future son in law (also early 20s. )  We did ruins in Belize and Cozumel and both through the ship's excursions.  This trip was part of a gift to my mother in law so the excursions we chose were based on her requests of what she wanted to see.  I did a fair amount of research before we went to ensure there wasn't an inordinate amount of walking or climbing up large hills before we went. 

 

In Belize, we did the Altun Ha ruins (after switching from the Lamanai ruins because the tour provider decreased the time on the river.)  We thoroughly enjoyed both the river cruise and the ruins, but it was a very long and hot day.  The river cruise part of the excursion is in a partially covered boat.  Only about 1/3 of the passengers can get in the shaded area of the boat and even my 90 year old mother in law wasn't offered a seat in the shade. 

 

Pros of this excursion:  the river ride allowed us to see quite a bit of the natural environment, including wildlife, which was a request of my MIL.  We saw brief glimpses of manatees, a crocodile, howler monkeys, (creepy) fruit? bats,  (sorry...I have an issue with bats) various birds, one carrying a snake it its mouth.  We went equipped with hats, sunscreen and lots of water, so the cruise portion of the trip was tolerable as long as we kept moving.  However, when the guides stopped the boat to explain something or point something out, it was oppressively hot and humid (expected, but still uncomfortable.)  Fortunately, they kept these stops to a minimum.  We stopped at a restaurant along the river for lunch, then boarded a gloriously air-conditioned bus for the trip to the ruins and then back to the ship.  

 

The ruins themselves were mostly in the sun and involved a lot of walking. Most of it was over flat terrain and there were areas where you could find shade but it wasn't always convenient if you also wanted to hear what the guide was saying.  There were a couple of options where we could climb on the ruins.  I stayed with my mother-in-law (in the shade) while the rest of the crew climbed.  These ruins are "more developed" and are obviously visited by many visitors but weren't crowded by any means.


The following day, we were in Cozumel and opted for the ruins of Coba.  Most of the family had been to these before and these are, by far, our favorite ruins (of the sites we've visited. ) Coba is in a jungle, so there was a lot of shade available to get out of the summer heat. It was a great site with a lot to see; some of the ruins have been excavated and restored but many more are still buried in the jungle, which made these more authentic? than some of the other ruins we've visited.    

The terrain is fairly flat, but the paths are over uneven ground.  (We had four young adults who were ready and willing to help their grandmother any time she needed a stabilizing hand or assist over the terrain.) The site is also very large and requires a lot of walking or use of the the bike carriages (which were provided as part of our excursion.)  There was one pyramid that visitors were allowed to climb. I sat this one out with my MIL again, while the family climbed.  I had climbed this pyramid a few years ago, and frankly,  climbing back down was not something I wanted to do again.  It's a great view from the top and I'm glad I did it once...but feel no need to ever be terrified of the climb back down (even scooting down like a toddler while holding on to the rope. ) My biggest con with this trip was the time spent trying to get there and the lack of time on site.  (Between getting off the ship, the ferry ride to the mainland, finding and loading up the buses, we spent at least 2-3 hours trying to get there. ) 

Again, this was another long day but not as hot as the previous day in Belize.  Coba is much less commercial than some of the other ruins we've visited in Mexico (Tulum in particular.)  There were a few small shops outside the entrance to Coba, selling what appeared to be (hoping, at least) authentic items that weren't mass produced. 

Another bonus of this trip was that our guide had grown up in this area and knew families who lived close.  We stopped at a home on our way back to the ship where we could go inside the home, see tortillas being made and even sample the goods (young 20 year old adults were especially grateful for the food!).  They saw the general layout of the home, met the family who lived there as well as the pets (various dogs and  parrots.)  For those who didn't want to go in, the bus was outside waiting with the air conditioner running.

 

One of the reasons we did two ruins back to back was because of the river cruise and the opportunity to see wildlife.  We truly enjoyed both sites, but in general, we tend to gravitate toward historical attractions.  We were exhausted after the two days and very ready for our final day at sea. 

 

For general info, the other sites we visited in Mexico include Tulum (3 or 4 times?) over a span of 30+ years.  I have no desire to return, not because it isn't beautiful and has something to offer, but because it so commercialized.  

 

Chichen Itza-it's been over 20 years since we visited these and I remember them being worth the trip when we were staying in 

Cancun.  I would never attempt a visit from a cruise ship due to the distance from the port.

 

Dzibilchaltun ruins from Costa Maya.  We enjoyed these ruins as well; not as commercial as Tulum; many still being excavated.  Lots of shade and an easy walk around the site.  There were at least two pyramids that visitors could climb. 

 

We also visited some ruins on the island of Cozumel that were not commercialized (I think they were on Cozumel as  I don't remember taking the ferry, but it's been a few years.) None of the ruins had been restored-everything was mostly covered by jungle.  I don't remember the name of the ruins, but remember being eaten by mosquitoes. 

 

Take these for what they're worth.  Hopefully they will help someone make a more informed decision on what ruins they visit.  My 90 year old MIL did great on the trip and loved it.  

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We did Lamanai on Wednesday and Chacchoben on Thursday.  Part of the decision was that Belize City is a tender port, so not a sure thing.  Seeing the countryside of the two countries was enlightening; I was not aware how much poorer Belize is. 

 

Lamanai is taller with better views from the summit, hieroglyphics and carvings.  Chacchoben had a smaller group, with better discussion and more insight of the process.  Highly recommend Native Choice and their Maya Experience.

Edited by Trueblueky

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Bring plenty of mosquito repellant with you!  We did Altun Ha several years ago in Belize.  It was interesting, but the mosquitos were awful there.

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