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Lamanai or Xunantunich Mayan ruins?


Rock Chalk Jayhawk
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We'll be on the Carnival Vista in May 2023 and will visit Belize. We would like to go see Mayan ruins, but I'm having a hard time deciding between Lamanai or Xunantunich. Our time in Belize will be from 8a-5p. The excursion "Lamanai: Majestic Ceremonial Ruins & River Cruise" appears to be a 6 hour tour with three departure times listed. The "Xunantunich Mayan Ruins with Lunch" says it is a 7 hour tour with only one departure time listed. Both tours look interesting. 

 

For reference, we're 40-somthing folks who can handle adventurous things and walking distances if needed. 

 

If anyone has done one (or both), I'd love to have your input. Bonus if you have a link to a review that you can post! Thanks in advance!

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If you're fit and enjoy hiking, do Lamanai.  Closest you'll come to feeling like Stephens and Catherwood when they stumbling onto these types of ruins in the 1830s.  And if they're offering the boat ride to near the ruins, that's a plus.

 

If you don't mind long bus rides and prefer to see ruins excavated closer to what they looked like in Mayan times, do Xunantunich.  There's a hand cranked ferry near the end and a good lunch afterward. You can see Guatemala from the top of the highest temple.

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Thank you so much for your reply! I was all set to book Xunantunich, but now I’m having second thoughts. I think the ruins would be awesome, and the hand cranked ferry would be neat. However, not thrilled about a two hour bus ride. I’m sure I can’t go wrong with Lamanai anyway!

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I did both ruins.  Enjoyed them both, but history is my thing.

I really enjoyed the boat ride to Lamanai really fun and gave something different to the tour.

Yes going to Xunantunich is a longer ride on the bus. But also you are going across a portion of Belize to right at the Guatemala border.  I always have a Kindle or book with me so the ride is no problem.

Both sets of ruins are fascinating and worth visiting.

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  • 3 months later...

Ditto... the bus ride there is really not as long as you would think as there are tour guides speaking to the whole bus the entire ride, teaching you about the history of the Mayans as well as things about current Belize life and government, culture, etc.  

 

I would do either  one again.... LOVED them both, both are unique and interesting.  If I had to pick one, I would pick Lamanai.

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  • 2 months later...

The bus ride was not bad, you get to see a lot of Belize from the bus, which I actually enjoy.  On the way back we stopped for lunch so that broke up the trip back.  The day we visited was not very crowded so that was great as well.   I have not been to Lamanai but I have been to several others ruins big and small and Xunantunich is still one of my favorites.  I would only book with the cruise line though.  We were the last bus back and rode the last tender back!

 

Jen

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  • 2 months later...

If it’s a Carnival excursion they will wait, right?  
 

Do I understand that L.. has a long boat ride and X.. has a long bus ride?  Or does L have both?  Are both L and X still great if you do not lean on climbing up the temple?

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  • 3 weeks later...

@lifes-a-beachOn the Princess excursion website in the tour reviews section, someone posted that their step counter said that they walked 7 miles on the excursion to Lamanai.  That is not what the tour description section says.  Based on your firsthand experience, is it really 7 miles worth of walking involved?  Thank you.

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I use a step counter on my watch also and find that it's sometimes not very accurate.  I've done a lot of mountain hiking and climbing and have a pretty good grasp of what a 5 mile hike is.  I would say it's not over about 4 miles.  That said, if you have moderate to serious mobility issues, this might not be for you.  The walk from where the boat drops you off to the ruins is through the jungle on a trail that, at least when we went, was a little uneven.  Then when you reach the ruins you're in the sun and the ruins are huge to walk around among.  There's plenty of time to stop and drink some water though.  I never felt rushed and I climbed the face of a couple of the temples, which I understand is off limits now, and probably rightly so.  You be the judge, but if you get around well and can pace yourselves, it's definitely worth the sweat.  And in case you haven't seen this suggestion, bring Deep Woods Off wipes.  The spray just goes everywhere.  The wipes are the way to go.

 

Edit:  If you're not going as soon as next week, my son and his girl are and I'll report back how it went.  I'll also ask him for a step count. 

Edited by lifes-a-beach
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15 hours ago, lifes-a-beach said:

I climbed the face of a couple of the temples, which I understand is off limits now, and probably rightly so.  You be the judge, but if you get around well and can pace yourselves, it's definitely worth the sweat.  And in case you haven't seen this suggestion, bring Deep Woods Off wipes.  The spray just goes everywhere.  The wipes are the way to go.

 

Edit:  If you're not going as soon as next week, my son and his girl are and I'll report back how it went.  I'll also ask him for a step count. 

Oh shoot - I didn't realize climbing was off limits now. Wonder if that is the same at X? Good tip about the wipes. 

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@lifes-a-beachThanks for your firsthand assessment.  It is much appreciated.  Walking is no problem for me.  I'm 75 but walk all the time and do an aerobic class (not a seniors class but an all ages one) 5-7 days a week.  I have been looking forward to seeing Lamanai for quite some time so sounds like it is a go for me.  And yes I saw your recommendation for the Deep Woods Off Wipes and couldn't find them around my area so ordered them.  My cruise is on 2/25.  Thanks again.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/26/2023 at 7:44 AM, lifes-a-beach said:

Finally remembered to pass this on.  The Lamanai trip my son took was good.  Their words were that it would be easy to turn an ankle and there was lots of walking but otherwise it was good.  They didn’t encounter mosquitos at all.  

Thank you for the update. 

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We did the excursion.... it was walking over a mile, but definitely less than 2 miles.  It is a dirt trail, there are roots and uneven to say the least, it is jungle.  But 7 miles ... not even close.  

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We were just at Lamanai on March 1st.  I agree with ABQrobin no way 7 miles.  The boat ride to the ruins is a hoot.  It is a very large very fast speed boat, 4 large engines in the back.  Lots of fun but not going to see wildlife except for a few white birds.  When you get to the ruins, there are quite a few concrete steps to get to the part where you walk over the uneven dirt trail with roots and rocks.  The concrete steps are not straight up but slopping.  It is not a fast paced walk as the guide stopped to point out things to us.  When we got to the first pyramid, Jaguar pyramid, there was a large grassy area that the guide stopped and gave a talk about.  We then walked farther to the pyramid of the masks on the same kind of trail.  We were then told that if we did not want to continue to the 3rd one which could be climbed we could go back the way we came to the river area with bathrooms and I think there was a museum but we did not have time to go in so I'm not sure about it.  My son, his girlfriend and I continued on to the third pyramid which was about another 6 minute walk.  I'm 75 and I had no problem with the walk.  However, I have fibromyalgia which effects the muscles in my thighs and while I have no problems with regular stairs, I do have trouble with the really high ones.  I was only able to climb up to the first level of the 3rd pyramid with a hand from my son on the first 3 steps.  It was hot but if you stayed in the shade, it was tolerable.  There was one older couple (I am guessing but I think they might have been in their 80's) decided to stop at the first pyramid and go back to the area where the buildings were.  I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion except for the bus ride.  I didn't mind the length of it but the microphone on our bus kept cutting out and so we only heard about 1/3 of the commentary of the guide on the way to the boat area.  The lunch was tasty and everything was very clean. Somewhere on here  ABQrobin has videos, I think on Youtube, of their travels.  Take a look at them.  They are fabulous.  She gives lots of great info.  I think she has one on Lamanai. Hope this helps anyone thinking about this excursion.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/13/2023 at 7:43 PM, DavidsNana said:

We were just at Lamanai on March 1st.  I agree with ABQrobin no way 7 miles.  The boat ride to the ruins is a hoot.  It is a very large very fast speed boat, 4 large engines in the back.  Lots of fun but not going to see wildlife except for a few white birds.  When you get to the ruins, there are quite a few concrete steps to get to the part where you walk over the uneven dirt trail with roots and rocks.  The concrete steps are not straight up but slopping.  It is not a fast paced walk as the guide stopped to point out things to us.  When we got to the first pyramid, Jaguar pyramid, there was a large grassy area that the guide stopped and gave a talk about.  We then walked farther to the pyramid of the masks on the same kind of trail.  We were then told that if we did not want to continue to the 3rd one which could be climbed we could go back the way we came to the river area with bathrooms and I think there was a museum but we did not have time to go in so I'm not sure about it.  My son, his girlfriend and I continued on to the third pyramid which was about another 6 minute walk.  I'm 75 and I had no problem with the walk.  However, I have fibromyalgia which effects the muscles in my thighs and while I have no problems with regular stairs, I do have trouble with the really high ones.  I was only able to climb up to the first level of the 3rd pyramid with a hand from my son on the first 3 steps.  It was hot but if you stayed in the shade, it was tolerable.  There was one older couple (I am guessing but I think they might have been in their 80's) decided to stop at the first pyramid and go back to the area where the buildings were.  I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion except for the bus ride.  I didn't mind the length of it but the microphone on our bus kept cutting out and so we only heard about 1/3 of the commentary of the guide on the way to the boat area.  The lunch was tasty and everything was very clean. Somewhere on here  ABQrobin has videos, I think on Youtube, of their travels.  Take a look at them.  They are fabulous.  She gives lots of great info.  I think she has one on Lamanai. Hope this helps anyone thinking about this excursion.

Thank you for your recent first-hand report! We have this excursion booked in May!

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  • 3 months later...

Thank you to everyone who posted a response on this thread. I was really torn on whether to book one of these two exact tours because of the long bus ride, but this thread made me do it!  Can't wait!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/29/2023 at 4:37 PM, Eli_6 said:

Thank you to everyone who posted a response on this thread. I was really torn on whether to book one of these two exact tours because of the long bus ride, but this thread made me do it!  Can't wait!

We went to Lamanai on May 24th and thought it was a great tour. It was definitely  a long day though. The last tender back to the ship was supposed to be at 3:15, and our bus arrived back to the port at 3:10 (and there were a few hundred people in line for the tender). 

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  • 2 weeks later...

We chose the Lamanai tour with our ship(Celebrity) just because it is a tendered port and did not want to take any chances of not getting a tender back in time.  That situation happened on our last cruise visting Martha's Vineyard surprisingly.

 

Thanks so much for all the information regarding this tour.  We are in our 70's but still find we are able to keep up with  the other guests.  We have not been to this ruin so very excited to see it.

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I will be sailing on Regal Princess out of Galveston on 11/12 and Belize is one of the stops.  The first time I was in Belize back in 2015 on RCL, I did the Xunantunich excursion.  I really had NO idea how long the bus ride would take to the site, but did enjoy traveling through the country and getting some good pics.  I did enjoy Xunantunich and if you're looking for an excursion to gobble up time, that's the trip to take.  I think this time around I might Lamanai - last year, I went to Altun Ha.

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