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Magnificent Maya pyramids and temples nestled in the lush jungle of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve

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Caracol is the largest Maya archaeological site in Belize, which is located in the Cayo District, 25 mi (40 km) south of Xunantunich. Most tours to Caracol depart from San Ignacio and combine the exploration of the ancient city with a visit to Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Preserve. Caracol's remote location ensures the absence of tourist crowds. It's also one of the few Maya sites in Central America where visitors are allowed to climb pyramids and other structures.

Caracol can be visited year-round, however, the jungle surrounding the site can be muddy during heavy rains, so the dry season from December through May is the better time.

Located at the foothills of the Maya Mountains, Caracol was founded around 1200 BC and was populated until 950 AD. It occupied an area of 75 sq. mi (194 sq. km) and boasted about 200,000 residents, more than modern-day Belize City. The site spans 35,000 buildings, many of which have been preserved quite well.

The center of the city consists of three plazas, an acropolis, and temples. The Sky Palace or Caana, the tallest Maya structure in the country, towers above the forest at 136 feet (41 m), and is the most famous of Caracol ruins. Other interesting structures include an astronomical observatory, reservoirs, and causeways. Findings suggest that Caracol was a powerful city, engaging in wars with the neighboring city of Tikal, located 42 mi (76 km) to the northwest.

The jungle surrounding Caracol is full of trails, waterfalls, and mysterious caverns, so you might want to spend some more time there exploring the area. You can also take a dip in Rio On Pools to relax after a long hike or visit the impressive Rio Frio Cave nearby.

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen