A look behind the lens of photographer and travel writer Al Argueta
The interior of Belize is chock-full of amazing natural wonders. I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the most impressive (and yet least-visited) Maya sites in the region: Caracol. The site flourished around the same time as Tikal in neighboring Guatemala, and there is evidence of contention between the two. Archaeologists believe Caracol toppled Tikal around A.D. 562.
The Maya site at Caracol lies in the remote rainforest of Chiquibul National Park. Getting there is an adventure in itself. The dirt road winds its way up to the highland forests of the Mountain Pine Ridge before descending into the misty Chiquibul forests. The site itself occupies 177 square kilometers, and but a miniscule portion of this area has been mapped – only 5,000 of its estimated 36,000 structures have even been identified.
Among Caracol’s outstanding features: the large stucco masks embedded into the sides of several temples.
The most impressive of the temples at Caracol, Canaa, rises 136 feet above the plaza fronting it. It’s a long climb to the top, but the ascent offers spectacular views of the surrounding forest and the Maya mountains to the south. My favorite memories from visiting this incredible Maya site are best conveyed through images… so I hope you enjoy my favorites from the trip.
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To learn more about the Caracol ruins and ongoing archaeological projects there, read our exclusive interview with archaeologist Rachel Egan.
And be sure to check out a few other cool archaeological sites in Central America – get behind the lens of Al Argueta’s camera at the Tikal and Copan ruins in Guatemala and Honduras, and follow 2011 Island Interns Ben Brown and Luke Hansen to El Sitio Barriles in Panama.
All photos © Al Argueta 2012.