Palenque © Carlos Adampol Galindo
A little-known fact about Belize is that its central lowlands were the original home of the ancient Maya world - and to this day, travellers to the region can visit the fascinating ruins of ancient Mayan cities, dating back more than 2,000 years. The region's lush, steamy tropical jungle - where the screams of howler monkeys fill the air - is a spell-binding, other-worldly setting in which to view the Ruins, which themselves offer astonishing insights into one of the most famous and most revered of all ancient cultures. With 2012 Doomsday predictions coming thick and fast, those interested in the Mayan Calendar's end-of-the-world prophesies are bound to flock to Belize in great droves - so get there before the rush sets in.
Modern-day Belize contains (among others) the sites of Caracol, Cerros, and Cahal Pech - all of which are significant archaeological locales in the history of Mesoamerican culture. The ruins at Altun Ha are popular with tourists due to their easy distance from Belize City; the pyramids are well-preserved, and feature the unique jade sculpture of the sun god, Kinich Ahau. Lamanai, located in Northern Belize, is the site of some especially picturesque and interesting pyramids, as well as an ancient ball court and other structures. Other popular sites include Tikal, El Pilar, and Xunantunich.