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Altun Ha Archaeological Site
Location: 30 miles (50 km) North of Belize City
Entrance Fee: BZ $10
Altun Ha Archaeological Site History
Altun Ha Archeological Site is situated in
the Belize District about 30 miles (50 km) north of
Belize City and 6 miles (10 km) from the Caribbean Sea
coast. Like many other Mayan ruins in Belize and Yucatan peninsula in
general Altun Ha is a modern name. In local Yucatec Maya language
haltun can be translated as a "cistern" while ha means
Altun Ha Archaeological Site was first settled in the
third century BC. It reached its apogee
during Maya Classic era between 200 and 900 AD. With population of
Altun Ha covered an area of about 5 sq. miles (8 sq. km). About
900 AD for some unknown reason revolt broke out. It could be due to
population collapse, hunger or social unrest. Elite palaces, temples and tombs were robbed
of its valuables. The site was inhabited for another century, but it
did not reach its previous greatness and eventually was abandoned by
the 12th century.
Altun Ha was found by amateur Mayanist Hal Ball who
recognized a city under cover of the jungle in 1963.
Today about 500
structures of the original
Altun Ha settlement are identified although most are still buried. The largest
is the Temple of the Masonry Altars. It is not very high, only 16 meters (54 feet),
but it is still an impressive structure. Numerous altars were used for
burning of copal as a sacrifice to gods. The temple is depicted on
Belikin beer label. Another important structure in Altun Ha
Archaeological Site is the so- called GreenTomb that held body of a priest- king from around 600 AD.
Travel to Altun Ha Archaeological Site
The Old Northern Highway connects Altun Ha to Belize's Northern
Highway. "Old Highway" is apt. The Northern Highway is a collection
of potholes connected by small stretches of worn-out asphalt.
Genuine Belize is what you see all the way from Belize City to Altun
Ha. Not the tourist version.
There are four main ways to
reach Altun Ha: The most expensive way is to visit on a tour from
Belize City. However, these tours tend to only run one or two times
a week and run upwards of US$100. Your hotel or hostel will usually
arrange this for you free of charge. You can cut your price to
about US$50 if you take a US$2 bus to Crooked Tree and sign up for a
tour there. The easiest and probably most cost effective method
to visit Altun Ha is to rent a car and drive out there yourself.
Many taxi drivers will drive you out to Altun Ha, wait for 1-2 hours
and then drive you back. The cost here depends greatly on which taxi
driver you choose. The average cost will be US$50 regardless of the
number of people who go. The most reliable drivers are located by
the Marina in green and white uniforms. However, if you're on a
budget, a regular taxi driver will take you for US$10-20 less.
Fees and permits There is a small entrance fee which was BZ$10
as of May 2006.