One of the most iconic ancient Maya sites in Belize, Altun Ha is recognizable to many as home to the famous temple that appears on the Belikin beer, the country’s only domestic brewer.
Altun Ha is located just 34 miles (54 km) from Belize City, making it one of the easiest ancient Maya sites to visit. Altun Ha was originally a vast city spread out across some 1,500 acres (6 square km), but only a tiny fraction of it has been excavated and made available to the public.
Although slightly smaller than other Maya sites, Altun Ha is a great introduction to the majestic architecture of the ancient Maya. The site is dominated by a large central plaza that connects to a ceremonial precinct with more than dozen large structures.
Top attractions at Altun Ha include the Temple of the Green Tomb where a burial site of a seventh-century king were discovered in the 1960s. In the tomb were found beautiful items of jewelry, ceremonial flints, and more than 300 jade objects. To the ancient Maya, jade was the most precious mineral, valued far more than gold.
But the most famous destination in Altun Ha is the Temple of the Masonry Altars, sometimes known as the Temple of the Sun God, which is featured on Belikin beer labels. This large structure was built more than 1,300 years ago and is named for the altars on which fragrant tree resin called copal was burned like incense to appease the gods.
Many interesting artifacts have been excavated at Altun Ha, including a six-inch tall carved head of the Maya sun god, the largest carved jade object ever found in any Maya site. The object is featured on the top corner of all Belizean banknotes. There is a small museum located onsite that displays many of the objects as well as several informative displays that describe the rich history of Altun Ha as an important Maya trading settlement.
Entrance to the Altun Ha site is BZD $10 ($5 USD) for non-residents, and the site is open 365 days a year from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Although you can explore the site without a guide, an organized tour can show you details that you might otherwise miss and answer questions about this iconic ancient Maya site.