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How many times might I be fortunate enough to say that I traveled for a day to the country of Belize? We were on a recent cruise and this was one of our stops in the Western Caribbean. Our trip today was going to be visiting the ruins in Belize.
My group is very versed in traveling, however, we span many different generations so we needed to kind of be loose with what we were going to do while visiting Belize.
I wanted to learn the most we could about the country and how it all evolved so our trip choice was appropriate to the culture and how the Mayans used to live. Our choice was hanging out with Phil’s Tours and discovering Belize and Altun Ha. This is my story of lavishly living travel out loud in the country of Belize and visiting the Mayan Ruins.
The trek from the ship to shore was a bit time-consuming as we had to get to the Gangway and board little boats that took us from where we were anchored into the port. Once that mission was completed you were set on your way to adventure.
You can learn all about Phil’s Tour on TripAdvisor, where I am also a TripAdvisor Ambassador because I am infatuated not only with travel but all the hidden gems you learn about on TripAdvisor!
You Could Shop Or You Could Really TOUR Belize
I want to mention that the little port of call itself had a lot of nice shopping and some of the absolute best prices around on really nice long-sleeve tees. Oh, did I say long-sleeve?
You bet because if you are off-shoring it here and traveling to the ruins, I advise wearing long-sleeved garments when touring the Mayan Ruins at Altun Ha as you are in the jungle baby!
What is there to do in Belize?
There are cave-tubing and zip-lining as well as snorkeling and shopping and of course there are the Mayan Ruins that everyone yaps about and I now know why!
You choose the adventure that fits you best! The Belize Zoo, The Caracol Mayan Ruins, and so much more. My crew could not all do the cave-tubing. We had to do what everyone could agree upon. After all, we are traveling together to visit Belize.
Belize- With Phil’s Tours and The Ruins
Our choice was a personal tour with a private tour company, one that was not backed by the ship: Phil’s Tours. I know that the cruise ships frown upon booking your own private travel and excursions when you get off the ship.
My choice as we had learned long ago was to go ahead and do just that. I really wanted to be in my own group with my own family and take in the sights in the culture of Belize.
When you travel in those large touristy groups you don’t get the real feel for the culture and the feel of the country that you’re in. Phil offered us so much background knowledge, and a great tour of the city as well that we really felt like we had learned more than most while visiting this day.
Don’t Just Take Any Tour Guide – Do Your Homework
Again I do advise you go at your own risk whenever it comes to private tours but I will tell you firsthand that Phil’s Tours our first-rate.
Cruise ships all steer clear of the locals unless they have contracted them and then it is fine to go. As I’ve mentioned countless times, my dad taught me how to find the best private drivers! Phil is one of them!
I realize there are reasons that the ships pick their particular tours. However, I also know that you can find the best of the best of guides on TripAdvisor. Look there before EVER booking with the ship (Like Carnival or Holland America specifically) – Some cruises have excursions built-in, these cruise lines do not, it’s all a la carte.
If I am spending money on a tour, I want to choose the tour, not someone giving me a few of ‘their personal favorites’ .
When Phil leaves with you in the van, they check you all out. Then, when you return, you get checked back in. This lets their country know how many people are on the ship and touring and makes him accountable.
Phil’s Tours offer air-conditioned vans. Additionally, he has a headset he speaks through so EVERYONE in the van can hear what is going on. Unlike so many tours we have been on this is quite the organized tour.
We learned a lot because we could ALL hear what he said, not just those upfront. Phil also accompanied us as we went through the Mayan Ruins known as Altun Ha. The most discussed road on any tour is Altun Ha.
Many say the road is just unbearably bumpy and true that it is bumpy it is not like you are being bounced up and out of your seat. Rather it is just like that annoying nonstop grumbling below the vehicle and once you are in the bump zone you just ride all through it.
Honestly, we all survived and ranged in age from 11-75, if that puts it in perspective for you. If it rains I would NEVER go to the ruins, I will tell you that, as you would be a muddy mess and it would be we and treacherous for footing.
THE ROAD TO ALTUN HA!
Here is what the road looks like on the upper left-hand side of this photo. I took it while we were riding in the van. Basically, the highway you are riding on from the port at some point turns into this bumpy ride. It is no longer paved, hence the bumps. Hope you don’t have to use the facilities or you will be watering the weeds along the road lol!
About 30 minutes into the one hour ride, it hit. Bumps and more bumps. Would I have taken this if I were just a few months pregnant? Nope, not need to risk issues. Would I do this if I can’t walk well? That would depend. You do not have to climb the ruins, but, you will still have to walk.
The Famed Road To Altun Ha
You can see why and Phil also told us that if it is raining it becomes a problem to travel(gee I wonder why, lol)! If it rains, don’t go on this tour. Do not go with anyone that tells you it will be fine. Phil advised us that the road can be a total washout and you will get stuck in the mud.
We were having issues even without the mud. Funny story too, as we left the ruins, it began to rain!
What are you looking at in this photo? The guy in the blue is sitting on the altar of the tallest ruin there. Guess what they did there? They used to sacrifice other people to the Mayan Gods!
My 2 photos show the split railing going up as well as down. In other words, think about your fear of heights before you go to the top. There is NO ELEVATOR down and you have to walk.
Going Green at The Jungle
You can see that the Altun Ha is all stone. Imagine if it is raining and you are RIGHT in the JUNGLE, read on! This path, however, was definitely not our friend. We totally got eaten alive with mosquito bites even though we had our ‘Deet’ on.
Then again, we were also in shorts, it was just about to rain and the humidity was just over-the-top ridiculous. All the perfect storm for mosquitoes to go feasting. Consider yourselves forewarned.
The larger tours do not offer this personalized service/ Having Phil as our guide made the difference. Phil was able to share his knowledge of each piece of the ruin.
As I had my children with me this became a very educational opportunity and the history that we learned was profoundly striking.
Altun Ha is definitely breathtaking. Now here’s a funny story. The photo you see share that we are not even close to the elevation we need to ascend to.
I’m not about Heights and if you look across the way you can see we are going higher and you might note there are no guard rails.
Across the way is the sacrificial Mayan Altar, and we were going there. My father-in-law 70+ went right up the side of the mountain holding onto the handle and walking. So did I. In fact, I never thought about it twice and I should have.
Uh-Oh – Belize – What Goes Up …..
What I forgot is whatever goes up must come down and the same type of split rail was there to hold onto going down but when you look down oh lookout.
Like a baby, I scooted on my butt to get across to the steps and my husband came back up to the top to take me down because I was terrified.
See Ya Later Pee-Gator
Once at the bottom there alligators that you could hold my husband did this the cost was a dollar. You can see the Mayan Altar in a previous photo on this page.
As my son and husband were holding these little creatures of the Jungle, the one in my husband’s hand peed on him. We are in the jungle and the animals are all over.
However, these alligators were brought here by some guys that stand at the base. If you are willing to toss a buck at them, you can hold them for about 30 seconds. Take a photo and be on your way. LOL, right?
Why Is There Grass On The Ruin?
So this particular ruin has a lot of grass left on it, and in fact many of the ruins there are not yet uncovered. The government does this little by little as they have funding, so imagine what they are going to have in the future.
The face you see was just awesome and some don’t see it, but we stopped and I photo’d it, because how cool, right?
YOU NEED TO BE IN GOOD SHAPE TO CLIMB
I guess I will talk a little more about the walking, and stepping up the stairs. You can see in my photo that the Altun Ha steps are about 1 foot high. Further, each is spread fairly well on this particular ruin. Coming down the ruin offers the same pitch as going up.
Consider this: in order to travel up and down the ruins, you really need to be stable on your feet and free of any vertigo. There are NO GUIDE Rails down all of these but that one large one I shared in a previous photo.
If you have kids, you want to watch them on the steps. There is no one supervising the ruins, it is just open for the public. It’s just a small charge to get in and you need transportation to get there from the ship.
That said, even if you can’t climb steps as long as you can walk. Photo from the ground and enjoy them at ground level. No matter what you can’t miss them, the ruins are huge! Also, I spent a lot of my time on the ground because #IHateHeights!
Travel. Adventure. Repeat?
I just want you to see from my EYES what Altun Ha looks like. Would I go here again? No, this is a Once and Done, but I would to the other Mayan Ruins, Xunantunich, that are in Belize.
The issue with getting to these ruins is that they are further out and our time in port is not enough for that travel. We will return to venture to the other ruins and stay in Belize, and that was a unanimous decision.
Our ride back was a nice adventure. Phil shared a bit more of the area with us. There are some big, beautiful resort homes here. Conversely, there are a lot of impoverished homes.
I am craving more adventure in Belize, a family vacation where we fly to the Belize Airport and stay for a week, as the beaches are calling our names.
Once we got back into the port area, we stopped and had a beer crafted in Belize and then we went back to the ship. This is my tale of Belize as we lavishly live travel out loud and visited Belize and the Altun Ha Ruins. ~Dana XO
Dana Vento is a travel writer, borrowing sunshine from each and every stop and sharing it with you. Our arrival at this country was by ship and was hosted by Carnival PR. However, the tour we took was not hosted by Carnival. I found a reliable vendor and took a chance and it all turned out well as you can see!