The Maya site of Lubaantun (daily 8am–5pm; Bz$10) is an easy visit from Punta Gorda via the bus to San Pedro Columbia. To get to the ruins, head through the village and cross the Columbia River; just beyond you’ll see the track to the ruins, a few hundred metres away on the left. Some of the finds made at the site are displayed in glass cases at the visitors’ centre, including astonishing, eccentric flints and ceramics.
Lubaantun (“Place of the Fallen Stones”) was a major Late Classic Maya centre, though it was occupied only briefly, likely from around 750 to 890 AD. The ruins stand on a series of ridges which Maya architects shaped and filled, building retaining walls up to 10m high. The whole site is essentially a single acropolis, with five main plazas, eleven major structures, three ball courts and some impressive pyramids surrounded by forest.
Lubaantun’s most enigmatic discovery came in 1926, when the famous Crystal Skull was found beneath an altar by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, the daughter of the British Museum expedition’s leader. The skull was given to the local Maya, who in turn presented it to Anna’s father as a token of their gratitude for the help he had given them. Carved from pure rock crystal, the skull’s origin and age remain unclear, though much contested.