Celebrating the Winter Solstice at Caracol, Belize with the Mayas!

“Where were you when the World Began Anew?”

I was lucky enough to have found through the grape-vine that Caracol, the biggest Mayan ruins in Cayo district, Belize will open exceptionally during the equinoxes and solstices of 2012 to 100 lucky people and let them camp over night.  I chose to go there to celebrate the winter solstice but also one of the most important date for the Mayans, the celebration of the passing from the Maya Calendar 13th Baktun to a new era or 14 Baktun. I couldn’t offer to wait an other transition like this …in 5,125 years!

So on the night of December 20 to the 21 I was with two of my best friends and their 14 months old (plus few people from Belize, Mayas groups and other parts of the world) ready to live one of the most incredible and humbling experience of my life.

what a ride

We had left Table Rock at mid day, drove to Caracol (2 hours of bumpy roads through the jungle, the Pine Ridge forest and back to the jungle) and set our tents by the side of others arrived earlier and followed Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize during his tour of Caracol. This was my second visit to the site (2006) but my first under the guidance of Dr. Awe, which I really enjoyed.

Dr. Jaime Awe

 We were free to wander throught the ruins on our own before regrouping for dinner.

I decided to climb the 145 feet of the tallest Mayan structure of Caracol, and of Belize to this day: Caana to enjoy the sunset.

The view was magnificent, as I recorded in my memory, a laughing falcon stood on top of his tree branch undisturbed by the unusual climbers so late during the day.

I went back down and was ready to go back and find my friends when I heard the sound of a flute and drum in the opposite direction. I follow it and got in front of the Mayas that were ready to climb Caana for what I learn later was for asking permition to enter the sacred grounds of Caracol. Well, I climb again and with few people on top of the pyramid we experienced the simplest but touching ceremony. Each Mayas had a candle that they lit, gave one to all of us present and burnt copal (encens) they prayed and asked permission to be present. When it was done they shake hands and thanks each other. The fact that we were all accepted and be asked to be part of this beginning ceremony filled our hearts with something special and few of us had tears in our eyes. It was so touching!

Following the music

Opening ceremony on top of Caana




View from the top of Caana


Again I went down the tricky steps but this time my heart was filled with the remains of the beauty that I had experienced on the top, my legs were shaking with all that climbing too.

I was still in awe when I return to my tent to tell my friends of what I had witnessed.

Camping at Caracol

By now it was dark, the night was surrounding us and the path to the dinning area was lit with hundreds of tiki torches that were giving to the place a surreal atmosphere. It was so beautiful and it will be even more when the bonfire got lit, gigantic and majestic, glowing in the night.


bonfire and moon


The dinner was extraordinary and unexpected.

A traditional Maya buffet with:

Corn soup, Chicken pibil, Pork pibil, Fresh tortillas and corn tortillas, Chicken Bollos, Ducunu (tamales), Steamed vegetables, Salsas: pico de gallo, red tomato, cilantro, cabbage, Dessert ( long time gone when I got the table), even wine!

At the end of the feast a slide presentation of the researches in the site of Caracol and information on the Maya calendar and history were giving by Dr. Awe.

Most people went to lay down as the ceremony was going to start at 4:00 AM…but already at 2:30 the sound of flute and drums went pass the camp site. I left my tent and follow them to what is known today as the A-Group and to the altar.

The stars in the night sky were so beautiful. Bundled up in our clothe we watched the elders lit the fire and the ceremony begin. Four Mayas ethnic groups were represented: Mopan, Yucatec, Kekchi and Itza Maya. A man and a women for each direction.

They prayed to the Creator, to Mother Earth, to their ancestors….they lit candles and tossed them into the fire, but also alcohol and sesame seeds. All people gathered around were given candles and seeds to throw into the fire who got bigger and bigger….it went on for hours.


feeding the fire with seeds

Ceremony from above

wake up sun!

At 4:30 I went to climb in the dark the pyramid across the temple where the sun will come to great us in a new beginning. From above the ceremony looked surreal but the smell of the copal burning, the sounds of the howler monkeys, the birds waking up, the cold in my bones (even the snores of someone who could felt asleep in a place and time like that!) were telling me that it wasn’t a dream! The sky started changing colors, from black to grey to pinkish-blue…the sun was to arrive…but the cloud were numerous and the sun stayed shy but what a night to remember!

Blue lights for a new Era!

As I was going down the pyramid, the people around the fire had scattered….only few were still waiting to be blessed by the shaman and I arrived just in time to witness my friends and their baby being blessed! I join the last few people on-line and I kneeled and got blessed too.

I left the fire behind me with a smile that would stay pass breakfast, pass after cleaning and leaving the magical site of Caracol.


I knew It was going to be great…I just didn’t know how I would feel about it…Now I know. There are some experiences in your life that stay with you for ever that leave you dreaming every time that you think, talk or remember them…this is one of those.

This was me, and you?

“Where were you when the World Began Anew?”

For more information on Carcacol:

One thought on “Celebrating the Winter Solstice at Caracol, Belize with the Mayas!

  1. Thanh

    Really liked what you had to say in your post, Celebrating the Winter Solstice at Caracol, Belize with the Mayas! | The Travel Channeler, thanks for the good read!
    — Thanh

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