The high culture of the Maya in Central America, which began about 5,000 years ago and reached its final phase at the time of the Spanish conquest, is still a mystery today. Their ceremonies appear bloodthirsty, their stepped pyramids imposing, and their stone reliefs are extremely artistic. Between Panama and Cuba you can visit three mysterious Maya strongholds: Tulum in Mexico is the only Maya site by the sea, Altun Ha and Lamanai are in Belize. Lamanai lies on the banks of an inland lagoon and was inhabited for about 3,000 years. Excavations revealed that around 700 AD, over 20,000 people lived there.