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Belize formerly the colony of British Honduras, is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean, and the only one in the region with English as its official language. The country is located between Guatemala to the west and south and Mexico to the north.
With a long Caribbean coast, Belize is a culturally diverse and mixed race country with one foot in Latin America and the other in the Caribbean. There is the creole/(Afro-European mixture) population as well as the native Maya people and the Mestizos that tend to live the north and northwest of the country Spanish is often spoken. In the south east along the Caribbean coast live the Garifuna (Black Caribs) an Afro-Amerindian culture. German speaking Mennonites also call Belize home. In addition people of East Indian, and Lebanese decent.
World class attractions include exploring the lush jungles with exotic plants and animals, deep sea fishing, swimming, snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean sea with its attractive reefs, and visiting the Mayan ruins. Income levels are still very low and the infrastructure is very basic. The Belizeans are very proud and friendly to visitors and the tourist industry grew greatly in the last decade.
Tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May). Hurricanes season (June to November) brings coastal flooding (especially in south).
districts of Corozal (coastal) and Orange Walk (inland)
home of the largest city, the airport and a whole host of popular offshore islands
teeming with adventure, this central district is filled with jungles, caves, rivers, Mayan ruins, and much more
coastal region south of Belize District, access to quiet reef islands and boats to and from Honduras
southern coastal/inland region with more Mayan ruins and boats to Guatemala
The Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) is in Ladyville, to the northwest of Belize City where it receives international direct flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Newark, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Flores, San Salvador, Roatan and San Pedro Sula.
From Mexico via Chetumal, or on a much rougher road from Guatemala via Melchor de Mencos.
Buses from Belize City and Belmopan operate to Flores in Guatemala, and to Chetumal in Mexico.
Several cruise lines call on Belize City. Unfortunately they usually stay only one day, which doesn't allow the opportunity to really see Belize. You can visit one of the Maya ruins, ride an airboat in the salt marshes just outside the city, shop, go to the museum, go to the zoo or take either a short cave rafting trip or go snorkeling, but that's about it. That means about 70% of the things most tourists would like aren't available, not mention the eco-tourism points of interest.
Belize is a fairly small country, and transportation between most destinations is rarely long and tedious.
Tropic Air and Maya Island Air both have multiple flights daily to various towns around the country and to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. They fly out of both of Belize City's airports, but flights from Belize City Airport (TZA) are often significantly cheaper than those out of Phillip Goldson International (BZE). Domestic flights are generally pretty reasonable, and thus popular if your time is limited and budget is not.
Several competing buslines operate on the main road in the north-south direction from Punta Gorda to Belmopan and Belize City. There are bus stations in the main towns, or simply stand on the side of the highway and wave at an approaching bus. Most buses have a conductor in addition to the driver, who stands by the door and will come to your seat to collect the fare at some point during the trip.
As a former British colony the official language of Belize is English, which makes it stand out from its Spanish speaking neighbours. Nevertheless, Spanish is spoken fluently by around 60% of the population. Belizean Creole (or Kriol), Mayan languages, Garifuna (Carib) and, to a lesser extent, various dialects of German are widely spoken in various parts of the country.
Belizean Creole is an English-based creole language which is closely related to Jamaican Patois. Many Belizeans speak a mix of Creole and English among friends, and full English to foreigners. The strong Caribbean accent may take some getting used to.
What to see
Mayan Ruins Exploration
Many of the Maya ruins (listed below) can be visited in person. Unlike most ruins, many of those in Belize can still be climbed and explored by foot.
Altun Ha (Northern Belize) - Two large central plazas and mid-size pyramids are exposed. This is the most easily-accessible site from Belize City.
Lamanai (Northern Belize) - Three large pyramids and stelae, residential areas, plazas, a unique ball court.
Xunantunich (Western Belize) - Very well-excavated carving stelae and an impressive main pyramid. Can drive right up to this site. Access it by crossing the Mopan River aboard a tiny hand-cranked car-ferry in the village of San José Succotz.
El Pilar (Western Belize) - 100-acre site with 25+ plazas, on the Belize-Guatemala border.
Caracol (Western Belize) - Largest known Maya site in Belize, but not as well-excavated as others. Main pyramid (Caana, or "Sky Palace") is the tallest Maya structure in Belize.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave (Western Belize) - This is not a Maya structure, but a cave that contains Maya skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware.
Tikal (Guatemala) - Most grand of the surviving Maya cities, and most extensively excavated. Numerous pyramids, stelae, and temples; grand plaza and main acropolis are often seen in photographs. Toucans, parrots, howler monkeys, and spider monkeys are often seen throughout the park.
Tours to the ruins can also be arranged for visitors staying in the Cayes. On Caye Caulker and in San Pedro, you will find tour companies that can arrange tours of some of the Maya sites.
When traveling inland to San Ignacio, there are lots of opportunities to explore the jungles by horseback.
Hanna Stables, Western Highway, San Ignacio, Belize. Hanna Stables offers horseback riding, adventure tourism and educational organic eco-farm stay for travelers of all ages and abilities in the San Ignacio, Belize area. One of the country's oldest horseback riding establishments, Hanna Stables has been family-owned for generations and is currently operated by Santiago Juan. Horseback riding tours are available for riders of all experience levels, and popular destinations include the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, unexcavated Mayan ruins of Actun Kan, and the surrounding San Lorenzo Farm.
Old Belize is a landmark attraction, offering a total Belize experience for locals and tourists. At its heart is the Old Belize Exhibit, a stirring cultural and historical display that takes visitors back in time to various defining segments of Belize’s past. The display contains many authentic relics from key periods, a haunting introductory teaser to the Mayan legacy in Belize, an eerie depiction of the Belize City of Colonial days, and an intimate glimpse into 18th century logging camps, and more.
Sportfishing in Belize is second to none. The bonefish is the premier fly fishing game fish in the world and it can be found in the grass shallows through Belize. It's pound for pound perhaps the strongest animal in salt-water.
Also world-class is the snorkeling and scuba diving. There are many exceptional dive sites to be found in Belize. One of the best ways to explore Belize waters is by chartering a sailboat or catamaran o make the most of your available dive time. For those with a smaller budget, snorkeling and driving excursions can be found along the beaches of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.
The Cayo district is characterized by limestone hills underlain by a network of underground rivers, caves and sinkholes. The caves are magnificent, with huge caverns and tight passages, underground waterfalls and dazzling arrays of mineral-encrusted stalactites and stalagmites. This underground world was sacred to the ancient Maya and many artifacts from decorated pots to human remains are still intact in the caves.
Belize's greatest attraction Actun Tunichil Muknal, these spectacular caves combine adventure caving with amazing history. Traverse the cave system and river with a guide to see the calcified Mayan sacrifice remains at the end.