Belize is an ideal Central American destination, easily accessible even from the UK and Europe. Picture yourself immersed in a place where the sun always shines and white beaches stretch out into a warm turquoise sea abundant with exotic fish, coral reefs, ancient turtles and gentle manatees; a place where howler monkeys noisily leap through lush jungle canopies that protect the elusive jaguar and guard over the mysteries of ancient Mayan ruins; where intricate cave systems and jungle walking tracks promise more than a hint of adventure.
Imagine a place where food is an exciting celebration of cultural fusion; where lobster and conch sit alongside fry jacks and beans and the local beer is cold and fresh on your lips.
Imagine a culture where ancient civilisations have survived and thrive alongside one another in harmonious diversity, a place where everyone smiles and strangers are welcome, where stress and anger are not. Where life is unhurried, time has little meaning and no one sweats the small stuff!
It sounds like paradise doesn’t it? And probably sounds too good to be true! But a place like this really does exist and it is called BELIZE!!
Situated on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America, Belize is a geographically and culturally diverse little country snugly neighboured by Mexico to its north, Guatemala to its west and Honduras to its south.
I recently spent a month in this lovely little country and fell head over heels in love with it and its people, so I could quite rightly be accused of being biased!
However I visited just after I’d been through a particularly difficult and stressful period in my life and vividly recall sitting on a bollard one day waiting to catch a “Water Taxi” to my next destination while I watched, with amusement, the staff strap a mattress to the top of the boat(?)!! Sitting there in the sunshine it suddenly dawned on me that I was finally feeling happy, relaxed and completely chilled out! It also occurred to me that I had been in Belize for a couple of weeks now and in that whole time I had not heard one angry, cross or a frustrated word! I had not been subjected to any negative attitudes, had not even seen as much as an angry lovers tiff or a cross mother chastising her children! All I had encountered in that whole time was warm hospitality, friendliness and smiles and a lot of laughter and fun!! No wonder I felt so chilled!!
So needless to say they, the people of Belize, who made me feel so good, are first on MY TOP TEN reasons to visit Belize:
1. BELIZEAN PEOPLE
While their first language is English, Belizean people are multi-ethnic with origins steeped in a chequered history that has brought many cultures including Maya, Kriol, Garifuna and Mestizos together to create a diverse, but synergistic culture. Their most outstanding characteristic is a deeply friendly, warm and relaxed outlook on life where everyone lives in laid back “Belize time.” Just by being around these people you can’t help but find your own tensions and stresses melt away.
Suggested Activity: Full Day Garifuna Cultural Experience
Where To Stay In Belize City
2. MAYA RUINS
With many nestled deep in the jungle, Belize is home to a number of temple ruins left behind by the mysterious ancient Mayan Civilisation. Visit these ruins throughout the country, either on your own or as part of a tour led by knowledgeable local guides. Climb the high steps of these amazing tall temples to see incredible 365 degree views across jungle canopies as you learn about this ancient civilisation while howler monkeys roar loudly in the background. Lamanai, Caracol, Cahal Pech, Santa Rita Corozal and Xinantunich are the ruins that I visited throughout Belize, but there are many more to visit including Alton Ha only 50kms north of Belize City.
Where To Stay In Ambergris Caye
3. SNORKELLING AND DIVING IN THE WORLD’S SECOND LARGEST BARRIER REEF
Belize’s Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world, after Australia’s and is pure paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers. The main marine reserve, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, with its most visited destination being Shark Ray Alley is easily accessed from Belize City, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. But the Reef, including Glover’s Reef and Turneffe Elbow can also be accessed from other parts of Belize’s coastline.
Suggested Activity: Hole Chan and Shark Ray Alley Snorkeling Tour
Where To Stay In Caye Caulker
Believed to be the largest natural formation of its kind in the world, Belize’s submarine sink hole is near the Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll just 70kms from mainland Belize. The circular hole is over 300 metres across and 125 metres deep. It attracts many recreational scuba divers and is one of the top ten dive destinations in the world. It offers divers an opportunity to see a myriad of marine species and spectacular coral formations in crystal clear water.
Suggested Activity: Great Blue Hole And Barrier Reef
Where To Stay In Hopkins
Whether flats fly fishing, reef big game fishing or freshwater fishing Belize’s geographical features attracts an abundance of over 500 species of fish, making it a fisherman’s paradise. Especially as Belize is one of the Americas countries that is most committed to protecting its natural marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Its beautiful setting and reasonably priced charters makes Belize an ideal fishing holiday destination.
Suggested Activity: Full Day Fishing And Mayan Temple Experience
Where To Stay In Orange Walk
The western part of Belize is home to most of its exciting cave systems, some of which were an intricate part of Mayan religion and still contain evidence of ancient burial rituals including motifs, pottery and other artefacts as well as skeletal remains, including the famous “Crystal Maiden” at Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM). Canoe down Barton Creek cave’s 7km river where archaeologists discovered the burial chambers of twenty eight human remains. Visit Che Chem Ha Cave with its unique artwork and artefacts. Actun Loch Tunich has a sink hole of nearly 300 feet and Caves Branch has a river system that you can explore by fun filled “rubber tubing”. Other exciting caves to visit include Rio Frio cave and St Herman’s cave.
Suggested Activity: Actun Tunichil Muknal From Belize City
Where To Stay In San Ignacio
7. WILDLIFE AND JUNGLE TREKKING
Belize is abundant with exotic flora and fauna and trekking in the jungle is a great way to get up close with nature and discover some of its many secrets including medicinal plants that are still used. You may be lucky enough to see howler monkeys, jaguars and tapirs, toucans, parrots and macaws to name but a few of its many creatures. Jungle river systems attract an amazing array of water fowl and reptiles including crocodiles, turtles and iguanas and exploring by river boat with a local guide who can spot well camouflaged animal life is a wonderful experience. Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Shipstern Wildlife Nature Reserve and Mayflower Bocawina National Park are only a few places offering great jungle hiking, while there are a number of jungle river tours throughout Belize including Monkey River near Placencia. Lamanai Mayan site can also be reached by the New River.
Suggested Activity: Birding By Boat Cruise At Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Where To Stay In Placencia
Belizean food is a rich fusion of tastes influenced by its many cultural backgrounds, its plentiful fishing industry, especially shrimp, conch and lobster and locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Rice and beans served with chicken is a Belizean staple, while other signature dishes include ceviche made with conch or shrimp, refried beans and fry jacks. But there is such an array of delicious tastes in Belizean cooking that you really need to try it for yourself. Wash this down with Belikin Beer, Belize’s only indigenous beer brewed in a German pilsner style. The name by the way is the ancient Mayan name for Belize, which means “road to the sea.”
Buy Flavors Of Belize Cookbook At AMAZON
9. TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION
Belize is a small country with a simple transport system and a good range of accommodation. I travelled throughout mainland Belize by local buses and between the Cayes by water taxi, the main public water transport. They are incredibly easy to manage and reasonably priced with buses in particular being stupidly cheap, which despite being a little basic in standard, makes getting around the country on a budget a breeze. However Belize also has a couple of great domestic airline companies operating regular daily flights between the main towns and Belize City at affordable prices. There is also a great range of accommodation throughout Belize ranging from good quality budget guesthouses to five star resorts and luxury jungle lodges.
Suggested Tour: 4 Day Tour To San Ignacio
10. EASILY ACCESSABLE EVEN FROM UK AND EUROPE
It has long since been a popular holiday destination for visitors from Canada and the USA, however with cheap flights now operating from Europe and the UK to the USA, Belize can easily be accessed via North American hubs such as Houston, Miami, Atlanta and Dallas. Other flight connections include Canada, Cancun and Merida in Mexico, Panama City in Panama, Roatán and San Pedro Sula in Honduras, Flores in Guatemala and El Salvador.
More useful Information about travelling including recommendations on travel, where to stay, tours and places to eat: Belize Central America
For a short entertaining read buy my book on Amazon:
Belize, A Journey Of Discovery, And Some Snorkelling: Amusing Stories Of Middle Aged Life On The Road
To see the posts about my Belizean backpacking trip go to Category Belize
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