Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a small country in Central America. It has an eclectic mix of cultures as it has one foot in Latin America and another in the Caribbean. It is a hidden jewel with its lush jungles, beautiful beaches, attractive reefs, unique cuisine, and of course the stunning ruins of the Mayan civilization. Belize is the only country in Central America without a Pacific coastline. It is also the only country in the region which has English as its official language. Belize can surprise you with its wide array of attractions. With its inviting climate, numerous attractions along its coastline of 405 islands, coupled with infectious warmth of the locals, make it an ideal tourist destination for the whole family. In this blog, we will list 12 of the top tourist attractions that Belize has to offer to its visitors.
- Mayan Ruins – Orange Walk District
The Orange Walk District covers the north western part of Belize. It has several popular Mayan archaeological sites like Lamanai and La Milpa. Lamanai is the most picturesque and the 2nd largest Mayan ruin site in Belize. The original name of the place was Lam’an-Ayin which meant “submerged crocodile.” The region may have had many crocodiles, as depictions of crocodiles were found in many artifacts and items that were excavated. This must-visit site is accessible by boat through the New River from Orange Walk Town. La Milpa is the 3rd largest of the Mayan ruin sites. It was home to an estimated 46,000 Mayans in the Early Classic Period. Coca-Cola bought the site in 1988 for a citrus plantation but international criticism made them abandon the plan and donate the land to a non-profit organization.
- San Ignacio
The city of San Ignacio is one of major tourist bases in the country for a number of attractions. First on the list is Actun Tunichil Muknal , or ATM, a Mayan sacrificial site set entirely in a cave. The site is located about a 45-minute drive from town and is reached by what is nothing less than a spectacular hike – climbing rocks, wading, and swimming. Any individual or group must be accompanied by an official guide. The site has a number of skeletal remains, the most famous of which is the Crystal Maiden – the skeleton of a young girl which as a sparkling appearance due to the formation of limestone crystals. Other Mayan sites near San Ignacio include the ruins of Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Xunantunich. For those visiting San Ignacio with family, head to the Iguana Conservation Project or the Tropical Wings Nature Center.
Belmopan is the capital of Belize and is located about 80 km from Belize City. It can be easily covered by foot and is a great place to spend a quiet and relaxing day. The city has a lot of colorful tropical tree cover and is often referred to as the Garden City of Belize. Walk around the Independent Plaza which has all the major administrative buildings including the prime minister’s office. The National Assembly building in the city was built to resemble a pre-Colombian Maya temple. The 50-acre Guanacaste Park is just a few minutes away and is popular for its variety of tropical trees and birds. Those having a car can take a drive along the Hummingbird Highway, considered the most scenic highway in the country. The highway, which is built through the foothills of the Maya Mountains, connects the capital with Dangriga.
- Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye — the largest Belizean island — is one of the top tourist destinations in the country. With scenic views, relaxed ambiance, and a host of water activities to get involved in, the Ambergris Caye has been growing in popularity in the recent decades. Being an island, there is the obvious range of water activities on offer, but what makes a trip to the island different is the variety of colorful tropical marine life that one can enjoy. Add with it the beauty of the clean turquoise water, and Ambergris Caye surely stands out as one of the topmost island destinations in Central America. Swimming, snorkeling, and diving have become popular, especially along the coral reefs that are found in abundance. The most visited spots are the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Shark Ray Alley, and the Coral Gardens near Caye Caulkner.
- Punta Gorda
Punta Gorda, or PG, is the southernmost town of Belize. This coastal laidback town is visited by tourists as a base to explore the many coastal and inland attractions of south Belize. The most visited attraction of Punta Gorda is the Mayan ruin site Lubaantum. Joe Taylor Creek, Snake Cayes, and Sapodilla Cayes are popular places for kayaking, diving, swimming, as well as for bird watching. Nature and wildlife lovers can head to the interactive crocodile sanctuary – ACES — or take the 1-hr drive to the Rio Blanco National Park. With a $10 entry fee you can enjoy the beautiful waterfall or take a dive in one of the many natural pools in the park. For those who want a feel of the local life, visit PG’s fresh produce market, the neighboring Boom Creek Village, or head to the Reef Bar for some lively local music.
- Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is a nature reserve in the Cayo district to protect the native pine forests of Belize. This picturesque reserve is a must visit attraction for any nature lover. It spans 430 sq km and encompasses spectacular hills and gorges formed by some of the oldest rocks in Central America. The reserve is home to some exotic wildlife like the ocelot, king-vulture, and tapir. However, it is safe enough for hiking and horse-riding in the designated areas. Some of the popular spots in the reserve include Rio on Pools and Rio Frio Cave. While the former is a series of small pools on a granite bed, the latter is a giant river cave system where the Mayans used to bury the dead. The reserve is home to 2 major waterfalls of Central America — the Hidden Valley Falls and the Big Rock Falls.
Placencia is a small fishing village and beach resort on the Caribbean peninsula of Belize. It is extremely popular with tourists for its stunning white sand beaches and some of the most amazing offshore coral caves. The Silk Cayes Marine Reserve is an excellent place to try kayaking, snorkeling, or diving. The neighboring Laughing Bird Caye National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site offering plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, snorkeling, sea kayaking, diving, and swimming. You can also take a cruise along the Monkey River to explore the mangrove forest and exotic fauna of the region.
- Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains in Stann Creek District. It was founded in 1990 and is one of the first sanctuaries in the world for the protection of jaguars. Other animals in this reserve include pumas, tapirs, monkeys, ocelots, and snakes. It is also a bird lovers’ paradise, with recorded sightings of over 290 different species. You can best explore this sanctuary by hiking the several well marked trails. The Waterfall Trail is the most popular because of a swimming hole with a cascading falls. If you are fit and have the experience, then try the Ben’s Bluff Hiking Trail, which has a challenging route that is compensated with stunning panoramic views of the basin.
- Altun Ha Mayan Ruins – Belize District
The Belize District covers the north central part of Belize and is home to the famous Altun Ha Maya Ruins. The ruins are easily accessible from Belize City making them a very popular tourist attraction. Altun Ha is located near Rockstone Pond Village, about 30 miles north of Belize City. The most popular site in these ruins is the Tomb of the Sun God which dates around 600AD. The Tomb is featured on the bottle of the popular Belizean Beliken beer. It is believed that Altun Ha was a popular trade center. Many jade items were excavated from the site, including some from inside the Tomb.
- Belize City
Belize City is the former capital and the largest city of the country. It was founded in 1638 and served as a capital and administrative center until 1970. The city was prone to many natural disasters. After a devastating hurricane and flooding in 1961, the government decided to shift the capital to Belmopan. Even after the shift, Belize City remains a major point of interest to travelers for its colonial buildings, busy nightlife, and many attractions near and off its coast. For lovers of colonial architecture, the best place in the city is near the Fort George area with the Memorial Park, Barron Bliss Lighthouse, Barron Bliss Grave, and the Belize Museum. Built in 1812, the St John’s Cathedral is the oldest church built by the British in the British Honduras colony. The Swing Bridge near the Market Square is the only functioning manually operated bridge in the world.
- Mayan Ruins – Cayo District
Cayo District covers the central western part of Belize. It has a number of major Mayan archaeological sites, namely Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and El Pilar. Caracol is the largest and most important of the Mayan sites and is made up of temples and palaces. The Caana or sky palace is the main pyramid at Caracol. This pyramid, at a height of 141 ft is the tallest building even in modern day Belize! Xunantunich and Cahal Pech are located just outside the city of San Ignacio. The 130 ft tall pyramid at Xunantunich, El Castillo, is the 2nd tallest building in Belize. Cahal Pech site has ruins of an elite Mayan family estate. El Pilar is the largest ruin site in the Belize River Valley and is a national cultural monument in both Guatemala and Belize. It is believed that the area was home to more than 20,000 Mayans in the Classic Period.
- Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is the most popular tourist attraction of the country, attracting nearly half a million visitors every year. It is second only to the Australian Great Barrier Reef in length. The reef starts from Cancun in Mexico and runs nearly 900 km up to Honduras. The Belize Barrier Reef accounts for nearly a third of this total length. The reef offers many recreational opportunities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and diving. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a picturesque slideshow for its waters and colorful marine life. The highlight of the reef is the Great Blue Hole, a giant submarine sinkhole. It is listed by Discovery Channel as one of the 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth. This beautiful natural wonder is home to colorful tropical marine life in crystal blue waters. The Hole, popular with recreational divers, can be visited through tours from Belize City
Originally posted 2017-03-28 07:17:33.