While Belize is only a compact country on the east coast of Central America, don’t let its size fool you into thinking it’s not worth a visit. This nation is full to the brim with beautiful sites, and there is plenty to do for all ages and interests. And if you think it’s only a destination to explore in the warm months, think again – National Geographic recently included the nation on its list of Best Winter Trips 2018. If you’re keen to visit this fascinating country, read on for a list of activities to add to your itinerary.
No trip to Belize is complete without spending time checking out some of the nation’s many beautiful beaches and reefs. If you want a relaxing holiday that doesn’t involve too much travel, consider Belize all-inclusive packages, featuring hotel accommodation near the water and related activities, may be the perfect choice for you.
One of the most well-known spots to explore is Ambergris Caye, a 25-mile-long island off the coast of northern Belize. Originally inhabited by the Maya (it was a trade route), today it is an excellent place to go snorkeling, swimming, and diving, as it provides easy access to the barrier reef surrounding the island.
Make sure you head to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which faces the southern edge of Ambergris Caye. This reserve is the oldest in all of Belize, and its name means “Little Channel,” which references the coral-filled gap in the barrier reef, covering three square miles. The reserve is home to a huge population of sea life, including sharks, stingrays, eels, fish, and many other creatures, and contains four distinct areas: the reef, the mangroves, “Shark Ray Alley,” and the sea-grass beds. With so much diversity of life, combined with crystal-clear waters, you can easily spend days taking in the sights.
Another amazing watery destination to visit in Belize is the Great Blue Hole, one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. This deep blue hole, which was created around 10,000 years ago after a cave roof tumbled in, is situated a little over 40 miles off the coast of Belize, along the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. When you plunge into this channel, descend down around 410 feet below sea level and you’ll have the chance to feast your eyes on imposing ancient stalactites and coral fringe. You can also explore dozens of underwater caverns, tunnels, and rock formations as you go.
If you’re a history buff, you can’t leave Belize without discovering ancient Maya sites. While there are numerous places around the country where you’ll find them, one of the best spots to journey to is the Cayo District, west of Belize City. Base yourself in the small town of San Ignacio, then check out the cluster of nearby ruins, such as Xunantunich.
It is set along the Mopan River and has a temple that was once the civic ceremonial center for the Maya people. You will arrive at the site via a hand-cranked cable ferry that transports vehicles and passengers across the river. Once there, learn about the site’s El Castillo friezes, and study archaeological finds from the site such as a burial ground and ancient pottery and jewelry pieces.
To see another Maya site, head around 60 miles south of Xunantunich for a look at the large Caracol Archaeological Reserve. This is Belize’s largest ruin site and dates back to 1200 B.C. At its height, the grounds (which cover about 30 square miles), were home to an estimated 120,000 people. At the site there is an observatory, five separate plazas, and at least 35,000 identified buildings (some are only partially excavated though).
Another top outing for history (and art) lovers is the Museum of Belize. This National Institute of Culture and History is located in Belize City and will give you a good education on the story and background of the country. For starters, you’ll find the museum housed in what was once the nation’s main jail, a brick building built in 1857. One cell inside the museum has been preserved in its original state, including graffiti put there by inmates.
Elsewhere in the museum, browse the Maya Treasures section, which has some notable examples of Maya jade; then discover details about the country’s colonial and independence eras; the destruction wrought by hurricanes; explanations of major Maya sites around the country; and some of Belize’s earliest postage stamps. There’s also a gift shop to pick up a souvenir to take home with you.