Belize warmly welcomes its visitors and outdoor adventurers to this small country in Central America. With wildlife reserves, ancient Maya ruins, coral reefs, and pure natural beauty, Belize has been listed as one of the Top tourist destinations to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet
Belize offers magnificent settings and memorable experiences to enjoy a holiday there. One can explore pristine coral reefs or swim with colourful marine life. See Belizean wildlife in the national parks and protected jungles or explore archaeological ruins that showcase the country’s Mayan culture. Or just relax at the beaches or foothills and take in the breath-taking natural scenery.
Here’s our list of amazing places to visit while on a vacation in Belize.
Down in the Deep Blue
(Pic Credits: flickr)
Caye Caulker is a small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize with an underwater cave named Giant Cave found below it. Caye Caulker, Belize is accessible by high-speed water taxi or small plane. But once you are on the island, the main mode of transport is simply walking. However, renting bicycles and golf carts is also common. Crossing the island takes only 20 minutes at most and paths are well defined.
Several expeditions are launched off the island per week for scuba diving the Great Blue Hole. With over 50 hotels and a number of restaurants and shops, the island has recently become a popular destination for backpackers and other tourists. The Caye Caulker area is also quite popular with windsurfers. And its breath-taking landscapes and distinct cultural flavour provide inspiration to many a painters and musicians. The island is entirely white coral sand so visitors prone to sunburn should take precautions.
Ambergris Caye is the largest island of Belize and located northeast of the country. The caye has a small airstrip and can be reached by plane from Belize City, as well as by numerous fast sea ferries. Ambergris Caye is famous for the turquoise seascapes surrounding the island. Due to the island’s small size, using a golf cart is the best form of powered transportation. The majority of Ambergris Caye is reserved for national park/wildlife preserve. San Pedro Town is the largest settlement and only town on Ambergris. To the north of the town is the Belize Secret Beach, which contrary to its name is actually no secret at all. It is often also called ‘San Pedro’s worst kept secret’ as it has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists and locals with its many sinkholes and caves.
Glover’s Reef forms part of the outermost boundary of the Belize Barrier Reef. Glover’s Reef is a partially submerged oval-shaped atoll located off the southern coast. This chain of islands formed of coral harbours one of the greatest diversity of reef types in the western Caribbean. The atoll is 32 km long and 12 km wide. The interior lagoon is dotted with around 850 reef patches and pinnacles rising to the surface.
Although the Glover Reef was declared a special marine reserve in 2002 and is permanently closed to fishing, it is still a spectacular sight for tourists and marine conservationists. The Belize Barrier Reef with all its splendour is one reason why Belize is one of the top tourist destinations of 2019.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
(Pic Credits: flickr)
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a marine reserve close to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize. It covers approximately 18 sq. km of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan in Mayan means “little channel”.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize is divided into four zones – covering the Reef, the seagrass beds, the mangroves and Shark Ray Alley. Hol Chan Cut is a natural break in the reef, which is a productive fishing area but also popular with snorkelers and divers. Hol Chan Cut is open to the sea beyond the reef, so it allows marine creatures to travel in and out of the reef.
Amidst the Ancient Ruins
Lamanai is a Mesoamerican archaeological site located in the north of Belize. It was once a major city of the Maya civilization. Some of the larger important archaeological sites dating back from AD 625 are the Mask Temple, Jaguar Temple, and High Temple. The name “Lamanai” comes from the Maya term for “submerged crocodile” and refers to the reptiles who live along the banks of the New River. The Lamanai Belize jungle brims with exotic birds and iguanas.
Day boat trips are organised from Orange Walk Town along the New River. Lamanai is also accessible to tourists by dirt and gravel roads through other areas. Besides tourist facilities and small shops, there is a small museum which exhibits local artefacts and provides a historical overview of Lamanai, Belize.
Xunantunich lies directly on the tourist route from Belize to Tikal in Guatemala. It is also easily accessible from the Western Highway. Xunantunich is an Ancient Maya archaeological site which was first explored in the 1800s and there have been continuous excavations and restorations since 1990.
The name Xunantunich means “Sculpture of Lady” in the Maya language, while it’s other name the “Stone Woman” refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site.
The core of the Xunantunich city occupies about one square mile and consists of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. One of Xunantunich’s better-known structures is the pyramid known as “El Castillo”.
The surging rapids of the Mopan River are less than one mile below the site. They are popular for canoeing, kayaking, inner tubing and swimming.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
(Pic Credits: flickr)
Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre) is a cave in Belize, near San Ignacio, Cayo District. This Maya archaeological site also known locally as ATM, includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. Of the several areas with skeletal remains are found in the main chamber, the best known of which is “The Crystal Maiden”. Resting there are the skeletal remains of an adolescent girl, possibly a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized appearance. Many of the Maya artefacts and remains there are completely calcified to the cave floor.
The cave is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, Belize. The main cave system is about 5 km long with a long river passage for 3.2 km, ending in an upstream sump. The cave periodically closes when rainfall causes the river’s water level to rise and potentially flood parts of the cave. Hence it is best to double-check the weather forecast, tide timings and water levels before venturing out there.
(Pic Credits: Flickr)
Caracol is the largest Maya city ever excavated in Belize and located in what is now the Cayo District of Belize. Resting on the Vaca Plateau in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, and at an elevation of 500 meters above sea-level, it is situated approximately 40 kilometres south of Xunantunich. The only road Caracol may be accessed by is paved for the last 16km and leads to the Western Highway.
The Caracol Mayan Ruins is a popular stop on the tourist itinerary. It features majestic temples and visitors can climb high to enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding Chiquibul forest reserve. Caana is the largest building at Caracol and one of the largest man-made structures in the whole of Belize.
For many tourists with archaeological interests, the ancient Mayan ruins definitely make Belize of the top tourist destinations of 2019.
Nestled in Nature
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is home to more than 175 animals of about 48 species, and all native to Belize. The uniqueness of the place is that the natural environment of Belize is left entirely intact within the zoo. Only gravel trails through the forest separate the dense, natural vegetation. The Belize Zoo is also the first nature destination in Belize that is fully accessible to visitors with physical disabilities.
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center receives over 15,000 students, teachers, and parents and an overall of 68,000 visitors annually. The aim of the Zoo is mainly to instill appreciation and pride, and a desire to protect and conserve Belize’s natural resources. By allowing visitors to encounter the animals in their natural habitat, it focuses on educating them about the wildlife of Belize. What makes the Belize Zoo all the more special, is that it no zoo animal has ever been taken from the wild. The Belize Zoo residents were either born at the zoo, donated to the zoo, people’s pets, injured and brought in for healing and rehabilitation, or sent to the zoo from another zoological facility. To nature and wildlife adventurers, this experience makes Belize one of the top tourist destinations of 2019.
Bird Island is small island in Belize, located near Tobacco Caye. Just a 20 minutes boat ride away from the village of Placencia, Belize this is a protected island that is home to frigatebirds and brown-footed boobies. Its total privacy ensures that random tourists are not allowed to dock or set foot on the island. However, this tiny piece of land situated in the middle of the beautiful coral reef, surrounded by a giant expanse of the ocean can be rented on Airbnb.
Though a hurricane destroyed the mangrove forest situated on the island in 2001, it has regrown, the ecosystem has been restored and birds continue to roost there.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
(Pic Credits: flickr)
The Crooked Tree Wild Life Sanctuary got its name “Crooked Tree” more than 200 years ago, when English loggers in search of valuable stands of logwood, saw the trees there growing in strange and twisted shapes. The Sanctuary is around 16,400 acres of protected area in Belize consisting of lagoons, creeks and logwood swamps. During Belize’s dry season many resident and migratory birds find refuge here. The sanctuary is home to hundreds of species of wildlife and protects globally endangered species. The main goal of the Crooked Tree Wild Life sanctuary is to protect the area for the thousands of waterbirds that migrate there every year. Crooked Tree’s most famous resident is the Jabiru stork. The largest nesting population of these great birds in all of Central America is found here in Belize.
The Belize Audubon Society oversees the park and you can enquire at the Visitor’s centre for the best options. The best way to experience the Sanctuary is to rent a canoe, take a horse ride or trek into the preserve on your own or by hiring a guide.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1986, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Stann Creek District nature reserve of south-central Belize. It gets its name ‘Cockscomb’ from the appearance of the Cockscomb Mountain ridge that resembles a rooster’s comb and is situated at the northern fringe of the reserve.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize was established to protect the forests, fauna and watersheds of over 400 sq. kms area of the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains. These mountains are among the oldest surface rock formations of Central America.
The reserve is regarded as the world’s premier site for jaguar preservation. It is also known for its mountain views, nature trails and spectacular waterfalls. It has a rich diversity of neotropical birds and tracks of wildcats, tapir, deer, and other wildlife are often seen on the hiking trails.
With its exotic wildlife, historical sites and stunning views, surely Belize has captured your imagination! Go ahead, let your family be surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Or plan a holiday to Beautiful Belarus, another one of the top tourist destinations of 2019
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