Despite its small size, Belize is one of the most beautiful countries in Central America. The diversity of the attractions of this country is amazing – dense selva and fertile valleys, colorful cities and original culture, green Caribbean islands and long coral reefs, countless sandy beaches along the coast and mountain ranges – all somehow fit in such a small area. And the abundance of karst areas brought the country the glory of one of the best places for speleology, including underwater.
The capital of Belize
The capital of Belize is Belmopan, one of the youngest cities on the planet. 3.5 km from the capital lies Guanacaste National Park, famous for its wildlife diversity and lush vegetation, and 14 km to the south it is the Saint-Ehrmann-Blue-Hole National Park, guarding the famous karst well in the center of Lighthouse Reef (diameter about 300 m at a depth of 120) and associated caves (including underwater ones). Nearby, also within Lighthouse Reef, lies the territory of another protected natural monument – Half Moon-Kay, one of two places on the planet where a large colony of red-footed gannets is found, as well as 96 species of other birds.
The colorful old capital of the country, Belize City was founded by English settlers in the late 18th century in the place where the Belize River flows into the Caribbean Sea. At 32 km south of the city lies the Belize Zoo, which is 29 acres of tropical savannah, inhabited by more than 125 species of local animals, including monkeys, jaguars and tapirs. And most of the local inhabitants were picked up by people and saved from imminent death, or they got to the zoo as “gifts” from other zoological institutions.
50 km west of Belize City is the Gerald Derrell Center, famous for its beautiful ecological exposition and exhibition of drawings of 10,000 local schoolchildren who like to spend time here.
North of the city lies the fantastic reefs of Kolker-Kay (33 km from Belize City) and Ambergris-Kay (1 km east of San Pedro). The waters around the reefs are considered to be one of the most spectacular places in the world for swimming, snorkeling and sea fishing, and the transparency of the water is so excellent (up to 60 m) that even without immersing you can see the diversity of the local underwater life.
The western regions of the country, lying between Belize City and the Guatemalan border, are vast expanses of hilly terrain covered with a dense canopy of the rainforest. Gently rising to the spurs of the Maya Mountains and Mountain Pine Ridge, these regions are considered the most beautiful place in the country. And the ruins of the Mayan civilizations scattered here and there give them even more attraction.
The ruins of the ancient city of Karakol on the Waka Plateau are one of the leading attractions of this area and the largest Mayan city in the country.
Over 800 sq. Km in a beautiful, unspoiled mountainous country, in the western part of Belize south of San Ignacio, is given under the forest reserve of Mountain Pine Ridge.
Shunantunich (“Stone Maiden”) – the archeological pride of Belize. Located on a sloping hilltop of the hill of the same name near the village of San Jose Sukkot (35 km from Belmopan), the fortress city of Shunantunich dominated the shopping trails that run from the interior to the Caribbean coast. Shunantunich flourished in the 6th-8th centuries AD and was a major ceremonial center of the Mayan empire. Until now, only half-covered ruins around the “area A-1”, above which the pyramid El Castillo (total height of about 40 m, V c), has reached.
Also in the western regions, the “last Maya” populated town of San Antonio with its Tana museum, the archaeological site of El Pilar near San Ignacio, the ruins of one of the last strongholds of the Mayan resistance to the Spanish conquerors – Tipu, as well as the popular areas of rafting – the Makal River and Mopan.
The northern areas of Belize, the area of Corozal and Orange Walk are considered to be real treasures of natural and historical monuments of the country. Exciting ancient cities, dense tropical forests, lagoons and fast rivers, a huge variety of natural complexes and ecosystems – this is the primary wealth of the region.
One of the largest archaeological centers of the country, Altun-Ha (“stone pond”) lies 55 km north of Belize City and 9 km from the sea. According to scientists, already in 250 BC. e. on these lands began the construction of a large settlement, to the “classical period” of Maya, which grew into one of the centers of this amazing civilization. Nowadays, among the ruins of Altun-Ha, there are two areas of the “classical period” with four temples on their sides, among which such famous buildings as the “Temple of the Green Tomb” with its unique graves, the Temple of the Stone Altar (the largest structure of the ancient city), “Eastern Temple” (there were found items from Teotihuacan), as well as a large pool and many smaller structures, most of which are still waiting for description and classification.
30 km to the west of Belize City lies the small village of Bermudian Landing, near which lies the reserve of the Community-Baboon-Sanctuary reserve, which protects the population of the black howler, one of the most famous monkeys of the continent. The most exciting thing is that local farmers created the reserve itself and the Visitor Center. In addition to howler, here you can find iguanas, jaguars, ocelots, pumas and the dying Central American river tortoise, as well as over 200 species of birds.
Founded in 1849 by refugees from Mexico, Corozal is a thriving center of the Belize sugar industry. Before the arrival of the Spaniards in this place was the capital of the Mayan province, dominating the trade routes that passed along the New River and the coast.
The Shipstern Nature Reserve covers 80 square kilometers. Wet rainforest and savannas around the lagoon of the same name. Someone believes that here the most diverse plant world, than in any other reserve of the country.
Around another major sugar center – Orange Walk stretched a whole network of ancient irrigation facilities. The most interesting antique objects include Cuello (about 1000 BC) 5 kilometers west of Orange Walk, as well as Lamanal (“sinking insect” in the Maya language) in whose territory the Archaeological Reserve was created. Northwest of Orange Walk lies the Rio Bravo del Norte Nature Reserve – 1000 sq km of tropical forest used to study the productivity of ecocenoses in conditions of intense anthropogenic impact. In 38 km south of Orange Walk is the Kruk-Tri-Wildlife-Sanctuary Reserve, which protects vast areas of wetlands around four lagoons.
South of Belmopan stretches the most undeveloped part of Belize. The spurs of the Mayan Mountains gradually descend to the coast by a series of large mountain ranges and valleys. The climate here is more humid, and the tropical forests are denser than in the north. The density of the population in this part of Belize is low, most of the towns and villages are located on the coast.
The capital of the region, formerly known as Stann Creek, and the largest city in southern Belize, is the Garifuna cultural center (an ethnic group that represents a mixture of Caribbean and African ethnic groups).
At 25 km from the shore of Dangriga lies Columbus Reef with a resort reef Tobacco-Kay on the southern tip.
In 8 km to the south is stretched one of the most beautiful reefs of the region – South Water Kay (marine reserve). Crystal clear reef waters are excellent for snorkeling, and on the outside are fish-rich shoals, which makes it possible to rank this area among the best places for sea fishing in the country.
The village of Gayles Point lies 14 km to the north of Dangriga, on a small peninsula in the South Lagoon, which together with the North Lagoon forms an extensive network of reservoirs, canals and marshes that are the natural habitat of thousands of living things.
The western limestone hills of Pekkari are permeated with dozens of caves, through mangrove thickets one can go to the River Manhattan, to the deserted beaches where sea turtles lay eggs, or to the huge bird nests in the northern part of the lagoon. You can visit the quiet village of Garifuna Hopkins or the excellent Glover reefs near the coast (now here is the most significant marine reserve in the country).
In the far south of the region, the Red Bank Reserve deserves attention, which houses one of the largest populations of parrots, the red ara in Central America, the ruins of the city of the “late classical period” of Maya, Noum-Li-Punit, and the little-studied ruins of Mayan cities in the southern spurs of the Maya- Mountains, the Kokskom-Basin-Wildlife Sanctuary Reserve (400 sq km) Is the only preserve in the world that protects the jaguar population, the ruins of the ceremonial center of the “classical period” Kuchil-Balam, the relaxed seaside resort of Plasencia (75 km from Dan Riga) with its famous lagoon, which can still be found the rare manatee (dugong), as well as National Park Louhing-Bird Cay Atoll Pharaoh and good hiking trails on the slopes of Victoria Pike (1120 m).
From Plasencia, you can make a trip to the famous Belize Barrier Reef of 290 km long (the longest coral reef in the western hemisphere). The Sapodilla-Kays marine reserve (125 sq.km), which occupies the southernmost part of the Barrier Reef (Silk Reef), is considered one of the best-protected areas in the country. Here is the reservation of Gladden-Spit, which protects the paths of seasonal migrations of huge, but absolutely harmless, whale sharks.
The southern highway ends at Punta Gorda, the southernmost city of Belize and the capital of the isolated district of Toledo.
Excursions from Punta Gorda to the Port-Honduras Marine Reserve-Reserve (400 sq. Km), guarding shallow bays to the north of the city, serve as habitats for manatees and thousands of other marine animals.
Numerous coral reefs mark here the southern end of the Barrier Reef, which forms several groups of islands, each of which is surrounded by small reefs, and the depth reaches 64 m. Nearest to Punta Gord is the Snake Cayce reef, which is a group of tiny islands in the throat of a large The bay, the coastline of which is occupied by a real maze of mangrove forests and marshes.
Nearby you can find the river Temash River, along which stretches the most elevated mangrove forest in the country, the border river Sarstun River and the picturesque village of Garruna Barranco.
Near the village of Kecchi, near the road from Punta Gorda to San Antonio, lie the ruins of Lubaantun, which from 700 to 890 years. BC was the central city of this region.
7 km west of San Antonio, near the village of Santa Cruz, lie the ruins of the small town of Maya Usbenka, located on top of a mountain with a beautiful view of the coast.
Not far from Blue Creek there is a private reserve Blue-Creek-Rainforest-Reserve and the source of Hawke-Sa flowing from the cave with Mayan altars.
In the town of Kahal Pec, you can see many famous “false arches”, which were one of the mysteries and characteristics of the Mayan architecture. And the Chukil-Baalum ruins, a ceremonial site of the “classical period”, covered by thickets, can be visited near the Kokskombe Nature Reserve.
Unique places of Belize
Hidden Valley Falls
In Belize is the legendary waterfall Hidden Valley, it’s located on the territory of the natural reserve Mountain Pine Ridge. The height of the waterfall is 457 meters, it is incredibly beautiful and in combination with the surrounding landscapes makes a fantastic spectacle. The area in which the waterfall is located is unique from a biological point of view. Surrounding the waterfall the slopes of the mountains are covered with pine trees, nowhere else on the planet of pine do they grow so close to the equator.
In total there are more than ten waterfalls in the nature reserve, each of which has its unique features. Next, to some waterfalls, elite villas were built, wealthy travelers like to rest here. Other waterfalls form wonderful swimming pools, which are allowed to swim.
Located in the Caribbean Sea, the island of Ambergris is also distinguished by its impressive scale and variety of white sandy beaches. Among more than 200 islands of Belize, it is the largest and most in demand from the tourist point of view. The length of the island is about 40 km, and the maximum width is 1.6 km. Despite the developed infrastructure, its territory still preserves untouched corners of nature; everyone can stroll through the picturesque mangrove forests and admire the slender palms, and also relax in their shade on one of the “wild” beaches.
One of the main reasons that the island of Ambergris enjoys great popularity among tourists is the proximity to the barrier reef of Belize; it’s the second largest barrier reef on the planet.
The Great Blue Hole
Unique geological formations should be sought not only on the surface of the earth but also under water. One of the central mysteries of the planet – the Great Blue Hole – is in the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of the Belize Barrier Reef. To fully appreciate the beauty of a huge underwater cave is possible only from a bird’s eye view. Because of the sharp difference in depth, the water dramatically changes its hue from sky-blue to dark blue, it looks very natural.
The cave is close to an ideal round shape, which only enhances its spectacular appearance. At first glance it may seem that the depth of the cave is incredibly great, in fact, it hardly exceeds 100 meters, while the diameter of the cave is about 300 meters.