Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a mostly English speaking country protected from the Caribbean Sea by the world’s second longest barrier reef. Situated along the eastern border the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize is easy to get to from the US, Canada and Europe. For a small country, Belize is a popular family vacation destination and offers a big list of things to see and do. The people of Belize are gracious, welcoming hosts who enjoy sharing the natural beauty of their country with visitors. I lived in Belize from 1995-1997 and try to return as often as possible. It’s been several years, but some things never change or change slowly.
The country is about 200 miles long by 75 miles at its widest, with a population of around 295,000 people in five ethnic groups. Thousands of Belizeans divide their time between there the US, Canada and England, so that figure doesn’t accurately show how many of them live there at any given time. During the classic period of Mayan civilization the area now known as Belize was home to over 2 million people, according to some estimates.
The remnants of these high population areas are fascinating and I have visited many of the sites large and small. In the Cayo District, Xunantunich offers spectacular views of the surrounding area from the country’s tallest building, and you get to experience a hand cranked car ferry across the Mopan River to get there. A jostled ride up the Mountain Pine Ridge road through jungle terrain and trees, across the river and up into the pine forests you’ll find Caracol. Today this site is highly debated as a significant rival to Tikal in Guatemala.
In the south are Luubantun and Nim Li Punit, which you access by passing through Mayan villages, where farmers still tend chocolate plantations as they have done for as long as maybe 2,600 years. There are over 15 sites to visit across the country and I have never been disappointed in visiting any of them. Belizeans are proud of their heritage and dedicated to preserving the archeology of their ancient past. Most sites are well maintained as parks which charge variable entrance fees. Whether included in the entrance, or as an extra cost, it’s usually worth it to have a local guide along to share stories of the history of the place and the people who once lived there. Many sites are actively under excavation and discovery by local and international archeologists.