Belize

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Belize, formerly British Honduras, is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean (only the Caribbean Sea to its east) and the only one in the region with English as its official language. Belize is located between Guatemala to the west and south and Mexico to the north.

Population: 334,297 people
Area: 22,966 km2
Highest point: 1,160 m
Coastline: 386 km
Life expectancy: 68.40 years
GDP per capita: $8,900
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  • Metropolis over 100 hotels
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  • Small city 5-20 hotels
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About Belize

History

Like the neighbouring parts of Guatemala and Mexico, this area was settled for thousands of years by the Maya people. They are still here, an important part of Belize's people and culture. While the Spanish Empire claimed the area in the 16th century, the Spanish made little progress in settling here. The British settled first on the coast and offshore islands for logging. In 1798 British Belizean forces defeated a Spanish attempt to drive them out in "the Battle of St. George's Caye", whose anniversary is still celebrated as a holiday each 10 September.

The colony of British Honduras grew in the 19th century. At first Africans were brought in as slaves, but slavery was abolished here in 1838. Many refugees from the 19th century Caste War of Yucatán escaped the conflict to settle in Belize, especially the northern section.

The government of Guatemala long claimed to have inherited the Spanish claim to Belize; the territorial dispute delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1991.

Belize escaped the bloody civil conflicts of the 1980s that engulfed much of Central America, and refugees from the conflict in Guatemala arrived, mostly settling in the west. While Belize has not been immune to the rampant drug crime and grinding poverty of its neighbours it is a comparatively safe destination in a conflict prone part of the world.

Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy as the old agricultural products—sugar, banana, and oranges—have lost ground. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime. In 2006 commercial quantities of oil were discovered in the Spanish Lookout area.

Climate

Tropical, very hot and humid. The dry season typically lasts from February to May and then the rainy season typically lasts through to November. Hurricanes that bring coastal flooding, especially in the south, are prevalent in June to November.

Activities

Zip-Lining

Soar over Belize's rain forest by taking a Zip-line tour. These tours usually begin with a short hike up to the first base where a tutorial is given on how to safely use your equipment.

  • Prices range USD65-100 and tours are run by two companies, Jaguar Paw, and Back-A-Bush tours.

Sport fishing

Sport fishing in Belize is second to none. The bonefish is the premier fly fishing game fish in the world and it can be found in the grass shallows through Belize. It's pound for pound perhaps the strongest animal in salt water.

Scuba Diving and snorkelling

The snorkelling and scuba diving is world-class and there are many exceptional dive sites to be found in Belize. One of the best ways to explore Belize waters is by chartering a yacht to make the most of your available dive time.

For those with a smaller budget, snorkelling and driving excursions can be found along the beaches of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The most common excursions will take you to both Hol Chan marine reserve and Shark Ray Alley. These trips usually cost about USD35 and include snorkel gear. Be mindful of an additional BZD10 charged to foreigners as a park tax. This money goes toward the upkeep, and protection of the reef. Diving excursions are also offered to the Blue Hole, but expect to pay a lot more for the privilege.

Cave Exploration

The Cayo district is characterised by limestone hills underlain by a network of underground rivers, caves and sink holes. The caves are magnificent, with huge caverns and tight passages, underground waterfalls and dazzling arrays of mineral-encrusted stalactites and stalagmites. This underground world was sacred to the ancient Maya and many artefacts from decorated pots to human remains are still intact in the caves. It is dangerous (and illegal) to enter the caves without a licensed guide. Most guides are trained in both the geology and mythology of the caves as well as in modern first aid and cave rescue techniques.

  • Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge, Caves Branch (Hummingbird Highway south from Belmopan). Anderson organized the initial guiding training programs in the country, out of which grew the Belize Disaster And Rescue Response Team locally called BDARRT (now an independent NGO).

The Sleeping Giant and Caves Branch are operated by the same owner. There are up to 16 different tours they operate everyday. The Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM caves have the highest number of tourists visiting a tourist destination in Central America. Also knows as the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre this river cave has pristine remnants of some Mayan human sacrifices. It is a surreal experience complete with beautiful cave formations an underground river and Mayan collectibles. No wonder the Mayans called it the Xibalba or the dark underworld.

Food

  • The primary meal found virtually everywhere is red beans, clean rice, and chicken.
  • Most chicken in the country is prepared and served on the bone.
  • Rice and Beans is a mixed dish with some spices and usually coconut milk added to make a sweet and hot staple of the Belizean diet. Beans and Rice is white cooked rice with a side of stewed pinto beans.
  • Citrus plantations are numerous, so fresh oranges and grapefruits are abundant. Pineapples, papayas, bananas and plantains are also grown and sold in roadside markets.
  • A famous hot sauce in Belize is Marie Sharp's made from the very potent local habanero pepper. It comes in a variety of flavours (mild, hot, extremely hot).
  • That odd looking salsa on your table is really ceviche. Ceviche -also spelled as cebiche or seviche- is a citrus-marinated seafood dish. The Belizians use fresh raw conch and vegetables.
  • Papusas are maize pancakes with different toppings sold in stalls on the streets in San Pedro town . It is the cheapest option if you want to eat on a budget.

Eating in San Pedro can be expensive if you eat at the tourist restaurants; however if you find the local places, meals can be very inexpensive and very tasty.

Drinks

Belikin is the national beer and comes in four varieties: Premium, Beer, Stout, and Lighthouse Lager. Guinness Stout is also available in Belize but it's also brewed by the Belikin Brewing Co. All are sold in returnable bottles, so make sure you are aware of the deposit if you are taking your beverages to go.

One Barrel Rum is the locally-distilled molasses-tasting rum and Traveller's Liquors' distillery is on the Northern Highway about 6 miles from Belize City with a gift shop and hospitality bar. You can purchase rum in a variety of colours and sizes, up to a 70 gallon cask.

Both are widely available around the country. But if you also like wine there is cashew wine (which is very popular in Belize), ginger wine, sorrel wine and blackberry wine.

Shopping

The Belize dollar (currency code of BZD), sometimes written with "B$" or just a dollar sign: "$", is officially worth exactly half of a US dollar. Because of this simple and consistent exchange rate, US dollars (USD) are widely accepted, but this means you should be careful to clarify which "dollars" you're talking about when negotiating prices. It's often better to assume Belize dollars because many merchants will jump on your uncertainty and attempt to double their price by saying "No, in US dollars". Belize dollars come in denominations of BZD2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. BZD1 and smaller amounts are coins. The 25-cent coin is often called a "shilling".

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Belize on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Belize

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Interesting places:

  • Reef Runner Glass Bottom Boat
  • GoFish Belize
  • Hol Chan Marine Reserve
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San Ignacio is a small town in the Cayo region of Belize. San Ignacio, or Cayo as it is called, is located on the Macal river, and makes a good and affordable base for exploration of the stunning regions around it, with plenty of day trips to be taken and several decent tour guides willing to take you. It's ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins
  • Caracol
  • Xunantunich
  • El Pilar
  • Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
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Belize City is the largest city in Belize. It is on a small peninsula protruding into the Caribbean Sea. It was the capital city until flooding and other damage from a hurricane prompted the government to relocated to Belmopan, nearer the geographic center of the country.

Interesting places:

  • Baron Bliss Lighthouse
  • Altun Ha
  • Museum of Belize
  • Belize Zoo
  • Tourism Village
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There is more than one place called Hopkins:

Interesting places:

  • Hopkins Beach
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Placencia is at the southern tip of the resort Placencia peninsula in Belize.

Interesting places:

  • Placencia Beach
  • Maya Beach
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Caye Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize, 1.6 km (1 mi) west of the Barrier Reef. It's about 8.2 km (5 mi) in length with a population of 1,300 and counting.

Interesting places:

  • Frenchies Dive Shop
  • The Split
  • Caye Caulker Sand Volleyball Court
  • Barrier Reef
  • Raggamuffin Tours
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Belmopan is the capital of Belize, nearer the geographic center of the country than (former capital) Belize City. It was established following the massive damage that occurred when Hurricane Hattie struck Belize City in 1961. An inland location was deemed a safer location for the national government than the ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • St. Herman\'s Blue Hole National Park
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Corozal Town in Northern Belize lies on the Caribbean Sea, 9 miles from the Mexican border. It has a population of approximately 8,100, and is the capital of the district of Corozal.

Interesting places:

  • Cerros
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Mountain Pine Ridge is a roughly 400km2 forest reserve in Cayo, Belize.

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San Ignacio is a small town in the Cayo region of Belize. San Ignacio, or Cayo as it is called, is located on the Macal river, and makes a good and affordable base for exploration of the stunning regions around it, with plenty of day trips to be taken and several decent tour guides willing to take you. ... (read more)

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Interesting places:

  • Yok Ha Pier
  • Yok Ha Beach
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St. George's Caye is in is a tiny island off the coast of Belize, less than 10 miles away from Belize City. The island is mostly known for the "Battle of St. George's Caye" between the Spanish fleet and British resident woodcutters called "Baymen" in 1798. Belize celebrates the "Battle of St. George's Cay ... (read more)

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Punta Gorda is the southermost town in Belize, and the capital of the Toledo District. Originally founded as Peini by the Garifuna it is today home to over 5,000 people from the many different ethnic groups found in Toledo. While it remains a fairly sleepy little town except for market days, it gives ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Lubaantun
  • Nim Li Punit
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Interesting places:

  • Maskall Forest Reserve
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Dangringa is a funky Garifuna town in Stann Creek, Belize. It looks a bit rough around the edges, but is home to some of the friendliest people you're likely to meet. If exploring Belize in any depth you're likely to come through here at least once en route to the south or to the southern cayes... spend a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Mayflower Bocawina National Park
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Belize

  • Old Belize, 5 miles Western Highway, Belize City, Belize,  +501 222 4129. Old Belize is a landmark attraction, offering a total Belize experience for locals and tourists. At its heart is the Old Belize Exhibit, a stirring, large as life, cultural and historical display taking visitors back in time to various defining segments of Belize’s past, with authentic relics from key periods, a haunting introductory teaser to the Mayan legacy in Belize, an eerie depiction of the Belize City of Colonial days, an intimate glimpse into 18th century logging camps, and more. Old Belize also features the only beach in Belize City, the Old Belize Marina, a full service restaurant, plus conference facilities and banquet hall. Old Belize is located at Mile 5 on the Western Highway, a BZD10 cab ride from the Tourist Village, Brown Sugar Terminal, downtown Belize City, and most central locations in Belize City.

Baron Bliss Lighthouse - Belize City

Frenchies Dive Shop - Caye Caulker

Reef Runner Glass Bottom Boat - San Pedro

Placencia Beach - Placencia

Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins - San Ignacio

Lamanai - Orange Walk

Half Moon Caye Natural Monument - Turneffe Islands

Hopkins Beach - Hopkins

South Water Caye Beach - South Water Caye

Cerros - Corozal

Yok Ha Pier - Waterfoot Caye

Lubaantun - Punta Gorda

Mayflower Bocawina National Park - Dangriga

Community Baboon Sanctuary - Bermudian Landing

The Split - Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker Sand Volleyball Court - Caye Caulker

Altun Ha - Belize City

Museum of Belize - Belize City

Caracol - San Ignacio

Xunantunich - San Ignacio

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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