With calm crystal waters, its jungles heavy with wildlife, and a laid-back atmosphere, the country of Belize, itself, appears to be on holiday. Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, this tiny country is bordered by Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west. English-speaking Belize makes for easy travel for many first-time visitor to Central America. But don't let its size fool you. Only 14, 270 square miles wide, Belize is home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere offering some of the best diving in the world. Belize's dense rainforests and aquatic beauty would be enough to satisfy any travel critic, but the country spoils visitors with its fascinating history and cultures. Active archeological digs are common sites to see throughout the region during your Belize travel, inviting a unique look into the lives of the ancient people who once called this region home. Common, traditional, conventional travel? Not in Belize.
Only 20-miles long and 2-miles wide, Ambergris Cayes has quickly become a favorite destination for the water savvy. The reef is located a half-mile from shore providing numerous snorkeling and diving sites. Eagle rays, green turtles, moray eels, dolphins and sharks fill the waters. A popular area is the Hol Chan Reserve. In just 5 square miles it compacts 3 different marine zones: reef, mangrove and sea grass beds.
This mile-long, coastal fishing village of Belize is a gateway to some of the most peaceful beaches in the country. Placencia is also within an ideal region for sea kayaking. Glide among the cayes and coral reef in Caribbean waters filled with exotic and colorful marine life. Over 200 sandy islands pepper the region. Kayakers have the opportunity to tent on these private and secluded islands, each unique in character and beauty.
Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glover's is one of only 4 atolls in the Caribbean Sea. Due to its isolation from the mainland its waters are very clear and have a rich reef system that offer great snorkeling and diving.
Deep in the Belizean jungle, the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave offers an unique journey into the Maya underworld. Enter Tunichil wading into the emerald waters flowing from the cave's gaping mouth. In the site's center is a primary chamger where ancient kings and priests made sacrifices to appease the gods. This is an active archeaological site, so it is important not to distrub the skeletons and ceramic pieces.
Another popular destination for Belize travel is Xunantunich. The ruins of Xunantunich were built during the Maya golden age, sometime between 150-900 A.D. Its grandest attraction is the pyramid, El Castillo, towering at 130 feet. Restoration of the famed frieze displays the mysterious images of the moon, sun and a headless man. Digging is ongoing, hoping to unveil the answers about the ancient Maya and the downfall of Xunantunich. Some believe its structual and spiritual demise resulted from a great earthquake.
These five sisters have been instrumental in reviving the art of Tucatec Maya slate carving and maintaining the language, culture and traditions of the Maya in Belize. The Garcia Sisters invite travelers to explore their botanical gardens and learn about herbal remedies, and a nearby Maya Art Museum. The Sisters live in the village of San Antonio, called Tanah in their native language.
Creole is traditionally recognized as the dominating culture in modern-day Belize. While English is the country's official language, nearly all Belizeans speak creole. Their ancestry consists of African slaves and Europeans. The creole language is a blend of ancestral dialect, and many of the creole customs also reflect their combined heritage, like traditional stories from Africa, and a love of European cricket.
A unique blend of escaped African slaves and Caribbean Islanders, the Garifuna have endured a rocky history including displacement, discrimination and death, before settling in the region of Dangriga. Primarily a farming and fishing community, the Garifuna people have also excelled in the education field. Today, traditions are kept alive with language, music, art and dance.