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Belize Travel Guide

flights to Belize

Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean coast, Belize is the smiling face of Central America. As laid back as it is spectacular, as openly friendly as it is fascinating it beats it's Caribbean Island cousins hands down at just about every level. Belize really does have everything you would want from a tropical paradise holiday - sunshine and sand, incredible scuba diving and jungle adventures, exotic wildlife and wonderful mountain vistas, there are picturesque villages and spectacular ancient ruins, not to mention peace and quiet and fantastic hospitality to rival anywhere in the world.

Belize's most popular attraction is the 185 mile barrier reef, the longest reef in the western hemisphere and a magnet for keen scuba divers and snorkelers the world over. Along the reef are the famous cays that range from uninhabited mangrove atolls, rich in bird and marine life to the Island Cays, palm tree covered resorts for those seeking an active holiday in and around the warm, shallow turquoise waters. Cay Caulker just north of Belize City is only 4 miles long and 650yards across at its widest point. It is actually two islands having been split in two by a hurricane in 1961. What Caulker lacks in size is more than made up for by the scuba diving offshore where visibility can reach up to 197ft, caution is advised though as sailing and boating is even more popular in area. The largest cay is Ambergris , which is 52 miles long and is almost connected to Mexico at it's northern point. Caulker tourism is still developing and the atmosphere is so laid back the island is practically asleep.

The feather in Belize's cap is it's fascinating mainland from the old fashioned charm of Belize City to the Mayan ruins of the interior it is never anything less than fascinating. Belize City on the east coast makes an ideal place from which to explore the rest of the country but it is worth taking time out to explore the city itself first. The Belize River meanders through it's centre and twice a day the manual swing bridge (the only working example in the world) is closed to allow sail boats through. Buildings of interest are St.John's Cathedral - the oldest Anglican cathedral in Central America, which was built from bricks used as ballast on European sailing ships and the Lighthouse Monument at Fort George Point that towers over the harbour entrance and includes the tomb of its designer and builder Baron Bliss. Of course, none of the architecture in the City can compare to the wonderful Mayan ruins scattered throughout the countryside.

The most extensively excavated ruin is Altun Ha near Rockstore Village in the Belize District. This is the place where they found the famous Jade Head of the sun god Kinich Ahan, the largest carved jade object in the Mayan area. With it's two main plazas and 13 temples and residential structures Altun Ha has become the most photographed ruin in Belize. The largest known Mayan centre in the country is the somewhat inaccessible Caracol which covers 35sq miles and has over 35,000 identified buildings including the 140ft Sky Palace the tallest building in Belize. Other fascinating ruins to visit include the major ceremonial centre at Lamanai, literally translated as 'submerged crocodile', Lamanai offers stunning views from many of it's pyramids. Xunantunich is also not to be missed with it's spectacular temples and palaces.

Around 40% of the country is national parkland, constituted mostly by marine reserves and atolls where migrant birds nest and Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles lay their eggs. Natural phenomena include the Blue Hole at the centre of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. This collapsed cave, 1000ft across and 412ft deep is amongst Jacques Cousteau's most famous dives. Mountain Pine Ridge in the Cayo District covers 300sq miles of forest reserves and contains the 1000ft high Hidden Valley Falls whilst Five Blues Lake National Park at the foothills of the Maya Mountains offers mile after mile of unexplored caves. But if you simply want to get away from it all it is worth enduring the hot and bumpy journey to Planecia on the tip of Belize's southern peninsula. The main street may only be a 3ft wide concrete footpath and creature comforts may not be too high on the agenda but with it's truly amazing beaches, water sports, bird and manatee watching, jungle river excursions and magnificent wildlife including jaguars, pumas, ocelots and boa constrictors, it is amongst the most desirable resorts in the country. The lack of development and dedication to natural preservation in Belize has ensured that despite its growing popularity, the majority of visitors have an eco-friendly sensibility. The harmonious cultural melting pot of its population - Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Mennonite, Spanish, English, Lebanese, Eastern Indian and Chinese - and the innate love for both nature and fellow man assures that Belize will remain unspoilt way beyond the foreseeable future.

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Belize Travel Guide, Attractions and Highlights
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