Our top 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites
June 19, 2023
Belize is a tropical haven filled to bursting with wonderful holiday activities appealing to all. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a history nut, a beach lounger, an adrenaline junkie or a wildlife fanatic, this tiny Central American country has something to offer everyone. Here are some of our top things to do in Belize.
Belize’s coastline is one of the main draws to the country. White beaches are lapped by sapphire seas, hammocks are slung between swaying palm trees, and thatch-roofed beach bars provide perfect sundowner spots. In short, this particular stretch of Caribbean coast is just how you imagine every blissful tropical hideaway to be – there are few better places in which to unwind and relax.
If you’ve had your fill of relaxation, or fancy breaking up your beach holiday a bit, then you should consider exploreing the Belize Barrier Reef – a beautiful sprawl of corals that are home to hundreds of species of marine life. Back in 1842, Charles Darwin even dubbed it “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” and you will see why as you glide alongside sea turtles and past shoals of colourful fish and corals.
The reef is actually a 300 kilometer section of the larger 900 kilometer Mesoamerican Barrier, which is only second in length to the Australian Great Barrier Reef. Much of it is a protected reserve, and this recieved UNESCO recognition in 1996 due to the important natural habitats it contains.
Whether you are an experienced diver or not, you must pay a visit to this wonderful reef while in Belize. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is particularly great for snorkelling and diving.
Belize is scattered with fascinating ruins of Maya cities, tombs and temples, and you simply cannot pay a visit to the country without exploring at least one of these incredible archaeological sites!
Fully worthy of any Indiana Jones movie, great stepped pyramids emerge from the jungle in Caracol which was rediscovered in 1938 by Rosa Mai, a logger on the hunt for mahogany. It is one of the most challenging sites to get to, but well worth the effort as it is also one of the most expansive.
The ruins at Xunantunich have some of the most spectacular frescoes and masks of the Sun God adorn one side of the temple. As recently as 2016, archaeologists discovered an untouched burial chamber filled with obsidian knives, jade beads and ceramic vessels as well as the remains of a man. Money is still being invested to further excavate the site – who knows what treasures are still waiting to be found…
Part of the Lighthouse Reef, the Great Blue Hole is an enormous marine sinkhole created when an ancient cave collapsed in on itself. You can still see the remains of giant stalactites and fascinating rock formations as you sink slowly into the 400 feet deep pit… While there’s not an abundance of wildlife within the pit itself, the surrounding coral reef is home to several species of shark as well as colourful fish and the occasional sea turtle. A great day trip and a must-do for any keen diver.
Unlike many zoos, this isn’t a place where animals are imprisoned and kept away from the outside world, but more of a home for animals that wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. Many of the animals in the zoo have been rescued, either from situations where they have been injured, orphaned or kept illegally as pets. Some have also been bred in captivity and donated from other zoos. Where possible the zoo reconditions the animals so that they can be set free back in their natural habitat but sometimes they simply haven’t the knowledge or the hunting skills to be able to survive outside the zoo’s walls.
As you wander around, keep your eyes peeled for the wild “free runners”; creatures from the outside world that venture in to socialise with the inhabitants and make the most of the lovely surroundings. Bush rabbits, iguanas, racoons, squirrels and all kinds of exotic birds love to explore the zoo, both within and outside of the enclosures.
Foodies will love Belize. The cuisine is fresh and filled with exciting flavours, influenced by many centuries of invasion and settlement. Dishes still contain hints of the food eaten by the native Maya civilisation as well as that of the British settlers, the attempted Spanish conquest and the many other cultures that have since made their mark on Belizean life. Southeast Asian dishes can be found in restaurants scattered across Belize, as well as plentiful seafood (the ceviche and fish tacos are often particularly delicious), jerk spiced meats, sweet sticky stews, slow-cooked meat and plenty of dishes made with rice and beans.
If you want to try some traditional Maya cuisine, then seek out Belizean Tamale (different from their Mexican counterparts) the recipe of which has barely changed over thousands of years – cornmeal rolls stuffed with chicken or pork and wrapped in a corn husk before being steamed or boiled. Chocolate was also a Maya luxury, and you can visit local villages to see how this “food of the gods” was made.
Not only are the seas surrounding Belize filled with incredible marine life, the forests are also home to a wide array of fascinating mammals like howler and spider monkeys, tapirs and even the occasional jaguar. Take a guided tour with an expert who will be able to tell you all about this incredible ecosystem.
Birders will also adore Belize, as around 570 species flit through the forest canopy and along the coastline. Scarlet macaws – arguably the most spectacular of the parrot family – are bright flashes of red in the treetops, keel-billed toucans (Belize’s national bird) are always fun to spot and the enormous yet endangered harpy eagles are magnificent to behold if you’re lucky enough to spot one.
Make it happen
If you would like to travel to the Caribbean coast of Belize and explore the jungles and ruins or any other area of this magical country, then get in touch with our local experts. They are perfectly placed to plan your ideal tailor-made holiday. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.