Belize is quickly getting a reputation for being one of the hottest spots in Central America. More than a million tourists visit annually for the beaches, Great Barrier Reef, countless islands and natural beauty. But not everyone wants to relax in a hammock and spend all their time in one of the luxurious overwater bungalows in Belize. With the variety of ancient ruins, natural wonders and national parks dotted around the island, it’s easy to indulge in a different type of tourism. Here are the top non-beach places to visit in Belize.
The Mayan Ruins
Modern-day Belize formed avitalcenter in the former Mayan civilizations who once thrived in Central America. Millions of Mayans lived inside today’s borders and a small percentage of the population identify as their descendants in modern Belize. Hundreds of ruins litter the landscape of which some are excavated and others not. The typical architecture includes pyramids, tombs and ancient cities.
Tourists tend to visit Caracol and Xunantunich. Caracol dates back almost 1500 years with its archaeological complex consisting of more than 40 monuments along with the iconic Canna Pyramid at 43 meters (143 feet). The pyramid still holds the title as the tallest building in Belize today. Admission is US$8. Xunantunich sits on a hill near the Mopan River and is the easiest reach. Other important and accessible ones include Lamanai and Altun Ha. The best way to visit the Mayan ruins is to join a tour.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef System is the second largest in the world after Australia’s and the largest in the western hemisphere. Inside, the shallow water is clear stretching along the Caribbean coastline. Snorkelers and divers from CayeAmerbris can visit the reef and witness the vast variety of corals with their endless shapes and colors in the depths below. Belize’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the highlights of visiting the country and a must for any tourist whether you have an interest in snorkeling and diving or not.
The Great Blue Hole
A giantsinkhole near Belize’s coast has been a diver’s paradise for years. The Great Blue Hole stretches more than 300 meters (984 feet) in diameter and reaches a depth of 124 meters (407 feet). Divers come in large numbers to experience this gigantic natural wonder, which belongs to the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. As you descend into the depths, a plethora of tropical fish from all colors of the spectrum will appear in front of you. There are a few sharks and other large marine life in the depths too. Diving into the Great Blue Hole makes a great experience in Belize but should only be attempted by those with experience.
Half Moon Caye National Monument
The biggest attraction on Half Moon Caye is found at Lighthouse Reef Atoll’s southern tip. The beaches form nesting grounds for exotic species of aquatic animals and birds. Loggerhead turtles scuttle across to bury their eggs. Hawksbills and the red-footed booby nest here too. If you want to experience nature up close and personalto witness one of the miracles in the animal kingdom, head to this caye. Before you see the nesting, check out the nearby visitor centerto learn more about the wildlife, ecology and their mating cycles.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Wildlife Sanctuary near Placencia is one of Belize’s largest protected areas. And it has a large population of jaguars earning the alternative name as the Jaguar Reserve. If you get the chance to visit, expect to see lots of birds as you hike along the trails. Don’t set your hopes on seeing the rare felines though. Sightings are extremely uncommon. For more active and adventurous travelers, it’s possible to climb Victoria Peak at 1120 meters (3670 feet). But the trip takes at least four days.
Glovers Reef Atoll Marine Reserve
The vast coral formation in the ocean combines steep reefs with some of the Caribbean’s best diving experiences. Glover’s Reef extends almost 35 kilometers (22 miles) in length making it a perfect spot to spend a few hours either snorkeling or diving. Endless fish of all shapes, sizes and colors swim through to give visitors a once in a lifetime experience.
Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve
The Bacalar Chico National Park is listed under UNESCO and houses hundreds of different species of animals, birds and plants. Located in the northeast of Ambergris Caye near the Mexican border, the reserve has started to attract more and more tourists. Apart from the birds, the national park may have several species of wildcats including jaguars. The only way to access the park is by boat and then hikealong the trails to reach the park.
Five Blues Lake National Park
The forested area approximately two hours southwest of Belize City has a beautiful lake in the center surrounded by several hills. The deep blue of the lakes makes perfect spots for photographs and to enjoy the vast array of wildlife and birds who call the park home. Few tourists visit and you may need to join a tour. But, the effort is worth it for the unexplored natural beauty.
Enjoying the Historical and Nature Wonders of Belize
Exploring Belize beyond the beach is a must. A short distance from your tropical paradise and white sandy beaches are national parks, protected areas in the sea and ancient Mayan ruins. Joining a tour and visiting some of the wonders in this article is a must on your trip to fully experience the very best of Belize.