Belize Travel and Tourism Information
Incredibly beautiful beaches, diverse vegetation, scenery that will take your breath away and fascinating expeditions to the Mayan ruins, all are part of the country of Belize, making it just the place for you to truly relax and have the vacation of a lifetime.
With a population of more than 200,000, Belize is a harmonious mixture of races and languages which include Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Mayan, English, Chinese and Indian. As a result, Belize is known internationally for its friendly and receptive people.
Belize, the smallest nation in Central America, is located on the Yucatan peninsula between Guatemala on the west, Mexico to the north, and the Caribbean Sea on the east. Its area covers only 22.960 km2. Belize City, Orange Walk, San Ignácio, Corozal, Dangraga, and the capital of the country, Belpoman, are the principal cities.
This amazing, little country has an excellent ecosystem composed of keys, atolls, and the world¹s second largest coral reef, 298 kilometers in length. These absolutely beautiful sites are its main attractions.
With forty percent of the country¹s area made up of parks and ecological reserves, Belize is home to a well-preserved wildlife and marvelous tropical forests. Mayan temples are evidence of the country¹s extraordinary history. We are sure you will love to get to know this land and take the time to learn about and assimilate its fascinating culture.
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Belize cuisine has a distinct flavor, influenced by the diverse cultures which bring out the magic of eating well. Belize food may be spicy or mild depending on your taste and mood. Local culinary is abundant; the national dish is a mixture of rice and black beans seasoned with coconut milk together with a spicy chicken stew. The direct influence of Mexican and Spanish food is seen in such dishes as: Chirmole, Escabeche, Panades, Salbutes, Garnaches, Tacos, Bollos, Tamalitos, Tamales, and Burritos.
Obviously, being close to the coast, sea food is very popular and tasty, with succulent lobster, stingrays, fish, roast oysters, and even shark. Adding to this menu, you can taste a variety of tropical fruits such as: pineapple, bananas, melons, oranges, tangerines, figs, mangoes, grapefruit, among others. Don¹t leave without trying the traditional and delicious coconut cake, and the decadent chocolate cake prepared by the Fort Street Guesthouse Inn. In case you would like to savor something different, there are various restaurants serving European, Chinese, Indian, Jamaican e Cajun cuisine for a variety of tastes and preferences.
If Peru is considered the heart of the Imperial Incan Empire, then Belize certainly would deserve the title ³Heart of the Mayan Empire². From 250 to 900 B.C., the Mayan civilization flourished. Over time, it began to decline, finally, leaving just a few isolated groups. In 1638, British log cutters first visited the region with settlers following. The area was then known as British Honduras.
Over the next hundred and fifty years, Belize was the object of various attacks and conflicts with the Spanish who were located in the surrounding areas. Following several treaties, conventions, and battles, including The Treaty of Versailles and the London Convention, in 1783, the British began to officially control the area which gradually became an English territory. In 1871, Belize was formally declared a British colony. The country achieved independence on September 21, 1981. A new constitution was introduced and Belize was admitted into the United Nations. The capital city is Belpoman.
Without a doubt, the great attraction of Belize is its coral reef, nevertheless, this does not mean that the country does not have a strong culture rooted in its people. The strongest cultural influence came from the great Mayan civilization which existed fro centuries in Central America., leaving its rich and fascinating monuments and pyramids, not only for its descendants to visit and explore, but also for tourists from around the world. During the classical period of the Mayan Empire, the primary ceremonial center was the Altun Ha. Between the years, 1000 B.C. and 1400 A.D., it was an important city and also the commercial hub connecting the other interior and coastal Mayan centers.
The temple to the sun god was also located there. The ruins of Altun Ha consisted of two principal courtyards with thirteen temples and some residential structures. Archeological evidence indicates that the Mayans established themselves in Altun Ha. from 200 B.C., with various stages of reoccupation until the fourteenth century. Another Mayan ceremonial center was located in the city of Orange Wak, o Lamanai, which means submerged crocodile. This temple has more than seven hundred structures covering an area of approximately 405 hectors. One of the largest Mayan archeological sites is the Noh Mul, a valuable Mayan ruin, which due to the lack of preservation and intense vegetation in the area, has lost part of its characteristic features.
In Corozal, the Santa Rita ruins also are not in good condition, having been plundered repeatedly through the years. Belize is also well known for its incredible, untouched flora and fauna. The country preserves its tropical jungles with reserves and parks which maintain its animal life and vegetation for nature lovers where you still can see animals in their natural habitat, such as the puma. “The World¹s Biggest, Smallest Zoo” is a sanctuary of wildlife of gnarled trees, botanical gardens, the Janus Medical Foundation, the Herbal Trail, The Godoy Garden of Orchids, and the House of Butterflies.
For bird watchers, it is an excellent location to appreciate the 540 different species which include the Jabiru, the largest bird in the southern hemisphere. The architecture found in Belize City also is very interesting with wooden houses, most constructed up high on wooden stilts, with aluminum roofs which serve to capture rainwater. The population is chiefly made up of Negroes; however, it is varied including descendants of the Mayans, some people groups from the Caribbean, Caucasians, Chinese, and Indian descendants.
The predominant climate of Costa Rica is that of the Tropics with high temperatures and much rain. Because of its position, bathed by both the Pacific and the Caribbean, there is not much climatic variation during the year. Generally, we can distinguish three different climate variations in the country: Humid Tropical, em Couto Bruse and Golfo Doce; Dry Tropical in Llanura de Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula and the Central Valley; and Temperate, above 1,500 meters or 5,000 feet, in the valleys and slopes of the mountains. In Sao Jose, the year round highs go from 24º to 27º Celsius (75º to 81º Fahrenheit) and the lows are 14º to 16º Celsius (57º to 61º Fahrenheit).
Rain is the country’s main weather with a dry season from December to April and a rainy season from May to November. Differences in rain pattern divide Costa Rica in five regions, North Pacific, Central Pacific, South Pacific, Central Valley, and Atlantic.
Belize is wedged into the northeast corner of the Central American, Caribbean coast, bordered by Mexico and Guatemala. The total area is 22,960 kilometers (including the mainland and the keys). Measuring from north to south, 280 kilometers and from east to west, 109, it is one of the smallest nations in Central America and the only one colonized by the English. Half of the territory is taken up by dense jungle, full of wildlife, and is, in many respects, much like the Amazon area. The country’s main attractions are the keys, the atolls, the famous “Blue Holes”, and the coral reef which offers divers an amazing scenario.
The keys are islands located between the mainland and the barrier reef. They are excellent places for diving, snorkeling, fishing, and trips by boat, kayak, or sailing vessels. The favorite spots are the Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, Glover Atoll, and Ambergris Key. The atolls and the keys are reproducing grounds for birds and sea turtles. The Coral Reef, 298 kilometers in length, is the second longest barrier reef in the world following only the Australian Barrier Reef. Belize possesses three of only four atolls in the Atlantic Ocean (the fourth, in Roca, Brazil) The Blue Hole is the most famous of the three, located twenty-three kilometers out from the coast in the center of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll.
The reef is a natural work of art with a diameter of 33 kilometers, and a depth of 135 meters. Sea turtles, sharks, crustaceans, and tropical fish make this region one of the largest natural sights. The trees in the keys offer a natural habitat for birds as well as for marine life. Many birds, fish, oysters, and marine organisms begin their lives in the shelter of these trees. Belize is an excellent destination for avid bird watchers. The northern area of the mainland consists primarily of the level coastal plains and swamp lands covered with a light, fine layer of soil which supports creeping vegetation and dense tropical jungle.
The coastal areas are characterized by grass and trees, encircled by cypress and sycamores where the water meets the land. The central region houses savannas which are between 45.72 and 112.17 centimeters above sea level. The south of Belize, from its river system in the extreme south to the Maya Mountains, consists of small rivulets that run down from the peaks. The district of Cayo, located in the western interior of the county, includes Pine Ridge Mountain, whose altitude fluctuates between 305 and 917 meters above sea level. The northern districts are characterized by a considerable area of plateau. Belize has various rivers which bubble the sounds of tranquility; some are navigable, for small distances, by boat.
Visa Most do not require a visa to enter the country. Visas are necessary for those from the following countries: China, Colombia, Cuba, India, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, e Formosa. The official currency is the Belize Dollar; the exchange is approximately BZ$ 2 = US$1. American dollars are accepted in the country.
Credit cards and travelers’ checks are accepted in almost all the main cities. Please check exchange rates. Water: In general, the water is safe, however it would be wise to drink only bottled mineral water. When you leave the large cities and go to smaller towns, be careful; for your own safety, we recommend that you only drink bottled water. As in all countries, the hygiene and cleaning of food depends on the establishment you are in. In general, serious problems do not exist. The official language is English. Check with the consulate nearest you regarding visas and vaccines before traveling. Regulations and requirements may be subject to changes without warning.
It is advisable to contact your doctor before leaving. You are not required to take any vaccine. Dengue Fever has been detected in the country. Mosquito repellent is recommended. Transportation on the island is by golf cart which enables the tourist to have more contact with nature and the beauties that the country has to offer. Bicycles are also available at certain hotels. Give a tip if the service was acceptable. The average tip varies between 10 and 15%. American and TAM Airlines offers daily flights to Belize with connection in Miami. Hurricane season lasts until October/November. The dry season is between December and May, which is also high season (and more expensive). Be sensitive to the local cultural norms. Attitudes that would be acceptable in Europe and in some communities in the Americas (drug use and explicit nudity when at the beach) are not appropriate in Belize.
Churches are frequently tourist attractions, however, the main object for the residents is worship. Visitors need to be quiet and respectful. Possessing the second largest coral barrier reef is both a blessing and a source of concern. Some of the more popular, sub-aquatic attractions are showing signs of wear due to frequent, excessive human contact. Environmental as well as local tourist associations have implemented a protection program concentrating on the diving instructors. The marine ecosystem is extremely fragile, the simple act of touching the coral can kill it. When you dive, be careful to not touch the coral, and be certain that you do not ³throw² sand on the coral. Avoid using marine gloves.
If you rent a private boat, take care that the anchor is placed far from the coral reef. Do not throw garbage into the sea. Even though major problems have not been registered, it is necessary to take some safety measures. It is advisable: – to not flash about jewelry, expensive clothing, photographic equipment, or other objects that attract attention. – to avoid walking alone and being out on the streets at night. – to avoid resistance in the case of aggression.