Travel

Belize – A Country waiting to be discovered.

Belize

Seasoned tourists know Belize to be an exciting country with innumerable natural and archaeological attractions.

For those who like scuba diving or snorkelling, the Glovers Reef, and for that matter any other reef in Belize, offers many unforgettable opportunities.

Archaeology buffs will love well-preserved Mayan temples close to Belize city, the capital. Nature lovers can observe exotic birds and jaguars.

Many nationalities constitute the heart and soul of beautiful Belize. They share a short but rich history, and stand tall and proud.

Belizeans are sincere, genuine, warm, helpful and friendly.

You can reach Belize City after a short two-hour flight from Miami, or New Orleans, or Houston.

People speak English, and the government has the courage to dedicate approximately 25 per cent of the landmass to nature reserves.

Mayans inhabited the land for over 4000 years and left magnificent monuments for future generations to admire. When Jesus Christ was preaching in Canaan, 750 000 Mayan were living in Belize. Now the total population of Mayans, Creole, Mestizos, Garifuna and Mennonites make up a quarter-of-a-million. Needless to say, there are still some remnants of English buccaneers, and descendents of Spanish conquistadors.

For centuries Belize was the land of tug-of-war between English, Spanish, Mexicans, Mayans and other indigenous peoples. After disputes were settled, English as always, maintained their control until 1973, profiting from the rich supply of logwood and mahogany.

The government has concluded that tourism could be an important source of foreign currency and employment, and today the industry is the main component of GDP of Belize.

To this end a “tourism police force” was developed to help visitors and prevent unscrupulous merchants or hoteliers from taking advantage of their ignorance and inexperience.

Ever since independence from the Untied Kingdom, tourist arrivals, especially Americans, have been growing.

It is impossible to miss the spirit of Belize City. A potpourri of sight and sounds invades the senses, extending a warm invitation to explore its lively streets and ambience.

Jutting out into the seas, the city’s north and south sides are split by the banks of the Belize River. The south side is the commercial sector, whereas the northern end houses government buildings, residences and hotels.

With a population of 80 000 the city is relatively small and easy to explore on foot. The swing bridge, the only manually operated one in

the world, connects the north and south parts of Belize City.

It is opened to sea traffic twice a day. North of the bridge in the Paslow Building stamp collectors can purchase philatelic collections. Local artists display their work in the Image Factory Art gallery. The Maritime terminal is definitely worth a visit, if for nothing else than studying dugout Mayan canoes.

Fort George and its colonial architecture are considered historic, with beautiful buildings and whitewashed structures speaking volumes from the past. This section of Belize City is also home to tranquil, charming and comfortable guesthouses. Here the National Handicraft Centre offers authentic, hand-made souvenirs, all lovingly produced by local labour.

Here along the northern shoreline at the harbour entrance is the distinctive Barn Bliss Lighthouse. The lighthouse and Baron Bliss Institute were built from funds bequeathed by Belize’s greatest benefactor, Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, and eccentric British Baron with a Portuguese title from the former Kingodm Of Portugal

His passing away is commemorated in a ceremony each March 9th in front of the lighthouse where he is entombed.

Belizeans celebrate Baron Bliss Day with a sailing regatta in the harbour and a kite contest, a popular pastime in the Caribbean. The regatta features many vessels that relive Belize’s fine boat building tradition.

A boat trip to Cayo Caulker or Amergiris Cay is highly recommended to appreciate the scenery, azure, calm Caribbean Sea and cool breezes.

A day trip to the 20 hectare Guanacaste National Park will let you experience the natural flora and fauna, and provide a feel of the land like no other.

Located 1-½ hours by car west of Belize City San Ignacio is a must for all archaeology buffs. Here Mayan ruins dot the countryside. 12 kilometres west of San Ignacio is Xunantunich pyramid, towering 40 metres high, offers a fine example of Mayan architectural genius.

But you can also visit caves rich with Mayan pottery and other artefacts.

Belizean food is tantalizingly spicy, sometimes hot, but always interesting and imaginative.

Staples such as chicken with rice and beans are flavoured with habanero peppers; Seafood, beef, pork, chicken, and vegetables are prepared in a variety of ways to satisfy a range of tastes.

A cornucopia of truly fresh seafood is plentiful and always delicious to suit the palates of most discriminating individuals.

Belizean specialties are: escabeche (marinated seafood), mole (a spicy chocolate based soup with chicken and pork), chilimole, tortillas, conch soup, calaloo, cow-foot soup, fish chowder with a coconut milk base and gibut.

At night, those who like to gamble need not travel far. All international hotels operate casinos where tourists can bet to their hearts’ content, or dance until the wee hours of the morning. Drinks are inexpensive and plentiful, particularly local rum and beer.

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