Top tourist attractions in Belize
Here is a list of top tourist attractions in Belize. Only the topmost tourist destinations are presented here. To see other destinations, please check the images from Belize section.
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Caracol is the name given to a large ancient Maya archaeological site, located in what is now the Cayo District of Belize. It is situated approximately 40 kilometres south of Xunantunich and the town of San Ignacio Cayo, and 15 kilometers away from the Macal River. It rests on the Vaca Plateau at an elevation of 500 meters above sea-level, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. Long thought to be a tertiary center, it is now known that the site was one of the most important regional political centers of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period. Caracol covered approximately 200 square kilometers, covering an area much larger than present-day Belize City and supported more than twice the modern city's population.
Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 meters offshore in the north and 40 kilometers in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometers long section of the 900 kilometers long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to Honduras making it one of the largest coral reef systems in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the New Caledonia Barrier Reef. It is Belize's top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors, and is vital to its fishing industry. Charles Darwin described it as "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies" in 1842.
Caye Caulker is a small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea measuring about 5 miles by less than 1 mile. The town on the island is known by the name Caye Caulker Village. Some have said the island's name is derived from the practice of caulking or sealing the seams in wooden boats to make them watertight, due to the high number of shipwrights on the island. "Caye Corker", the alternative spelling of the name used by British cartographers, has largely fallen into disuse. This was a phonetic spelling which in older English was pronounced the same. It is now generally agreed that the name was derived at a much earlier date from the Spanish name for the island "Cayo Hicaco". This refers to the Hicaco plum which grows wild on the island and was gathered by Spanish seafarers to combat scurvy. Caye Caulker is located approximately 20 miles north-northeast of Belize City, and is accessible by high-speed water taxi or small plane. In recent years the island has become a popular destination for backpackers and other tourists. There are over 30 tiny hotels, and a number of restaurants and shops.
Xunantunich is an Ancient Mayan archaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles west of Belize City, in the Cayo District. Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, well within sight of the Guatemala border – which is a mere 1 kilometre to the west. It served as a Maya civic ceremonial center in the Late and Terminal Classic periods to the Belize Valley region. At this time, when the region was at its peak, nearly 200,000 people lived in Belize. Xunantunich’s name means "Stone Woman" in the Maya language, and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is currently unknown. The "Stone Woman" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892. She is dressed completely in white, and has fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of "El Castillo", ascends the stone stairs, and disappears into a stone wall. The first modern explorations of the site were conducted by Thomas Gann in the mid-1890s. Gann moved from Britain and served as the district surgeon and district commissioner of Cayo, Belize starting in 1892. He chose this area to settle in because he had an interest in Mayan archaeology, and he wished to be able to explore the unknown wonders of the indigenous people. Gann’s successor, Sir J. Eric S. Thompson, implemented a more methodical approach, and was able to establish the region’s first ceramic chronology. The main recent archaeological teams to work at Xunantunich and the surrounding region are the Xunantunich Archaeological Project and the Xunantunich Settlement Survey.
Lamanai is a Mesoamerican archaeological site, and was once a considerably sized city of the Maya civilization, located in the north of Belize, in Orange Walk District. The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam'an'ain.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Actun Tunichil Muknal, also known locally as “Xibalba” or ATM, is a cave in Belize, near San Ignacio, Cayo District, notable as a Maya archaeological site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. There are several areas of skeletal remains in the main chamber. The best-known is "The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of a teenage girl, possibly a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized appearance. The ceramics at the site are significant partly because they are marked with "kill holes", which indicates they were used for ceremonial purposes. Many of the Mayan artifacts and remains are completely calcified to the cave floor. One artifact named the “Monkey Pot” is one of just four found in Central America. The Mayans also modified cave formations here, in some instances to create altars for the offerings, in others to create silhouettes of faces and animals, or to project a shadow image into the cave. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages. Animal life in the cave includes a large population of bats, large freshwater crabs, crayfish, catfish and other tropical fish. Large invertebrates like Amblypygi and various predatory spiders also inhabit the cave. Agouti and otters may also use the cave. These and many other species are quite common in river caves of this size in Belize.
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is a zoo in Belize, located some 29 miles west of Belize City on the Western Highway. Set in 29 acres, the zoo was founded in 1983 by Sharon Matola. It is home to more than 125 animals of about 48 species, all native to Belize. The natural environment of Belize is left entirely intact within the zoo. The dense, natural vegetation is separated only by gravel trails through the forest. The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center receives almost 15,000 school children every year. The Belize Zoo focuses on educating visitors about the wildlife of Belize through encountering the animals in their natural habitat. The aim is to instill appreciation and pride, and a desire to protect and conserve Belize's natural resources. The Zoo was the recipient of Belize Tourism Board's 9th National Tourism Award, "Educational Award of the Year" in 2009.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve in south-central Belize established to protect the forests, fauna and watersheds of an approximately 400 square kilometre area of the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains. The reserve was founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar and is regarded by one author as the premier site for jaguar preservation in the world. The site consists of two distinct adjacent watersheds and is accessible via a low intensity trail system to accommodate visitors and research environmental scientists. The Maya Mountains and foothills are among the oldest surface rock formations of Central America; these Paleozoic sediments were uplifted about 200 million years ago in the later part of the Carboniferous period and the early Permian period. The principal uplifted rock formations in the Sanctuary are quartzite and sandstone. The name Cockscomb derives from the appearance of the Cockscomb Mountains ridge that resembles a rooster's comb, which ridge is situated at the northern fringe of the reserve and which is easily visible from the coastal plain of the Caribbean Sea. Habitation by the ancient Mayas occurred in the Cockscomb Basin as early as 10,000 BC, but the first modern recorded history exploration of the basin did not occur until 1988. Principal plant communities are pine forest, elfin scrub, tropical moist broadleaf forest, shelter valley forest and floodplain thicket.
Cuello is a Maya archaeological site in northern Belize. The site is that of a farming village with a long occupational history stretching back to approximately between 2600 to 1200 BC, during the Middle Preclassic period. Its inhabitants lived in pole-and-thatch houses that were built on top of low plaster-coated platforms. The site contains residential groups clustered around central patios. It also features the remains of a steam bath dating to approximately 900 BC, making it the oldest steam bath found to date in the Maya lowlands. Human burials have been associated with the residential structures; the oldest have no surviving burial relics, but from 900 BC onwards, they were accompanied by offerings of ceramic vessels. Ceramics from the earliest phase of the settlement at Cuello belonged to an established lowland Maya pottery tradition, suggesting that the region was already settled by the Maya when the site was founded. Although Cuello appears to have been a typical, relatively unimportant rural village in the Preclassic era, it participated in regional trade networks with obsidian being imported from the Maya highlands from 800 BC onwards, and a small amount of jade arriving in the community a few centuries later.