When you’re surrounded by larger countries, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. But for Belize, the small nation tucked into Mexico’s and Guatemala’s embrace, being small has myriad advantages–especially since it has an overabundance of resources within its borders. Located at 17°15′ north of the Equator and 88°45′ west of the Prime Meridian, Belize is just a few hours by air from the United States and Canada( here is a list of airlines that fly to Belize from Canada and USA).
Drive only a few hours to visit other countries. Belize is a one-day drive from Guatemala and Honduras and it’s in close proximity to Mexico, so if you haven’t seen much of Central America, excursions to all three neighboring countries can be added to your itinerary simply by asking staff at a resort like Cahal Pech to arrange one or more for you.
The Caribbean Sea hugs the Belize shore and the world’s second largest barrier reef skims along the coast for 240 miles. Thanks to the natural marine geology in this area of Central America, a surprising number of lagoons run the length of the nation, so while the size of Belize is technically 8,860 square miles, subtract those lagoons and the land mass is 8,300 square miles, making travel within the country fast.
While mainland Belize is filled with natural wonders, it’s the atolls, cayes and offshore destinations that attract visitors and retirees. Some say there are 450 islands of varying size; others insist the number is closer to 600. These Caribbean spots serve as jumping off points for divers, sailors and fishing aficionados who come here for world-class sporting experiences.
Since one of the biggest advantages of visiting Belize’s mainland is convenience and proximity, you may wonder exactly how much distance exists from border to border. Belize’s longest north to south distance is only 170 miles and east-west distance measures 62 miles. Main roads are easy to navigate, so if you decide to check that east to west mileage number, you can probably drive it in just over an hour.
Within Belize’s borders, topographical discoveries await curious visitors. Two main rivers—the Sarstoon and the Hondo—are most prominent, but tributaries break off from both creating waterways visitors can use to kayak and sail while observing rainforests, jungles and caves, but there are mountains and peaks to discover, too. While exploring the land, find gorgeoous flora and fauna courtesy of flat wetlands, forests and coastal plains, and don’t leave Doyle’s Delight, a 3,688-foot mountain, off your must-see list.
Belize’s landscape ranges from bucolic and tranquil to wild, and like most countries with borders, there have been disputes, particularly along an imaginary north-south line that transects forest and highlands that have been the subject of territorial claims between Belize and Guatemala over time. This strip, known as the adjacency line, remains under the purview of the Organization of American States (OAS), so anyone asking the question “Where is Belize?” who doesn’t get a satisfactory answer can always turn to this authority for clarification.
|Population||370,300 (September 2015)|
|Density||14.4 / km2 ( 37.2 / mi2 )|
|GDP||1,624,294,250 (2013 data)|
|GDP per Capita||4,956 (2013 data)|
|Land Area||22,806 km2 (8,805 mi2)|
|Water Area||160 km2 (62 mi2)|
|Neighbouring Countries:||Mexico, Guatemala|
Below is a diagram that shows the evolution of the name “Belize”.
The largest municipality in the country is Belize City, the former capital, with about 70,000 residents or about 20% of the population. Most of Belize is rural with a total of about 355,000 people, including Mestizo (43%), Creole (30%), Maya (11%), Garifuna (7%), East Indian (3%), Mennonites (3%), and the rest a mix of other peoples, including expats from North America and Chinese immigrants.
English is the official language of Belize and the language used in all schools, road signs, and official texts. Spanish is also widely spoken in many areas. Depending on where you go, the first language of locals might be Garifuna, Creole or one of several different Maya dialects.
Modern archeologists have calculated that as many as 2 million Maya lived in what is now the country of Belize during their heyday. Powerful city states like Caracol, Xunantunich and Lamanai were built at strategic points, feeding their citizens with farms build on the outskirts.
Today, archeologists divide the Maya civilization into three periods: the Pre-Classic (approximately 1000 BC to 300 AD), the Classic period (AD 300-900), and the Post-Classic (AD 1000-1500) when various environmental and societal factors caused the abandonment of the cities and the disbursement of the people.
On his fourth and final voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus sailed the Caribbean near the coast of Central America, naming the Bay of Honduras which lies at the southern end of the Belize Barrier Reef.
The first European permanent residents in what is now Belize were religious fugitives who established several trading posts on the coast. They were soon joined by a miscellaneous assortment of privateers, buccaneers, and ship-wrecked sailors who used Belize as a base of operations to launch attacks on Spanish treasure ships.
The motley crew of buccaneers and sailors nicknamed themselves “Baymen” because they were based in the Bay of Honduras. After the governments of Britain and Spain settled their differences, the colonists in Belize turned to focusing on logging the valuable stands of hardwood in the country.
The Colonial Period
In the 1840s, Britain formally claimed the territory of Belize, naming it British Honduras after the bay that Columbus had documented during his voyage of 1504. When Britain outlawed slavery in the 1830s, the British in Belize began intermarrying with former slaves, leading to the creation of the Creole people who now constitute the majority of people living in Belize today. Freed slaves from other British possessions in the Caribbean emigrated to Belize, known today as the Garifuna.
A series of wars in Mexico led to large-scale emigration into northern Belize. Their descendants are known as the Mestizo people. In southern Belize, the indigenous Maya people began to coalesce in towns in the Maya Mountains. Small groups of disaffected Confederate soldiers from the American Civil War settled in the town now known as Punta Gorda. Religious refugees from Europe known as the Mennonites began establishing farms in Belize.
The Modern Period
By the dawn of the 20th century, Belize had nearly 40,000 inhabitants. In 1954, Britain granted voting rights to all adults in Belize. In 1961, Britain began the de-colonization process and set Belize on the path towards independence. In 1973, the colony was renamed Belize.
On September 21, 1981, Belize became a fully independent and sovereign country.
With so much to see and do throughout Belize, you want to stay in the perfect vacation spot. Cahal Pech Village Resort is a top choice to consider. With its spacious guest rooms and beautiful setting coupled with amenities like a restaurant and a bar, you will have all that you need to feel at home while in Belize. Plus, the Cahal Pech staff offer assistance arranging tours to the spectacular ceremonial caves, nature reserves and Mayan ruins and have a fleet of vehicles on hand to take you to different natural areas and parks throughout the region.
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