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Belize is a green jewel of a country, wedged between Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south, it is largely covered with rainforest - a naturalist's paradise. Unlike many other Central American countries Belize has recognized early that its natural diversity is its greatest treasure. Although a small country, much of it has not been developed but is kept as reserves and national parks. The topography ranges from low mountainous rainforests to lowland rainforests and swampy grasslands, savannah and lagoons near the coastal regions and in the north of the country.
Belize prides itself of having the second largest Barrier Reef in the world which skirts the whole length of the country and supports a vast number of patch reefs, shoals and beadlike chain of over 1,000 islands known as "Cayes". Huge expanses of mangrove forests protect most of the coast and much of the Cayes. The Cayes are quite unique and offer a paradise for divers, snorklers, marine biologists and beach bums alike. Three large coral atolls, which lie outside the barrier reef itself are a mecca for divers. The continental shelf ends dramatically and the ocean beyond drops by over 10,000 feet. The central interior, with its rainforest covered limestone mountains riddled with caves, rivers and waterfalls, offers adventure of a different kind. Hiking, riding, nocturnal guided naturewalks, spelunking and canoeing are just a few possibilities. For botanist, biologists and birdwatchers the vast natural diversity of this country is a feast for the senses. Archeologists and history buffs can also enjoy many a field day exploring ancient Maya ruins and temples. For adventurers the Maya ruins of Belize hold a special attraction - their remoteness and inaccessibility has kept development at bay. The journey to get to them is often an adventure in itself.
The cultural mixture of Belize is unlike any in Central America. Once a British colony, the English influence is still quite apparent in some areas. English is one of the official languages, though the soft Creole accent makes it uniquely caribbean. Those who feel linguistically challenged when travelling in Spanish speaking parts of Latin America will feel relieved that they will be readily understood in Belize, if all they speak is English. Ethnically Belize is home to Mayas, Garifunas, Creoles and Mistizos. There is also a large community of Mannonites which has settled mostly in the northern regions of Orange Walk District and Cayo District. A percentage of Chinese, Indian, Arab populations, as well as white immigrants from various countries.
Belize seems to be one of the most important centers of Mayan civilization - perhaps even THE most important one. The proximity to the coast with a good river system to the interior certainly would have fiven it some strategic importance. Fact is that there are more Mayan sites per square mile in Belize than in any other Central American country. Over 600 sites have been discovered so far - and new ruins, which had long been swallowed by the jungle, are continuously being discovered. A stelae found in the 1990th informs us that Belizes biggest Mayan City, known as Caracol, won a major battle against it rival to the north - Tikal,which up until then had always been regarded as the most important of all Mayan sites. Due to lack of funding most of Belizes archaeological sites remain quite undeveloped, which adds a great sense of explorer's excitement when visiting these sites. Many are not open to the public at all as digs are still going on. Many others are quite inaccessible - another factor that has contributed to leaving the spirits of the ancient Mayas in peace, where elsewhere they have been chased out of their ancestoral abodes by the glowing lights and fanfare of modern day commercialization. However, those that can be visited cannot fail to give a strong impression of this once mighty civilization.
For more information on the various districts, check out the links below:
In terms of biodiversity Belize ranks among the richest in Central America. There are numerous reserves, national parks and marine reserves, making the scope of varied nature travel experience almost endless. Much of the country consists of remote and difficult areas to access which has kept commercial development largely at bay. Ecotourism is thriving and there are many possibilities.
Find out more about Belize rich natural heritage.
Or take a virtual tour of Belize's Nature Reserves:
Belize is perhaps less well known for its cultural events and festivities, however, the Garifuna and Creole influence is strong and there is usually a party going on somewhere. In the southern parts of the country the Creole influence is particularly strong and religious festivals with strong voodoo connotations marked by intense drumming and spirit possessions are held irregularly in almost all villages. Check the events listing below for Belize's official public holidays.
|January 1||New Year's Day||Everywhere|
|March 9||Baron Biss Day||Everywhere|
|April 21||Queen's Birthday||not an official holiday anymore but widely celebrated|
|May 1||Labour Day||Everywhere|
|May 24||Commonwealth Day||Everywhere|
|September 10||St. Georges Day||Everywhere|
|September 21||Independence Day||Everywhere|
|October 12||Columbus Day||Everywhere|
|November 19||Garifuna Settlement Day||Especially in the south and Belize City|
In general the weather in Belize tends to be hot all the year round. The dry season runs from November to April/May, with May being the hottest month, and the wet season goes from about June to September /October. In the southern regions the climate is wetter the driest months being February and March. Whilst even during the wet season there is usually plenty of sun since it rarely rains all day, certain areas may be impossible to access during this time.
Most nationalities, including citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries, as well as most members of the European Union do not need a visa to enter Belize. A valid passport and an onward or round-trip ticket are all that is necessary.
Chinese and Indian Citizens require a Visitor Permit. Consult with local Belizean Consulate, Belize Embassy, British Counsel, or contact the Department of Immigration and Nationality, Belmopan, Belize, Central America Tel (501-8-22611).
Extension can be applied for at:Immigration Office Mahogany Street St. Martin Deporres Belize Central America Telephone : (501) 2-24620, Fax (501) 2-44483.
Proof of sufficient funds an onward ticket is required. A moderate fee is also charged
If you are crossing into Belize from Mexico by land, visas to enter Belize can be obtained in Chetumal at:Belizean Consulate Avenida Alvaro Obregon #226A Chetumal Q.R. Tel: (52) 983-22871
Belize Embassy in the US:Embassy of Belize 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington DC 20008 (202) 332 9636