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The Gap Year Blog

A Guide to Exploring Belize

28 Mar 2019 17:30 PM
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Photo Credit: Flickr | Ralf Steinberger

Edited with Permission by Frontier

From all the tourist destinations in Central America, Belize is the one that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. White beaches, rainforests and incredible history combine all the aspects of a great adventure with some relaxing included. Even though the tourism is booming in Belize and countless activities give tourists a lot to choose from, Belize has maintained its authentic vibe that doesn’t feel fake. This is what make Belize so unique. Welcoming people, crystal-clear water and the most relaxing, chill environment imaginable ensure you will go back home stress-free but keep coming back for more.

 

Actun Tunichil Muknal – Cave complex

Named #1 sacred cave in the world by National Geography, this cave complex with its distinctive stalactites and stalagmites offers an unforgettable look into the Mayan history and geological wonders of Belize. 

You can only enter the cave, known as ‘ATM’, with a tour guide who will lead the way through the rainforest -which is an experience itself- up to the cave entrance. The tour in the cave lasts around three hours depending on the organizer and it involves swimming, wading and walking in underground tunnels, which is why it is only suitable for healthy individuals looking for an adrenaline rush.

While in the cave, you will be able to witness authentic Mayan artefacts and skeletons that have laid there untouched for centuries. Most of them can be found at the end of the tunnels in the ceremonial chamber which also contains the famous skeleton of an 18-year-old girl, ‘Chrystal Maiden’, a likely sacrifice victim for Mayan gods.

Before booking your tour, remember that all electronics and cameras and forbidden inside the cave. In 2012, a visitor dropped a camera, mashing one of the ancient skulls which resulted in the ban of cameras. So, make sure to respect the rule and the sacred artefacts in the cave.

 

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

The Great Blue Hole

The renowned diving spot, The Great Blue Hole, is located off the coast of Belize. The Great Blue Hole is a circular sinkhole descending to 400 ft and it is considered as one of the most famous diving locations in the world. Even if you are not a well-reversed diver, you must have seen photos of this dark blue circle in the middle of turquoise water and reefs.

So, what makes this diving place so special? The deep dive into the sinkhole can be a wonderfully beautiful experience when the weather conditions are right. Most of the time The Great Blue Hole lacks sunlight and the poor circulation of water restricts the nutrients available, meaning you will not be able to experience diverse, colourful marine life.

The reefs surrounding The Great Blue Hole, instead, offer exactly the opposite, and best of all, they are suitable for beginners and snorkelers looking to explore the turquoise waters of Belize. 

Still, for many experienced divers, a dive to this Belizean sinkhole is a bucket list item. The dive into The Great Blue Hole needs to be experienced because of the challenge and beauty of the site with its limestone formations and caves.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

 

Island vibes in Caye Caulker

For your super relaxed beach holiday, head to the sand beaches and turquoise waters of Caye Caulker island. It’s located only a 45-minute ferry ride from Belize City, so even if the slow island life doesn’t tempt you, a day trip is much worth it. Who wouldn’t want to sip a cocktail on a beach surrounded by the most striking views?

Sizewise Caye Caulker might be small -you can literally walk everywhere- but the scenery with tall palm trees and colourful beach houses makes it a trip you will never forget. ‘No shirts, no shoes… No problems’ is a sign and motto you will see and 

There are gorgeous beaches everywhere (it’s an island so obviously), but the best one is situated between the north and south islands. Some believe this passage, The Split, was created by Hurricane Hattie that devastated Caye Caulker in 1961. Nowadays, The Split is a vibrant but relaxed area filled with swimmers, sunbathers and bars, basically everything one could look for in a beach day.

 

Photo Credit: Flick | Jennifer Stahn

 

Zip Lining in a jungle

For adrenaline junkies, Belize present many activities from diving to hiking, but zip lining in the middle of the evergreen jungles of Belize takes the top place. There are several organisations that offer guided zip line experiences across the country. 

This is the best way to experience and view Belizean nature and from a birds-eye view no less. Feeling the excitement and freedom while you ‘fly’ over rivers and rainforest is one of the most adventurous things you can do in Belize.

Sometimes, zip lining experiences can even be combined with another activity, such as a hiking trail, birdwatching or cave tubing, so make sure to check out all the options to secure the perfect adventure for you.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Xunantunich Maya ruins

When you think of Maya pyramids, Belize might not be the first place on your mind. The Maya ruins of Belize have unfairly been left in the shadows of ruins in Mexico, Guatemala and Peru although they offer an equally impressive insight into Mayan history, and often with less crowds.

The ruins of Xunantunich, located around 80 miles west from Belize City, is a must-visit for anyone interested in Mayan culture. Once home to 200,000 people, the Xunantunich ruins is consisted of six plazas that are surrounded by more than 20 temples and palaces. This ceremonial centre was built around the now infamous temple, El Castillo, that rises up to 133ft in the middle of Xunantunich, making it the second tallest structure in Belize. Its exterior is decorated with fascinating friezes depicting gods, Mayan mythologies and life.

While some areas of Xunantunich are still being excavated by archaeologists, and therefore restricted from public, The Belize Tourism Development Project has invested in making the site more visitor-friendly. Currently, there’s an interactive museum with exhibitions about Mayan culture and history, and you can to buy local handicrafts for souvenirs for yourself, your friends and family from the stands on the site.

 
 
Photo Credit: Flickr

By Tiia Kärkkäinen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!