Among the countries that make up Central America, Belize is a little known gem. Tucked away in the north eastern corner of the region, Belize is often overlooked by tourists, who favor its more popular neighbors like Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador. According to the World Bank, Belize ranked lowest in number of tourists in 2013, among all the countries in Central America. But contrary to what the numbers say, there is a lot that Belize has to offer. For the intrepid and adventurous traveler, like LeafCanoer, Amanda Tiffany, Belize is a country that’s well worth a visit.
There are many ways to discover Belize, but one of the best ways is to spend time in the district of Cayo. In her leaf titled, “Cayo, Belize,” Amanda shares some of her top picks for things to do in Cayo. Known for its diverse array of attractions and activities, Cayo provides visitors to Belize a rich sampling of what the rest of the country has to offer. Here are seven ways a visit to Cayo can help you discover the wonders of Belize:
Go take a hike
There is plenty of hiking to do in Belize, and some of them can be quite unique and exciting. Visitors to Cayo often enjoy visiting the Actun Tunichil Mucknal, a cave near the town of San Ignacio. Not only is it a good place to practice your cave exploration skills, it’s also the perfect place to channel your inner Indiana Jones. The cave is home to a Mayan archaeological site, and is filled with skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. For the less adventurous visitor, Guanacaste National Park and Blue Hole National Park offer one to two mile hikes along their well-maintained trails.
Hit the biking trails
Belize has seventeen national parks, five of which are in Cayo. Additionally, there are sixteen forest reserves, with five of them located in the Cayo district. For avid mountain bikers, the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is a popular spot to hit the bike trails. For those looking for more guided tours, plenty of tour companies offer bike tours in the area.
Explore the ruins
Within the district of Cayo, there are several Mayan ruins worth visiting. Besides Actun Tunichil Mucknal, visitors should also visit Tikal National Park as well as the Caracol Ruins, to get a taste of the deep history of Belize. The Mayans inhabited Belize as far back as 2500 BC. These days, only a handful of their temples and structures remain, due to infrastructure development in the area.
Immerse yourself in the culture
The culture of Belize is a rich mix of Mayan, Spanish, Native American, and Mennonite. There have also been influences from countries like China and Lebanon, due to the large population of these ethnic groups in the country. As a result, Belize’s culture is a hodgepodge of traditions from these various groups. Spending time in the towns in the Cayo district can help you get a taste of the local flavor of the culture. The towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena are bustling with open air markets, and the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout is also a popular place to visit.
Kick back and relax
The pace of life in the jungles of Cayo is decidedly laid back and relaxed. Since the Cayo district is located inland, there are no beaches, but there are plenty of rivers to enjoy dipping your feet into. Major rivers in the district include the Mopan River and the Macal River. Also, within the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is the Rio on Pools, a series of pools and waterfalls that is popular among visitors to Belize.
Despite being not so well known in the tourist circles, Belize is a country worth visting and exploring. For the adventurous traveler, there are plenty of ways to discover Belize. From hiking the jungle to getting immersed in the local culture, there is so much to see and do in that country.
For more ideas of what to do in Belize, download the LeafCanoe app to check out Amanda’s leaf and explore other leafs.