The Belize Cultural Mosaic itinerary was developed with the assistance of a tourism student of the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine campus, as part of the Endless Caribbean internship programme.
Belize is a traveller’s dream with its lush landscapes, healthy reefs (including the Great Blue Hole), friendly people and delectable food. In between its unique history and many UNESCO World Heritage sites, the country is a cultural mosaic which thrives on the various cultures of the people who live in the country. As one of the most culturally diverse nations in the Caribbean, Belize celebrates all of the cultures that make the country what it is. Visitors are drawn to the culture and heritage of a country which celebrates everyone and anyone who has had an impact on its development.
Belize is located in Central America and is bordered by Mexico in the north and Guatemala in the west and south. Although the country has not had any significant hurricane impacts in recent history, it still recognises the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Belize is generally warm with an average temperature of 29 degrees Celcius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Maya established the first settlements on Belize around 1500 B.C. These settlements were followed by a visit by Christopher Columbis in 1502; and the first English settlement in 1638. The British claimed Belize in 1840 and it was known as the Colony of British Honduras. In 1973, the name was changed to Belize and then in 1981, the country gained its independence from Britain.
Today, Belize is the only English-speaking country in the whole of Central America. However, that is no way representative of the people that live there. Travel Belize reveals that Belize’s main ethnic groups are the “Maya, Mestizo, Kriol, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Arab and Chinese.” These groups each have unique culture and heritage history that make Belize even more interesting.
Day 1 (Arrival Day): Welcome to Midas Resort
All commercial flights into Belize land at the Philip Goldson International Airport (airport code BZE). When you land in the country, you will feel a welcoming warmth that is reverberated through the earth of this culturally and archaeologically rich land.
Midas Resort is managed and owned by Mrs. Maria and her son, Michael Preston. The resort is a precious 30-acre property that was opened in 1991 with six (6) cottages. Located in Branch Mouth Road in the quaint town of San Ignacio, on the western side of Belize; the property now boasts a private reserve, 40 rooms, swimming pool with a waterfall and a hidden cave. San Ignacio is in the historic Cayo District, which is known for its rich agricultural and black gold lands.
When you check-in, you will be accompanied to The Spare Room. Your room, which can sleep up to four guests, features two double beds; access to a shared bath; air conditioning; free Wi-Fi; and laundry service. This room is recommended for budget travellers to Belize who want to enjoy as much of the Belize cultural mosaic as they can.
If there is time before dinner, you can spend some time by the pool or exploring the extensive property grounds. From there you will take a short three-minute stroll to Hode’s Place Bar & Grill for dinner and drinks. Hode’s Place is a highly recommended spot for tasty Central American dishes. Meals and drinks are reasonably priced, and the atmosphere is lively and welcoming. After your fill of dinner, it’s time to head back to the hotel where you will rest up for the next day’s activities.
Day 2: Cahal Pech Archaelogical Reserve and the Xunantunich Mayan Ruin
Rise and shine and head to breakfast at Midas’ on-site restaurant. This will be enough to full you as you prepare your mind and body for a day of adventure and awakening. After breakfast, you will take a 10-minute walk into the town to the Mayawalk Tours meeting point to meet the shuttle for a tour.
The shuttle will transport you to the Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve . This is site of ancient Mayan ruins and is of the brightest highlights of San Ignacio. Guests can tour the historic hilltop home for an elite Maya family that has been dated to as far back as 1200 BCE. This makes Cahal Pech one of the oldest recognizably Mayan sites in Western Belize.
The next stop is the Xunantunich Mayan Ruin. You will be given the opportunity to climb the temples and explore the site which is surrounded by majestic Belize flora and fauna. This is the beginning of your trip to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruin. The history of this site reveals that it once had a population of 200,000 people and it was abandoned by the Maya almost 1,000 years ago. What’s even more exciting, is that archaeologists are still excavating on the site. Another bonus interaction can be had at the gift shop which is operated by descendants of the Maya people. At the end of the tour, you will be treated to seasonal fruits and refreshments (lunch) before you return to the city.
Day 3: Explore San Ignacio
After breakfast at Hode’s Place, you will take self-guided tour of San Ignacio. The town is home to most of the ethnic groups that live in Belize. It is a thriving market where sellers and buyers meet to trade. Farmers and vendors offer fruit, vegetables, crafts, clothing and home goods to willing buyers looking to find a great deal. Here you can interact with people from the Mestizos, Mennonites and Mayas and other tribes; and learn more about their history, culture and norms. It’s also a valuable opportunity to taste some of Belize’s most popular delicacies.
Other San Ignacio attractions and activities that you can partake in are the Green Iguana Project tour, which begins at the San Ignacio Hotel Resort lobby; a tour of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave, which contains several impressive artifacts; and a peaceful and relaxing canoe tour on the Macal River, which winds through the Cayo District.
On completion of your San Ignacio tour, you will have lunch at Eva’s Restaurant and Bar. Eva’s menu includes traditional Belizean dishes as well as popular international favourites. After lunch, you can talk a leisurely walk back to the hotel. You can wind down the day with drinks by the pool, before turning in for the night.
Day 4: When Are You Coming Back?
This is a great time to reminisce about the Belize cultural mosaic. Spend your last few hours in paradise with a swim in the pool. Or you can choose to explore the nearby town for a last taste of authentic Belizean breakfast fare.
Image Credit: The Belize Tourism Board