Belize: a beginner’s guide
As an Anglo-Mayan-Hispanic melting pot, Belize is unique.
From 1500BC it was Mayan territory. English and Scottish buccaneers arrived from 1638 onwards, using the coast as a base for operations against the Armada. The country was first christened British Honduras in 1840 and later became a crown colony. In 1973 the now autonomous territory was renamed Belize, but full independence was only granted in 1981. English is the official language and remains a lingua franca, alongside Belizean Creole, Spanish and Mayan languages.
Top five attractions
- The peaceful and preened island of Ambergris Caye.
- The 600km-long barrier reef – often ranked just below the Red Sea and Great Barrier Reef as a dive experience.
- The Mayan site of Caracol.
- The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Low-key, laid-back Caye Caulker.
Belize City, the former capital, has more wooden buildings than most modern cities and looks like the sort of place Popeye might have lived; catch a Garífuna music gig, and soak up, or slalom, Belize’s street life. Belmopan, the capital since 1970, is dull and functional.
Souvenir to buy
Just take home the money – it looks like pirate currency with some great treasure island pictures on it, alongside the Queen’s head.
Far from being off the map, Belize has been visited by Ringo Starr, Madonna (the main hamlet in Ambergris Caye is San Pedro as in “I fell in love with…”), Harrison Ford and Cyndi Lauper; Francis Ford Coppola opened a luxury resort, Blancaneaux, in the Maya mountains back in 1993.
‘The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw’ by Bruce Barcott. The dramatic story of one woman’s struggle to save a beautiful bird and her fight against a Canadian power company planning to build a dam that would destroy its habitat.
By Chris Moss, Teleraph Journalist.