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#13360 - 11/15/00 01:11 AM what to see?
annieo Offline
We will be chartering a sailboat for a week and then have 2 days to see something on the mainland. Any suggestions???

#13361 - 11/15/00 11:00 AM Re: what to see?
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
With only two days, you can't begin to even scratch the surface of what's available, but here are some suggestions on the best in each category, from my Belize Book of Lists 2000.

--Lan Sluder
Belize First Magazine http://www.turq.com/belizefirst/

5 ‘Must-See’ Maya Sites
Belize has literally hundreds of ruins, many still undiscovered or unexcavated. Of the dozen or so “major” ones, the wonderful thing about them is that they are almost totally untouristed. Unlike in the Mexican Yucatán or even at Tikal, where hordes of visitors swarm over the ruins, in Belize you may be alone with the caretaker, or one of only a handful of visitors, at an ancient Mayan city.

# 1 Caracol
The largest known site in Belize, and larger in area even than Tikal, this Classic Maya city-state was rediscovered in the 1930s but only since 1985 has excavation been underway. With an improved access road, it is now easier than ever to visit this awe-inspiring place. Caracol’s highest pyramid is still the tallest man-made structure in Belize. The drive to Caracol is beautiful and not difficult, except in wet weather. A new visitor center at the site is now open.

# 2 Lamanai
Lamanai was an important Maya community for three millennia, and this site has buildings dating back to 700 B.C. The setting is beautiful, at the edge of the New River Lagoon. You can drive here, via an all-weather road, though the approach by boat is inspiring.

# 3 Xunantunich
This Late Classic site is small but impressive. Don’t miss the view into Guatemala from El Castillo, a 135-foot tower that is the second-tallest structure in Belize. A plus is its easy access from the Western Highway — you cross the Mopan River on a small hand-cranked ferry. There is a visitors center.

# 4 Lubaantun
Not by any means the largest, most important, or most impressive site, Lubaantun has a mysterious appeal. One reason is its setting, near the remote villages of Toledo with their population of present-day Mayans, some of whom may shyly offer to sell you crafts or small trinkets at the Lubaantun site. Another is the famous Crystal Skull, which may or may not have been discovered here in 1926 by the daughter of archeologist F. A. Mitchell-Hedges, and which may or may not be authentic. A third is the style of construction, of carefully hand-cut limestone blocks laid without mortar. Lubaantun is on an isolated ridge near the village of San Pedro Columbia off the Southern Highway.

# 5 Che Chem Ha Cave
Many caves in Belize contain Mayan relics. This one, on private land in Cayo District, can be visited on a guided tour. Most who make the effort to see this come away awed by the pottery which dates to the time of Christ. One access is via a long drive on the “hydro road” from Benque Viejo.

Among other highly interesting sites: Cahal Pech, El Pilar, Altun Ha, Cerros, La Milpa, Nim Li Punit, Uxbenka

10 Best Museums, Monuments and Natural History Attractions
Belize doesn’t have much in the way of fancy museums or similar attractions, but here are 10 of interest:

# 1 Belize Zoo, Western Highway at Mile 29, near Belmopan
Absolutely fantastic place! One of the highlights of any kid’s trip to Belize, and fun for adults, too. See jaguars, April the mountain cow, and more, all in a natural setting.

# 2 Government House Museum, Belize City
Grand tribute to British Honduras days of old.

# 3 St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, Belize City
Built in 1812, the oldest Anglican church in Central America.

# 4 Natural History and Blue Morpho Butterfly Centre, Chaa Creek, Cayo
Privately operated center with growing collections of materials and displays, plus butterfly breeding center. For more butterflies, visit Green Hills, Tropical Wings and Fall Stone butterfly farms.

# 5 Maritime Museum and Coastal Museum, Belize City
Both in the same building, the former Belize fire station. Devoted to marine and local history.

# 6 Ambergris Museum, San Pedro
Small but fascinating.

# 7 Tropical Wings Nature Center, San Jose Succotz, Cayo
Eco displays and a butterfly farm.

# 8 Belize Central Bank Building, Belize City
Opened in 1998, this overblown building is a monument to government putting priorities in the wrong place.

# 9 Cockscomb Preserve Visitor Center
Small but informative displays on Cockscomb Preserve area.

# 10 (tie) Rainforest Trail/Ix Chel Farm, Cayo
Adjoining Chaa Creek, this private project of Rosita Arvigo highlights rain forest remedies.

# 10 (tie) Bliss Institute, Belize City
Devoted to Belize culture, with a permanent display of Maya artifacts.

5 Most Scenic Drives
Belize does not have the drop-dead breathless scenery of highlands Guatemala or Costa Rica, but Belize’s small population, uncut forests, and diverse ecosystems provide a uniquely Belizean brand of beauty. Emory King’s Driver’s Guide to Beautiful Belize and the ITMB Belize Traveller’s Map will keep you from getting lost.

# 1 Hummingbird Highway
Hands down, this road from Belmopan to near Dangriga is the most beautiful drive in Belize, and beyond the first miles near Belmopan, it is also the best road in Belize. (Resurfacing of the remaining miles should be completed in 1999.) The beginnings of the Maya Mountains, green and lush, are interrupted by the occasional citrus farm. You can’t see them, but these limestone hills are laced with vast networks of caves.

# 2 Road to Caracol
The road to Caracol begins with the bone-jarring routes from Georgeville or San Ignacio into the North Georgia-like scenery of the Mountain Pine Ridge. But once beyond Augustine/Douglas DeSilva, the real beauty begins. It is a vast and unpopulated area, close to Guatemala, and the road, though improved, is still no superhighway. When the butterflies are flying and the sky is blue, this is a magical, if rough, trip to the ruins of Caracol.

# 3 Road to Sarteneja and Progresso Lagoon
This little-traveled area of northern Belize provides glimpses of beauty to make up for the unpaved roadway. En route from Orange Walk Town, you’ll enjoy seeing the Progresso Lagoon, prosperous Mennonite farms, and the isolated villages of Chunox and Sarteneja, on the Bay of Chetumal. On your return, if past the Progresso Lagoon you turn right instead of going back to Orange Walk, you can visit the village of Copper Bank and the ruins of Cerros.

# 4 Road to Chan Chich
Most people fly to Gallon Jug, but driving is a better way to see some of the real Belize (advance permission is needed to travel the privately owned sections of this route). This part of Orange Walk District is a country of Mennonite and other farms, small rural villages, and wild bush. As you drive through Programme for Belize and Gallon Jug lands, you’ll likely see Oscellated turkeys and other rare wildlife. This is also one of the region’s last remaining mahogany forests. The road to Lamanai, which turns off at San Felipe Village, is also a great drive.

# 5 (tie) Road to Gales Point and Southern Lagoon
The new coastal highway, or “shortcut” from Democracia to Stann Creek, is mostly an awful road, dusty in the dry season and muddy or flooded after rains. But the short section of unpaved road, from around Melinda about 10 miles north of Dangriga, to Gales Point, ending at the Colonial-style Manatee Lodge, is loaded with simple charm and unexpected beauty. The charm comes from the small Creole village of Gales Point, and the beauty of the Southern Lagoon, home to crocodiles, jabiru storks, and manatee.

# 5 (tie) Roads to Maya Villages near PG
While not an area of tremendous scenic beauty, the roads off the Southern Highway to the Maya villages near San Antonio and beyond are an education in history and culture. In rainy weather, the roads can become impassable even for four-wheel drives. Timbering activity is going on in this area. As paving is completed on more of the Southern Highway, and if — as has been proposed — the Southern Highway is completed into Guatemala, this area will be much more visited than it is today. Come soon!

5 Best Butterfly Farms
Belize has nearly 700 species of butterflies. Some of the most beautiful and interesting of these can be seen up close and personal at one of Belize’s six butterfly farms. Two of these, Green Hills and Fallen Stones, are seriously involved in the business of exporting pupae. The other butterfly places are, to one degree or another, set up as educational and informational facilities. For the casual visitor these educational facilities may even be of more interest.

# 1 Green Hills Butterfly Farm, Cayo District
Jan Meerman and Tineke Boomsma are serious about butterflies. (Meerman is writing a guidebook to the butterflies of Belize.) The setting, at Mile 8 of Mountain Pine Ridge Road, is beautiful.

# 2 Fallen Stones Butterfly Ranch, Toledo District
Ray Harberd and his staff (Mayas from San Pedro Columbia village) currently export about 20,000 pupae a year. There are about 35 species on display. The view into Guatemala from the Fallen Stones lodge is fabulous.

# 3 Blue Morpho Butterfly, Chaa Creek, Cayo
Part of the Natural History center at Chaa Creek Cottages, the butterfly farm focuses on the electric blue and incredibly beautiful Morpho peleides. Tours here are excellent.

# 4 Tropical Wings Butterfly Center, Cayo District
Butterflies are just one part of the Tropical Wings nature center, which has a variety of displays demonstrating the interrelationships of animals and plants in the tropical ecosystem. About 20 or 25 species are on display. Associated with The Trek Stop.

# 5 (tie) Xochil Ku, Indian Village, Orange Walk District
A small community-run center near the Lamanai Maya site.

# 5 (tie) Shipstern, Corozal District
Formerly a serious butterfly operation run by Jan Meerman, now of Green Hills, the butterfly center here, under the auspices of the Belize Audubon Society, now functions primarily for visitor education.

5 Wonderful National Parks and Reserves
Belize is making a terrific effort to preserve its natural land and sea resources for future generations. Here are national parks and reserves which won’t disappoint you:

# 1 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve, Stann Creek District
The world’s first jaguar preserve, this lush jungle reserve of more than 100,000 acres is a must-see for anyone interested in natural Belize. New trails are open to Victoria Peak, one of the highest points in Belize.

# 2 Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, Lighthouse Reef
Belize’s first nature preserve, Half Moon Caye is a beautiful island on Lighthouse Reef, with 10,000 acres of surrounding reef.

# 3 Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Cayo District
More than 300 square miles of nearly unpopulated land in Western Belize. Controlled logging is allowed.

# 4 Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, Orange Walk District
More than 150,000 acres of jungle, including mahogany forest, in Orange Walk District, privately managed by Programme for Belize.

# 5 (tie) Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Crooked Tree
This is bird city in Belize. The sanctuary boundaries encompass several large lagoons, including Crooked Tree and Revenge.

# 5 (tie) Community Baboon Sanctuary, Bermudian Landing
More than 1,000 black howler monkeys are now safe in the eight villages making up the sanctuary.

Other recommended parks and preserves:
• Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye
• Blue Hole National Park, Hummingbird Highway
• Five Blues Lakes National Park, Hummingbird Highway
• Hol Chan, Ambergris Caye
• Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, Belmopan Area
• Laughing Bird Caye National Park, off Placencia
• Guanacaste National Park, Belmopan
Lan Sluder/Belize First


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