About Belize, Guatemala & Honduras Travel
Belize: Belize City is a busy commercial port, and the cultural and business center of the country. It has charming colonial architecture as well as hotels with modern conference facilities, restaurants and nightlife. Belize, once known as British Honduras, has long enjoyed a reputation among scuba divers the world over for its exceptional dive and snorkel locations. Cayo District is the largest district in Belize, and is home to the national capital of Belmopan. Primarily an agricultural area, it also contains the Pre-Columbian Maya ruins of Xunantunich, Cahal Pech and Caracol. The longest barrier reef in this hemisphere runs just off the Belize coast, and is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Belize is also becoming increasingly known for its land-based adventures such as cave tubing, nature walks, bird watching, mountain biking and horseback riding. The country’s rich history is seen in its ancient Maya sites around the country, many still overrun by the jungle. In the Orange Walk region, the ruins of Lamanai, “submerged crocodile,” feature the Temple of the Masks, with its ruler’s throne, and an ancient ball court. In addition to archaeological sites, the area of Placencia on the southern coast of the country boasts 16 miles of natural beaches as well as restaurants, art galleries, shops, spas, marinas and unique caves, some of which can be explored by kayak. In fact, Belize has the largest cave system in Central America. Although Kriol and Spanish are widely spoken, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Culturally, the country’s identity is both Caribbean and Central American. The combination of natural and man-made assets, including 127 offshore islands, rivers for rafting, jungle, traditional villages, wildlife reserves, excellent diving and fishing, all add up to an irresistible destination.
Guatemala: With its wild volcanic and jungle landscapes, atmospheric colonial towns, staggering archaeological sites and famous Indian markets, Guatemala offers a vibrant overview of the diversity of Central America. The Mayan culture is nowhere more alive and colorful than here. The highland city of La Antigua, commonly called just Antigua, is famous for its well-preserved Spanish baroque architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lake Atitlan is believed to be the deepest lake in Central America, but the bottom has not been completely mapped so its exact depth is still unknown. Three volcanoes sit on its southern rim. The majority of inhabitants here are of Mayan ancestry. The country’s most precious cultural gem is Tikal. The monumental site’s towering pyramids loom out of the thick jungle canopy like stoic sentinels of ancient mysteries. It was once a prosperous city complex with more than 100,000 inhabitants, and was the seat of power for the Jaguar clan lords. The site was not discovered by outsiders until 1848. It equals other great civilizations, and is mesmerizing in its elegance and scale. This UNESCO Heritage of Humanity Site includes a staggering 3,000 or so structures – palaces, temples, plazas, ceremonial platforms, ball courts, terraces, avenues and steam baths. The Maya began inhabiting Tikal about 600 B.C., and for the next 1,500 years it served as an important religious, scientific and political center. Tikal National Park is also home to howler monkeys, boisterous parrots, white-lipped peccary, brocket deer, coatimundi, toucans, scarlet macaws, ocelots, and the rare jaguar. Bird watchers, adventure sport enthusiasts, and those with even a passing interest in history and traditional cultures will find much to like in Guatemala.
Honduras: Honduras has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south through the Gulf of Fonseca. The capital city, Tegucigalpa, was founded by Spanish settlers in 1578 on the site of an existing native settlement. Archaeological evidence reveals that Honduras has a rich, multi-ethnic history, which includes the Mayan presence around the city of Copán in western Honduras near the border with Guatemala. The remains include impressive carved inscriptions and stelae. The ancient kingdom flourished from the 5th century to the early 9th century, with earlier groups dating back to the 2nd century. The Mayan civilization began a marked decline in the 9th century, so by the time the Spanish came to Honduras, the city-state of Copán was already engulfed by jungle. Nestled in the hills above the tranquil Copán Valley, Hacienda San Lucas is a 100-year old family-owned retreat uniquely situated directly above the world-renowned Maya ruins of Copán. Explore the ruins, hike, ride horses, visit the mysterious The Toads archaeological site, or enjoy birdwatching. San Pedro Sula in the northwest Honduras is the second largest city in the country behind the capital Tegucigalpa. Founded in 1536, the city is a major transportation hub. It is also a good starting point to explore the rest of the country. The port city of La Ceiba is on the northern coast of Honduras on the edge of the Caribbean. It is the third largest city in Honduras and is probably the country’s most vibrant. A relatively young city, it got its name from a huge Ceiba tree that was next to the beach and provided shade to dock workers and locals during the afternoon. La Ceiba is close to mountain and jungle areas, and is the gateway to Pico Bonito National Park where outdoor activities include rafting, diving, hiking and horseback riding. The Bay Islands offer a very different world from that of mainland Honduras. The islands’ history is checkered with disputes between the Spaniards and the British during colonial times, with the British actually in control most of time. That gave rise to a unique island heritage. The largest of the islands is Roatan, measuring almost 40 miles in length. The island has a mountainous backbone and is surrounded by coral reefs, offering superb diving as well as excellent fishing.
Suggested Luxury Tour Itineraries
Day 1: Arrive Belize City, Belize / Cayo District
Day 2: Cayo District
Day 3: Cayo District / Ambergris Caye
Day 4: Ambergris Caye
Day 5: Ambergris Caye / Belize City / Depart
Guatemala / Antigua
Day 1: Arrive Guatemala City, Guatemala / Antigua
Day 2: Antigua
Day 3: Antigua / Lake Atitlan
Day 4: Lake Atitlan
Day 5: Lake Atitlan / Guatemala City / Depart
Day 1: Arrive San Pedro Sula, Honduras / Copán
Day 2: Copán
Day 3: Copán / La Ceiba
Day 4: La Ceiba
Day 5: La Ceiba / San Pedro Sula / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Orange Walk, Belize (3 days)
Remote lodges and Mayan ruins are set in the heart of this striking, pristine rainforest.
Placencia, Belize (4 days)
Miles of sand beaches, coral-studded islands, jungle rivers, unique caves and rainforest are made for outdoor adventure.
Tikal, Guatemala (2 days)
Central America’s most impressive and magnificent Mayan ruins were inhabited between about 800 B.C. and 900 A.D.
Roatan Island, Honduras (4 days)
This Caribbean island offers ocean kayaking, snorkeling, diving, deep sea fishing, fly fishing and swimming with dolphins.