This guest post is from engineer and travel blogger, Ruth Rieckehoff.
Many go to Belize looking for the treasures its Caribbean waters may offer. Some dream of taking a dip in the warm cerulean sea; others fantasize with resting under lush palm trees while soft waves caress their feet. And there is always the opportunity to discover the abundance of color offered by the Mesoamerican reef. There is no doubt. Belize’s waters seduce with their many charms. However, if you are looking for some daring adventures, you have to move inland.
Belize’s Cayo district offers options galore for thrill seekers. The action can be found around the town of San Ignacio. Most of the area tour companies operate from here. Budget accommodations can be found downtown. Take into consideration that San Ignacio is not the prettiest town. It is small and rustic. For better accommodation options, consider the hotels outside the town center.
Now, let’s take a look of what you can do using San Ignacio as your base.
From town, you can independently reach the ruins of Cahal Pech and Xunantunich. These sites are well kept and safe. Chances are you are going to have these places all to yourself and this gives you an incredible feeling. You can spend a couple of hours climbing and exploring.
If you want to go big, you will have to visit the granddaddy of Belize’s Mayan sites: Caracol. This site contains the massive pyramid called Canaa. To this day, Canaa is the tallest structure found on Belize. Those Mayans were something else. Caracol is located deep in the jungle; you have to take a long unpaved road to get there. This means that you will need to book an excursion with a tour operator. Besides the ruins, you will have the opportunity to encounter wildlife while walking around the structures.
The Cayo district has many options for those interested in caves, but if you are interested in doing something amazing, you have to visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. The Mayans believed caves were the entrance to the underworld. For this reason, they used to go to caves to offer the gods human sacrifices and all sort of goods. The ATM Cave is full of pottery used by the Mayans in their rituals. And that is not all. The cave contains the human remains of those sacrificed many years ago. Once there, you will have the opportunity to see skulls and the entire skeleton of the crystal maiden. This person was sacrificed in a horizontal position and the bones glitter because of the nature of the sediment which has covered the remains over the years. This place is pure magic. The walk inside the cave is challenging but any person in good physical condition should be able to do it. Ask your tour operator for specific details to see if this is something for you.
If you are already stressed with all the jungle trekking and spelunking described in the previous paragraphs, river tubing is an option for those who want to relax. Just imagine yourself floating over emerald and turquoise waters (while you are totally surrounded by nature). Ahhh, pure bliss.
Close to San Ignacio, you can find the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. This protected area is an ecosystem different from other parts of the country. Among the unique Caribbean Pines, you can find the Thousand Foot Falls (actually, 1,600 feet tall) which is considered the highest waterfall in all Central America. This is definitely a must see site. Other falls like the Chechem Ha ones can also be visited.
Tikal National Park
I know Tikal qualifies as a Mayan ruin but this magnificent site deserves its own separate mention. San Ignacio is really close to the Guatemala border which makes possible a day trip to glorious Tikal (but you should consider staying a few days in the Guatemalan side). Prepare because the impressive temples are going to take your breath away. This is a totally different world, isolated from reality. Additionally, history and nature follow every one of your steps.
Many tour operators offer the day trip to Tikal for about the same price. Some operators include lunch and border crossing fees in their price; others include only transportation and a guided tour of the grounds. Try to go with the one offering more value for your buck (guides quality is about the same).
Well, here you have it. Pick one or more of these options to have an unforgettable time. Belize has options for all tastes. Give the country a try!!
Bio: Guest blogger, Ruth Rieckehoff, is the master storyteller at Tanama Tales, a blog for outstanding people wanting to share the beauty of life one story at a time. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.