William and Kate, pictured, include Belize on their upcoming 12-day Caribbean tour
The news that William and Kate are including Belize on their 12-day Caribbean tour, marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, raised some eyebrows.
For many people, the small Central American country – slightly larger than Wales, with a population of less than 400,000 – is off the radar.
But as British Honduras, Belize was – from 1783 to 1964 – a Crown colony. The Queen remains the constitutional monarch, with the official title “Queen of Belize” – which sounds like a calypso song.
In 1981, after a long period of feuds with neighboring Guatemala, the country became fully independent and is now a stable democracy.
Unlike Barbados, where the queen has ceased to be head of state, Belize does not plan to change its relationship with the Commonwealth or the monarchy.
The British Army has a permanent base, using its mountainous western flank for jungle warfare training.
A beach on Ambergris Caye – the largest of the many islands that lie between the mainland of Belize and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
Deep in the rainforests lie the mysterious Mayan citadels of Caracol, Lamanai and Xunantunich – and, oddly enough, a luxury hotel owned by director Francis Ford Coppola.
The country looks and feels Caribbean, but was once part of the Mayan Empire; its official language is English, but people also speak the Kriol, Spanish and Mayan languages.
It is also the home of the Garifuna, the descendants of Africans, Arawaks and Caribs. Famous for their drumming, the Belizean Garifuna have their spiritual capital at Dangriga.
Environmental themes will be an important aspect of the royal visit. An essential step will be the Mesoamerican coral reef. Home to a dizzying array of marine species including manatees, crocodiles, four types of sea turtles, sharks and rays, and the second largest coral reef on the planet, it is a biodiversity hotspot – and a dream destination for professional divers and first-time divers alike. look alike.
Deep in a rainforest in Belize lies the mysterious Mayan citadel of Caracol (pictured above)
Above, San Pedro, the main township of Ambergris Caye, which is said to have inspired Madonna’s La Isla Bonita.
Ambergris Caye – the largest of the many islands that lie between the mainland and the reef – is a magnet for wealthy Americans and a multinational crowd of boaters. It is home to the cream of Belize’s upscale resorts and the country’s finest restaurants, as well as manicured beaches, crystal clear waters and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve – a protected habitat for jaguars, ocelots and pumas.
The main township, San Pedro, is said to have inspired Madonna’s La Isla Bonita, although reggae and marimba are the main soundtrack in cocktail bars and beer shacks. Rum punch is the national drink.
In his party days, Prince William was known to be a heavy drinker of rum-based Treasure Chest at Mahiki in Mayfair; there’s no doubt that bartenders in Belize are already working on a local variation.
A family classic
Travel by boat through the deep jungle to see the ancient temples of Xunantunich, pictured during a break with adventure tour operator Explore
A vermilion flycatcher bird at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, which is also home to spider monkeys, toucans and crocodiles
Belize is an ideal destination for a family vacation. Visit the rainforest at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary to see spider monkeys, toucans and crocodiles, and enjoy a day trip to secluded Davis Falls, Belize’s second highest waterfall.
Travel by boat through the deep jungle to the ancient temples of Xunantunich and Lamanai.
How to do: From £3,044 pp for 14 days, including flights and most meals (explore.co.uk).
From your jungle-lodge bases in the Mayan Mountains, visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves, a Mayan ceremonial site; enjoy waterfall hikes; and go rappelling and ziplining at Bocawina Rainforest Resort.
Travel to Glover’s Reef Atoll to try stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and coral reef snorkeling.
How to do: From £3,000 pp for 11 days, excluding flights – expect an additional £600 (journeylatinamerica.co.uk).
The big blue hole
Divers will love Belize – explore the country’s Great Blue Hole, pictured, on a trip with Dive Worldwide
Belize is a world class diving destination. A “cruise” vacation on the 55-meter, 20-passenger Belize Aggressor IV will allow you to explore Lighthouse and Turneffe Atolls.
The first includes the Great Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau.
How to do: From £3,475 pp for ten days including flights and seven nights on board (diveworldwide.com).
A waterfall at Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary in the Maya Mountains, which features on the Cox and Kings tour
There are no direct flights from the UK to Belize. Most people fly via Atlanta, Houston or Miami in the US Cancun is a 90 minute flight by propeller plane. More details on travelbelize.org and lata.travel. Fully vaccinated tourists are not required to take a test. Unvaccinated travelers must present a negative PCR or antigen test. All tourists must pay £14 for Belize Travel Health Insurance (belizetravelinsurance.com).
Spend three nights in the seaside town of Placencia, the perfect jumping-off point for the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary in the Maya Mountains, a large nature reserve created to protect pine and scrub forests and endangered species such as the jaguar.
How to do: From £2,295 pp for 12 days including flights (coxandkings.co.uk).
Jump to Guatemala
Compare and contrast these two neighboring countries, with visits to the ancient capital Antigua, Lake Atitlan and the ruins of Tikal – once the Mayan “capital” – in Guatemala and stays at the Lodge at Chaa Creek and Naia Resort & Spa in Belize.
How to do: From £3,800 pp for 13 days including flights (scottdunn.com).
The luxury of movie sets
Spend three nights at Coppola’s luxurious Blancaneaux Lodge (the setting includes filming facilities) in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reservation, with a road trip to see the Mayan site of Caracol.
Next, visit Lamanai before flying to Ambergris Caye to stay at the beautiful Victoria House Hotel.
How to do: From £3,850 pp for ten days including flights; budget for an overnight stay in the United States (lastfrontiers.com).
Group tour by land
Colorful: Ride a water taxi in Belize City on a tour with Intrepid Travel and visit Caye Caulker Island (pictured)
A woman attends a class at a cocoa plantation in Punta Gorda
Discover the Mayan lands of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. There is an option to snorkel in the reef off Cozumel.
A bus ride south to Belize City is followed by a water taxi to Caye Caulker and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
How to do: From £1,088 pp for 17 days excluding flights (intrepidtravel.com).
A great journey
Visit a cocoa plantation in Punta Gorda in the south, experience a jungle adventure, take the Medicine Trail in the Orange Walk district, and try a snorkeling excursion from Ambergris Caye.
How to do: From £5,300 pp for 15 days including flights (audleytravel.com).
Ruins and reefs
The Rainbow Tours getaway, which costs from £3,095 pp, stops at the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Above is the Lamanai Jaguar Temple
Explore the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, set in dense jungles and overlooking the New River Lagoon, a habitat for howler monkeys, river turtles and stunning wildlife. Visit Caracol, another Mayan site, before heading to the beaches of Ambergris Caye, a base for diving and snorkeling excursions.
How to do: From £3,095 pp for 11 days including flights (rainbowtours.co.uk).
Natural History Peaks
Visit ruins, rainforest, rivers, lagoons, reefs and coral islands, staying in jungle lodges where the focus is on forest environments and local wildlife – including black howler monkeys, deer, ocelots and jaguars. Treat yourself to the beachfront Turtle Inn.
How to do: From £3,120 pp for 13 days, excluding flights (reefandrainforest.co.uk).