A Preview: Belize and Guatemala

Every winter I try to escape the cold and go somewhere warm. Last year I escaped to a balmy Portugal as a belated birthday getaway, but this year Mark and I decided to do a bit of a bigger trip. We settled on Central America, a region I am eager to explore more of, and after realizing Costa Rica might break our budget, we decided Belize (with a short side trip to Guatemala) would be just the right fit.

Next on the agenda for overactive travel planners like myself was to figure out what our itinerary was going to be. I’m pretty sure I drove Mark nuts because I sent him about four versions of what I thought we should do, but in the end I’m pretty happy with what we’ve decided on. Surprisingly, while Belize does have a tourist trail, I didn’t find that there were a lot of planned routes that people take. In general, it seemed like people do the coast with some forays into the interior, which is a little different than what we are doing.

So without further ado, here is the preview into our Belize and Guatemala trip that we will be embarking on in less than week’s time.

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Our Belize and Guatemala Itinerary

San Ignacio, Belize

After arriving into Belize City’s international airport, we’ve arranged for a transfer to San Ignacio, Belize which is in the interior of the country. Without necessarily meaning for it, the theme of our interior portion of the trip is heavy on learning about Mayan culture and civilization.

We’ll be:

  • Hiking to the Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve in San Ignacio, an ancient Mayan site that features a museum and several dozen surviving structures.
  • Canoeing through Barton Creek with MayaWalk Tours, a remote cave which was used by the ancient Mayan people for ceremonial purposes. Look for a review of the tour in early February!
  • Doing a day tour with MayaWalk to Tikal, Guatemala (more on that below).
  • Exploring all that San Ignacio has to offer!
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Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal, Guatemala

The border for Belize and Guatemala is only fifteen minutes from San Ignacio, so we decided it made sense to spend a day there to see the impressive Tikal Mayan ruins. Tikal was one of the most famous and important Mayan ruins of its time. As part of our tour to Tikal, we’ll also eat a local Guatemalan restaurant, watch wildlife, and shop at a market.

We initially considered spending a few days in Guatemala, but I didn’t feel comfortable crossing the border in a rental car, and neither of us speak Spanish fluently enough to feel comfortable taking a local bus. As well, we’d prefer to be with a group when crossing the border since it’s apparently a mix of passport checking, paying an exit fee, fumigation, and changing currency (you can read more about how to cross the Belize-Guatemalan border on your own with a car here). So, a day trip made the most sense for our time and skill levels.

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Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize

After getting back from Tikal, we’ll be transferring to the ferry terminal in Belize City to head to the island of Caye Caulker. The beauty of island time is that we have a whole lot of nothing planned – we’ve literally just booked a hotel and will figure out what to do when we arrive there. Having a few drinks by the water certainly sounds like it could be the way we go…

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Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize

From Caye Caulker, we’re ferrying over to Ambergris Caye, a larger island. Here we’ll relax on the beach and perhaps enjoy a sunset cruise. Snorkeling is a popular activity on the island, but somehow my fear of fish makes snorkeling somewhere called “Shark Ray Alley” not sound particularly appealing.

I’d also like to take a boat ride out to Blue Hole, but thus far I haven’t been able to find a tour for less than $175/person, which is a bit more than we want to spend. If we find something more affordable, that would be an add-on we’re open to.

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Belize City, Belize

Belize City, Belize / Ladyville, Belize

Nine days split between the interior and islands of Belize, along with our day jaunt to Guatemala, wraps up with about a half day in Belize City and nearby Ladyville, where our final night’s hotel is. Truthfully, I haven’t see any ‘must-do’s’ in Belize City, but we’ll probably go for a wander around the ferry terminal area before heading to Ladyville for the night.

And that’s our ten day Belize and Guatemalan adventure. Have you been to either country? Any recommendations for us?

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