Introduction

Thor Jansen
© 2006 Thor Jansonenglishcaye
© 2006 Thor Janson

From the famous reefs and cayes and mainland beach resorts to the newer eco-destinations in the beautiful Maya Mountains; Belize now offers the complete package.

With an English speaking population of just over 250,000, Belize remains one of the most tranquil countries in Central America.

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Living side by side are a colorful mixed population of black Creoles, Spanish-speaking mestizos, Maya, East Indians, Syrians, Mennonites, Chinese and North Americans.

With its tremendous biological and cultural diversity, modern Belize offers visitors and travelers a great deal more than shady hammocks and tropical breezes.

jaguar
© 2006 Thor Janson

Belize’s is a destination of easy adventures and pleasant surprises in a land that doesn’t seem to know what it ought to be when it grows up. The appeal for visitors to Belize is precisely its combination of jungle, beach, mountain and Mayan motifs… and its proximity to North America.

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© 2006 Thor Janson

Thanks to its locale on the western border of the Caribbean Sea, its distance from the seat of European sovereignty, and its nearly 200-mile-long barrier reef Belize; formerly known as British Honduras, is built on a freewheeling history.

palms
© 2006 Thor Janson

Five centuries ago, finding nothing to plunder, the Spanish Conquistadores left it largely alone, which turned out to be a mistake when, in the 17th century, it became a base for the pirates and buccaneers who made their fortunes plundering the treasure ships of the Spanish Main.

davids
© 2006 Thor Janson

Belize City, with its safe harbour, became one of the chief ports of iniquity in the Caribbean, until the whole province was snatched from the Spanish by the British in 1862, becoming one of the most obscure colonies of the empire. So it uneventfully remained until 1981, when it became an independent democracy and started it’s slow but stately transformation into a perfectly fantastic travel destination.

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© 2006 Thor Janson

In the 1600s, British pirates who’d wrecked on the reef camped out on the coast and the cayes, plundered Spanish galleons, and started cutting wood. While Spain was preoccupied with other happenings on the Spanish Main, the Brits dug in. It all culminated with the Battle of St. George’s Cay in 1798: The Spaniards thought they’d investigate what the Brits were up to, but the woodcutters, called Baymen, drove them out once and for all. Today, every September 10, Belizeans celebrate the Battle of St. George’s Cay as a national holiday.

davids
© 2006 Thor Janson

Other foreigners have since made Belize their home. While much less disreputable than their nefarious forbearers, Belizeans are as colorful as ever. Most recently many North Americans and Europeans have opened hotels and resorts. In the early 1980s Francis Ford Coppola (the famous movie director) came across the then abandoned Blancaneaux Lodge in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and, enthralled by the region, promptly bought the place. It reminded him of the sets he had built to film Apocalypse Now.

While Belize has long been a backpackers paradise, only in the last ten or fifteen years has it been able to offer the well heeled travelers the creature comforts they demand.

Thor Jansen
© 2006 Thor Janson