Trip of the week: reef, rainforest and ancient ruins in Belize

Belize is home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef and an array of cultural treasures

Palm trees and dock at a resort in Ambergris Caye Belize
Belize is perfect for beach breaks, rainforest tours or a cultural getaway
(Image credit: Zimmytws/Getty Images)

Wedged between Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, Belize is home to an array of natural habitats, including the world’s second-largest barrier reef. And it has no shortage of cultural treasures either, said Amelia Duggan in National Geographic Traveller, including two spectacular Mayan sites.

A British colony until 1981, Belize is a democracy today, and safer and more stable than many of its neighbours.

It’s also easy to explore: the country is slightly larger than Wales, though with a population of only around 405,000 people – and has a convenient smattering of luxurious lodges. You could visit for the laziest of beach breaks, or for a rainforest adventure – or, like most first-time visitors, for some combination of the two.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The greatest of Belize’s Mayan sites, Caracol, was hidden in the jungle for centuries, and has very few visitors even today. At its height, in the eighth century, it was home to 100,000 people, and the Sky Palace at its heart – a “pyramidal complex of soaring stairs, temples, burial chambers and royal living quarters” – is still the country’s tallest man-made structure, at 139ft.

The ancient city of Lamanai, far to the north, is also impressive, and next to it is one of the country’s best rainforest lodges, Lamanai Outpost. Guests can go in search of jaguars with experts from the research projects it hosts, or visit a Mennonite village nearby; this ultra-conservative Protestant denomination has flourished in Belize since the 1950s.

On the sleepy Placencia Peninsula, there are drumming sessions and cookery classes to enjoy with another of the country’s minority communities, the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna. And further up the coast, Ambergris Caye is “every bit the Caribbean dream”, with white-sand beaches, colourful wooden houses, and fabulous snorkelling over the wildly colourful barrier reef.

Journey Latin America ( has a ten-night trip from £3,702pp, including flights.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.