Celebrate International Day for Monuments and Sites with this Belize Itinerary

by Carolee Chanona

It’s a buzzworthy title, but being UNESCO-attested as a World Heritage Site is how locations, across the globe, have distinguished places as tangible or intangible art forms.  An acronym for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, founded in 1945, is a means to help ensure the preservation of our natural, cultural, and intellectual heritage. Of the more than 1,000 awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sites, Belize boasts its very own with the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS), which is comprised of seven marine protected areas. But go beyond this International Day for Monuments and Sites on April 18th by celebrating in Belize with not only the BBRRS World Heritage Site, but all its hidden wonders of archeological reserves and Maya sites, too, thanks to this itinerary from Matachica Resort and Gaia Riverlodge.

World Heritage Sites and Then Some

Dubbed “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” by Charles Darwin himself in 1842, it makes perfect sense for the Belize Barrier Reef to be protected. Not just for its inherent natural beauty, but it’s ecological value as well. Even today, it still clocks in as one of the world’s most famous places for diving and snorkeling. Almost every Belize itinerary includes at least one up-close-and-personal experience with the Belize Barrier Reef. But look a little closer, and there are plenty of cultural and natural gems inland. That includes hundreds of Maya sites and archeological reserves, too.

Entrance to Actun Kabal inside Chiquibul. Image via The Nature Conservancy

A cave in southern Belize contains the second largest underground room in the world, over 1 km. The nearly 540,000-square-foot Chiquibul Cave System is the largest in Belize, the longest in Central America, and a treasure trove of geological and archaeological wonders.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose between these inland marvels and marine wonders. See the best of both worlds with this 7-day Belize reef and rainforest package. 

Ticking Off Archeological Sites Inland with Gaia Riverlodge: 

Besides a personal welcome at Belize City International Airport with ground transportation to the lodge, your inland adventure in Belize begins with your Mountain View Cabana; vistas visible from your king bed include the Maya Mountain range of the Mountain Pine Ridge, a forest reserve in itself. Once you land at the Philip Goldson International Airport—Belize’s only international airport to enter the country—ground transportation awaits with a personal welcome, before whisking you away into the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. A refreshing respite in the highlands of Western Belize, peppered with dramatic granite expanses, waterfalls, and roaring wildlife like mountain lions and rare raptors, you’ll enjoy full breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the Five Sisters; the onsite restaurant at Gaia Riverlodge spills out onto its aerial deck, overlooking its namesake Five Sisters Falls below.  

Caracol Maya Site. Image courtesy Belize Tourism Board

Day One

Your first day trip includes a trip to the Caracol Maya Site, with stops at Rio Frio Cave and the Rio On Pools. Covering an area of nearly 25,000 acres, Caracol is impressive not only for its size but also its location inside the lush and remote Chiquibul Forest Reserve. Not to mention, its main temple Caana (Sky Palace) stands 143 feet high. This makes it one of the tallest manmade structures in the country.

Day Two

On the next day, you’ll head to Barton Creek Cave—in a country with more than 100 navigable caves, including the nearly 540,000-square-foot Chiquibul Cave System, Barton Creek Cave is “wet” subterranean spelunking, only explored by canoe. Gaia Riverlodge gives you the choice to couple it with either a ziplining adventure or a visit to Green Hill Butterfly Farm—a choice of exhilaration or educational elation. Then, you’re headed to the sister property Matachica Resort & Spa outside San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye.

Marvels Visible From Space (And More) with Matachica Resort

After a personal welcome at San Pedro airstrip with a transfer to Matachica, you’ll spend the next 4 nights at Matachica Resort in a Seabreeze Beach Casita; complete with a king bed and hammock-outfitted private veranda, the Belize Barrier Reef breaks within eyesight of your king bed. You’ll grab tropical welcome cocktails upon arrival and listen to the roar of the reef, while daily breakfast, lunch, and 3-course dinner are inside Mambo’s, both Bistro and Restaurant. The real show-stopper here is the included snorkel excursion, which heads to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley Marine Reserves. However, we say one-up it and request an add-on with the Great Blue Hole.  The Blue Hole Natural Monument and Half Moon Caye Natural Monument both make up part of Belize’s WHS. 

Though both monuments are located within Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole Natural Monument is the most iconic image in Belize, and one of its most popular sites. In fact, the almost perfect circular chasm of deep blue measures 1000 ft across and is more than 400ft deep, making it the only “Blue Hole” on earth visible from space. After a day of sun and saltwater, indulge in your included 1-hour aromatherapy massage per guest at Jade Spa—the perfect culmination of celebrating International Day for Monuments and Sites in Belize.

All images via Matachica Resort and Gaia Riverlodge.

Related Articles