Exploring The (Second) Highest High and the Lowest Low of Belize

by Gisselle Hernandez

It’s quite easy to get swept up in the incredulous scenery that is perfectly wrapped up in a pocket-sized country such as Belize. Many are pleasantly surprised when they come to discover Belize goes beyond the beaches. There are verdant rainforests, eclectic wildlife, and warm-hearted people, all ready to aid in broadening your horizons. If you truly want to be committed to getting to know the country from top to bottom, you quite literally can. Belize boasts a massive Maya Mountain range, where thrillseekers go to chase their adrenaline. There is also the ubiquitous plunging Blue Hole, the pride and joy of the small Caribbean nation. What better bucket list than having two of these on your vacation itinerary?

Victoria Peak Natural Monument

Victoria Peak natural monument

Photo courtesy Kevin Quischan Photography

Reaching an impressive 1,120 meters, Victoria Peak is Belize’s second-highest elevation but the most sought after by intrepid hikers. Tucked in the Stann Creek District, the behemoth sits in the lowlands of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve. You can only summit Victoria Peak within the dry season, and you must reserve your spot well beforehand (there’s a long list!) Every year, confident hikers that have trained for months make the three-day trek up the herculean mountain in an attempt to reach the summit. Some say less than 200 have actually completed the feat, but the dream to do so only balloons every year as more people join.

Victoria Peak Trail

Photo by Carolee Chanona

The arduous journey is a hundred percent worth it, however, since you get to gaze above the dense rainforest canopy atop the jutting rock. The journey spans 27km in total, a length that’s nothing to sneeze at. Overnights in the jungle with only the red-eyed mammals and creepy crawlies keeping you company make the trip even more enticing. The green-carpeted hills and chirps of brown jays are there to remind you what a privilege it is to be present in such magnanimous sceneries. Tip: this journey is recommended for experienced hikers and you must be accompanied by a certified guide. 

Great Blue Hole

Flying over the Great Blue Hole. Image via Astrum Helicopters

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Belize’s Great Blue Hole, the lure that draws in thousands of travelers every year. From diving enthusiasts to those simply wanting a very Instagrammable photo from the seat of a Cessna, everyone wants a taste of this giant cenote. In late 2018, Richard Branson and a team of scientists from Aquatica Submarines made the long, dark journey into the center of the Blue Hole to gather important data about its contents and composition.

They reached the very bottom, where not a single ray of light penetrated; the depth was clocked at a whopping 407 feet. While you most definitely will not venture this deep into the underwater marvel, the diving several hundred feet above is still world-class. Plunging into the watery depths, you’ll come across reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, and schools of angelfish, among other exciting denizens. The Great Blue Hole is located in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, 62 miles from the mainland. You could either choose to dive into the World Heritage Site or gaze into the abyss from above via a flyover tour with local carriers like Maya Island Air

Header image: Stalactites of the Great Blue Hole. Photo by Antonio Busiello/WWF

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