Can’t decide where to go first on your quest for pretty Belize towns? Start with these seven.
San Ignacio Town has a twin: Santa Elena Town. Both are a feast for the eyes. San Ignacio is the 2.5 square-mile cultural hub of the Cayo District, so beauty’s everywhere you turn; from the banks of the Macal River to the colorful park next to the police station. Wander nearby Maya ruins at Cahal Pech and discover cave treasures like skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware beneath the ground. Separated from Santa Elena by the metal-suspension Hawksworth Bridge, you needn’t go far to canoe the Barton Creek Cave or see Chaa Creek Nature Reserve. Although, lush waterfalls within the nearby Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve are likely to impress you most when you think of beauty.
From quaint shops to streets decorated with sidewalk chalk art, Benque Viejo Town is picturesque, especially if you love church architecture. Why so many churches? This area remains a Catholic stronghold and religious symbols are reflected throughout town, from the arts to the architecture. Officially known as Benque Viejo del Carmen, this is the westernmost town in Belize, located so close to the Guatemala border, you could walk there. The Mopan River runs along the north and west town banks and buildings reveal this town’s once thriving lumber industry. A stop at the House of Culture is required and you’ll find plenty to see as you stroll streets filled with candy-colored houses, lovely parks and proximity to the area’s equally-impressive Mayan ruins.
Because Punta Gorda’s history as a major seaport and fishing town runs deep, all things related to the sea dominate the capital of the Toledo District in southern Belize. Cultural beauty is found within the heart of Punta Gorda where the We Art Gallery and Maya House of Cacao aren’t to be missed, and if you miss a stop at the Copal Tree Distillery you may never forgive yourself. Beyond the lush beachfront where fisherman display the catch of the day to the delight of photographers and visitors, you can browse small boutiques before arriving at the Warasa Garifuna Drum School, set amid green space, just at the town’s edge. This cultural/educational landmark houses a museum and school beneath a romantic thatched roof. Say no to a drumming lesson and you could miss the loveliest experience of all.
Untamed gardens surrounding each abode against a backdrop of the Caribbean Sea is a unique characteristic, carving Gingerbread-esque houses. Dangriga Town’s unique beauty and personality is found in the history of its ethnic foothold that reflects this town’s color and character today. All of your senses will be engaged when you stroll Dangriga streets to the uplifting beat of Garifuna music. Visit the Gulisi Garifuna Museum, chat up musicians and artisans at the Pen Cayetano Studio Gallery. Discover the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary where waterfalls and trails turn this tropical jungle into a movie set. From your first “Mabuiga” sign (Welcome) to your last taste of Garifuna culture, this town qualifies as pretty for too many reasons to count.
Downtown San Pedro is everything Madonna promised, from the lovely waterfront to the heart of this colorful town. It may have once been a sleepy fishing village but this picturesque haven, situated on the southern part of Ambergris Caye, is now a mecca for foodies, art appreciators and folks seeking a picture-perfect seascape as part of their Belize experience. Tour Main Street on foot to gain a sense of Belize’s cultural mix and include nearby sites on your itinerary like the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley and Bacalar Chico. Grab an opportunity to see the most magnificent wonder of all: the Belize Barrier Reef. The fish and coral that frequent this spectacular reef put the word “pretty” to shame!
What’s the prettiest location in Corozal Town? The shoreline of the quiet Bay of Chetumal where shades of blue and green elude the paintbrushes of artists. If you’ve come from a neighboring country, you’ll notice the distinct Caribbean vibe and appreciate the architecture that features abodes erected on stilts so residents are protected from floods. Your self-guided tour of Corozal must include the small plaza between 1st Street North and 1st Street South and 4th and 5th Avenues. See the Town Hall, home to the historical mural painted by Belizean-Mexican artist Manuel Villamor Reyes and from which you can learn lots about Belize history. If you’ve no desire to venture far but you want to see Maya ruins, walk to the town’s outskirts where the remains of Chetumal, a Pre-Classic Period Maya trading center, can be found.
The streets of Orange Walk Town are best explored by foot so you don’t miss seeing the town’s prettiest highlights. In no particular order, your list should include the Banquitas House of Culture where you can wander around at your leisure to explore this museum’s colorful, fascinating exhibits. Orange Walk Town Park is known to make adults feel like kids again and Independence Plaza is an epicenter of social interaction not far from the New River. If you are wowed by Maya ruins but you’re not up to visiting the ones that take all day to reach, nearby Cuello (dating back to around 2400 BC) should satisfy your craving for pretty stonework crafted by artisans long before you were born!