ATTRACTIONS OF WESTERN BELIZE
The downtown area of Santa Elena, and San Ignacio, two twin small foothill Mountain and agriculture tourist towns,
straddle the end of the Macal River coming out of the Belize Alps. Altitude is about 400 feet above sea level.
Rolling hills in a valley that controls access in the old Mayan Empire days, between the interior of the Peten of Guatemala
and out to the Caribbean Sea a hundred miles away. This valley has funneled trade since the last ICE AGE, for humans
archeological digs confirm. Locals were eating the extinct GIANT SLOTH back in the ICE AGE. The surrounding hills
have hilltop Mayan ruin complexes; sort of like the Khyber Pass forts between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The best hilltop
Mayan Ruins are Xunantanich and Cahel Pech. These hilltop temple pyramid ruins are older than the Roman Empire, or the previous
Greek Empire of Europe.
There are lots of Mayan ruins in our area in Western Belize. Around the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa
Elena, you will find a lot of small tour operators offering trips to many different sites and other adventures. Little
wood shacks with tour signs, to big operators with hotels, have signs on the street sides, offering trips to anywhere and
everywhere locally. Shop around and get the best price. You can range in price and facility from the deluxe to
the funky in tour trips. Everything is in walking distance and you can shop for souvenirs, crafts, or different styles
of eating, from local campesino and vaquero cafes, to deluxe hotel service. Even vegetarian restaurants, Chinese food,
Indian food from Asia and more. The hotels from the fancy to the primitive are all still considerably expensive in the immediate
downtown area. But there are better bargains to be found like cabins and campgrounds, a short distance away, that often
will more than cover the taxi fare in savings with better quality and a lower price. You can ask at the local tourist
office in the center of the town. Most taxi drivers should be able to advise you on prices and places to stay.
Local tour operators offer trips to the Che Chem Ha caverns, canoing through the Barton Creek Caves that has a section
with pottery and Mayan skeletons that are 3000 years old. You can travel through Mennonite farming country and to Butterfly
A number of waterfalls are offered as attractions. There is the Big Rock Waterfall and swimming pool, the
Five Sisters waterfall, the Blue Hole waterfall and swimming archeological park, also the Vaca Falls on the Macal river.
And of course the Hidden Valley Falls a 1600 ft drop up in the Mountain Pine Ridge on the north side of the Belize Alps.
For other ruins, we have El Pilar, Caracol and a growing number of newly discovered underworld Mayan cave exploring
sites. Caracol is much further away over three mountain ranges in the southern jungles, a long trip. Though occupied
for about 1400 years, the importance of Caracol is that; in the mid Mayan Empire Feudal days, Caracol conquered the rest of
the Mayan Empire and ruled for about 400 years out of Belize. The temple is the highest in Belize, about 140 feet. It
is a fascinating story.
There are a number of competing canoing operators, that do the lower Macal River and gorge. Even tubing is
done on some lower stretches of this river coming out of the Belize Alps.
Several jungle and ranch operations offer accomodations and horseback eco-tour riding trips. There are over a 150
riding horses for tourism on ranches available in the area.
For people into jungle herbal medicines, there is the Panti Medicine man alternative medicinal plant trail.
A tour of jungle plants useful for medicines. Phylis Dart over at EKTUN LODGE on the gorge wall surrounded by jungle,
of the steep Macal River Gorge, has numerous jungle trails and knows her medicinal plants also.
One lodge outfit is into archery into a big way and if you like bows and arrows, offers some serious equipment and
Ian Anderson, still in the Cayo District, but over in the Hummingbird Gap and some distance away from Western Belize
here, is famous for an ADVENTURE trip that includes rapelling into a 300 feet deep sink hole, and having lunch when you get
to the bottom and introducing you to the surrounding rare ecological niche bottom, of the flora and fauna of this spot of
rare jungle trees and plants.
We ourselves, are trying to build a small village of various artists and are promoting the first ever MAYA MOUNTAIN
FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL IN THE AREA. ( donations for prizes welcome ) There are a few MAYAN INDIAN MARIMBA BANDS that
play in the Indian villages and some Boom and Shine makeshift instrument bands. Slate carving is common of Mayan writings
and decorations. Wood carving is popular also. There are some jewellers who make custom stuff out of local materials
and rare mountain rocks.
The funky campesino cafes offer real meal bargains, in price and quantity, as they cater to the local agricultural
community. Saturday morning market day is the biggest in the small country of Belize and this market sits along the
steep picturesque banks of the Macal River between the two towns. On hot days we swim here in the shallows ourselves
and cool off, as do a hundred locals and kids also. This is the local popular swimming hole of childhood memories.
We have plans to construct a permanent campground in the Belize Alps for hang gliders, sailplanes and paragliding
with ultra-lights. There are a beautiful series of pine clad ridges for soaring to be enjoyed and thermals abound on
your average day. Our mountain ridges are about 3200 feet in altitude and you have beautiful natural vistas across the Maya
Mountains. We have not yet explored a Northern approach to the highest peak in Belize, called Victoria Peak from the
Belize Alps pine clad mountain ranges. But hope to get to it this year? This will be a real adventure, traversing
mountain ranges and jungles and rivers. The bird flying distance is about 20 miles, but by foot we don't know?
Nobody has done it yet! You can see the peak off in the distance easily. But getting there and building a hiking
trail with shelters are still for the future! The Belize Alps are about 70 miles away from the twin towns and hostel, over
rough remote logging roads. Belize is still pioneer country, though many of the Lodges are very deluxe and expensive in remote
locations. Many of them are owned by Hollywood movie stars and movie directors. I guess they like the ambience
of nature and nobody around here would recognize a Hollywood movie star anyway; so they enjoy being a normal person on the
streets and byways.