girlartifactOn March 5, The Department of State was pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United States and the Government of Belize regarding protection of Belize’s cultural heritage. This MOU demonstrates a commitment by both governments to staunch the pillage and illicit trafficking of Belize’s archaeological heritage of African, indigenous Maya, Spanish, and British influences.

The Government of Belize requested this agreement under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Convention offers a framework of cooperation among State Parties to reduce the further pillage of intact archaeological sites and ethnological objects.

Caracol Mayan ruin

Caracol Mayan ruin is located south of the Belizean city of San Ignacio. Caracol is the most magnificent Maya site in Belize, and in fact one of the largest in the Maya world. It is not as extensively restored as other sites because it was completely lost in the rainforest for over 1000 years until its discovery in 1937. The first archaeologist who studied Caracol soon after its discovery named it “Snail” (“Caracol” in Spanish) because of the large numbers of snail shells found there, but the original Mayan name translated to “Three Hill Water”, making this one of the few Maya sites where the true name is known.

Habitation began approximately 600 BC and continued until 900 AD, or even as late as 1150 AD according to some sources. At its height, Caracol is thought to have been home to 150,000 people, with over 30,000 structures – a far greater density than at Tikal. It covered an area much larger than present day Belize City (the largest metropolitan area in the country of Belize) and supported more than twice the modern city’s population. Water to the ancient city was supplied by man-made reservoirs as they had no reliable river access. One of the reservoirs is used by on-site archaeologists & other personnel to this day. There are seven ancient causeways or roads leading to the site. The tallest structure in Belize – ancient or modern – is Caracol’s El Caana (“Sky Place”) at a height of 137 feet. Over 100 tombs have been found at Caracol.

There has been a breakthrough in recent years in mapping Caracol, visit this excellent New York Times article about this on-going project: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/science/11maya.html?pagewanted=all

For more information on the ongoing archaeological projects at Caracol, visit this website: http://www.caracol.org/

Construction workers laying new pipes and cables on Burns Avenue in San Ignacio in western Belize have stumbled upon a cache of Maya artifacts dating back more than 2 thousand years. The pottery and human bones were unearthed during work that is part of a $2.7 million dollar beautification project in the small town. The workers were using an excavator to open trenches on the street on Saturday when they made the find. The area is home to the nearby Cahal Pech Maya Site. … Read more

The World of the Maya, meaning Belize, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras, made CNN’s list of the World’s Top Destinations for 2012 the network announced Tuesday. CNN’s editors relied on recommendations from four travel experts: Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet; Martin Rapp, senior vice president of leisure sales at Altour; Anne Banas, executive editor at SmarterTravel; and Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for Orbitz.com.

The Mayan region was second in the list behind England and beat out Myanmar, Chicago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, The Netherlands, Atlantic Canada, Uruguay, and Orlando in the top nine.

“Some see it as an approaching apocalypse, others as the beginning of a new era. Whatever your beliefs are about December 21, 2012, interest is skyrocketing in the Maya, the ancient civilization known for the great cities it left behind in Mexico and Central America.

The date marks the end of a 5,126-year cycle on the Long Count calendar developed by the Maya, and there will be events on the occasion in Belize, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras, Banas said.

If you want to see incredible ruins, Reid recommended skipping the tourist hordes at Tulum and Chichen Itza in Mexico and instead head to places such as Tikal, Guatemala (which George Lucas used as a location in the original “Star Wars”), and Chiapas, Mexico.

Reid was once exploring a site near Comitan, Mexico, and said he was astonished to discover he was the only person there.

“I had a pyramid to myself,” Reid said. “You’re just looking out over this mountainous valley, and you have the complete Mayan site to yourself. It’s an unreal travel experience.”

Join us on Belize Adventure Week in 2012. We visit a Mayan ruin, two Mayan ceremonial caves, as well as run rivers, and kayak and surf on our island 35 miles off the Belize coast.

I’m going to Belize in 2 weeks! I have been invited by the Belize Tourist Board on a “FAM” trip. This is travel industry lingo for “familiarization”. I, along with a bunch of other travel industry professionals, are going on a somewhat insane itinerary: we will visit 27 hotels in 5 days! I wouldn’t call that fun, but many of these are places I have heard of for years but never gotten to, and I am looking forward to seeing them. We will be staying in San Ignacio, Mountain Pine Ridge, Placencia, Hopkins, and San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. I’ll be posting more about the trip when I get there.

But anyway, this has prompted me to start thinking about why I want to go. I talk about Belize all day, every day; but what makes it special? Here are my top reasons for traveling south to this wonderful Central American country:

Flying to Belize1 Belize is cheap and easy to get to. That is huge. If you have ever been on a 14 hour flight to Australia, you will know what I mean. Belize has all the exotic qualities of Tavaraua, Fiji, but it takes 70 hours to get to Fiji, and costs about $3000! Your flight to Belize is 2.5 hours from Houston, Dallas, or Miami, and it will cost about $6-800, depending on where you start out from, and what time of year you plan to visit.

And because of #1, we get to #2: You don’t have to take as much time off work because you can get there easily in a day!

3 It’s not crowded in Belize. Even though almost everyone has now heard of Belize (which wasn’t the case when we first started kayaking there in 1986) it remains relatively little-visited. Visitation numbers to Belize don’t come close to Cancun or Costa Rica, and there are many places like our island that strictly limit guest numbers. Just don’t visit Belize by cruise ship! Then you arrive with 5000 others all wanting to do something during the same 6 hour period,

Belize weather4 The weather is great in Belize when it is lousy in the US and Canada. During the peak tourist season in Belize (November – April) the weather is balmy. Temperatures in the mid 80s to low 90s, slight breezes of 12-15 mph, sunny with scattered clouds, and the ocean is 82 degrees! It’s truly everything you think of when you say “Paradise”. To find out more about Belize weather, visit our website.

5 You get to live your Gilligan’s Island fantasy: Beach huts, palm trees, white coral sand, neon-turquoise, crystal-clear ocean water, and tiny coral islands surrounded by colorful fish. If you visit our island when Charlie is working, you will also get to meet The Professor himself!

Xunantunich Mayan ruin6 Belize is an area steeped in culture. History lovers are in seventh heaven. The Mayan culture, both historic and modern, is easily accessible. You can stay with a Mayan family in a small village, or visit one of many Mayan ruins: Caracol, Lamanai, Xunantunich, Nim Li Punit, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, and Lubaantun to name a few. And unique to Belize are the Mayan caves. Tours are offered daily to Actun Tunichil Muknal, Che Chem Ha, and Footprint Cave, or the more adventurous can visit Chiquibul Cave.

7 English is the official language and US dollars are accepted everywhere. This makes traveling in Belize very comfortable for American and Canadian tourists.

Snorkeling in Belize8 You won’t be subjected to 14 hour chicken-bus rides! Belize is small, only about the size of Vermont, so even though there is a huge variety of things to do in Belize, you don’t have to spend hours between activities. In one week it is easy to raft an underground cave system, surf a Caribbean wave, climb a Mayan ruin, snorkel amidst colorful angelfish, run a jungle whitewater river, windsurf in your shorts across 80 degree turquoise waters, hike into a Mayan ceremonial cave, and learn to roll a kayak. In fact, we have a trip just like that, it is called Belize Adventure Week.

9 You get to eat lots of fresh fish. Belize offers the opportunity to enjoy fresh-caught lobster, grouper, snapper, and hogfish. There are excellent restaurants all over the country taking advantage of nature’s gifts from the sea.

Belikin beer10 You also get to drink Belikin Beer, the beer of Belize! Yes, Belize has it’s own beer, and it’s good! Come to Belize and join us on the island where we have a fridge permanently loaded with unlimited Belikin! This is the only beer I know of with a Mayan ruin on the label. You’ll love it!