Planning Your Time
Most Maya-centered Belize trips are based in San Ignacio or Punta Gorda. San Ignacio (aka Cayo) is a riverside town in the western Cayo District with its own ancient Maya palace, Cahal Pech, at the highest point in town. You’ll find the greatest density of archaeological sites in Cayo District, including Xunantunich, the site of the country’s biggest event on December 21, 2012.
The area is also home to Caracol, an important Classic Period city, and sacred ceremonial caves full of relics and bones. Stay at a guesthouse in San Ignacio, or head to one of the numerous remarkable jungle lodges in the area.
A trip here begins in Punta Gorda (called “PG”), a seaside village easily accessible by a domestic flight from Belize City (or a six-hour bus ride). Participants in the guesthouse program should plan on a few nights in one of the upcountry villages, plus a night in Punta Gorda on either end.
Ocean lovers should plan a side trip to Corozal, where Cerros (or Maya Hill) archaeological site overlooks the peaceful bay. You’ll find some interesting Maya history at the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve on the north tip of Ambergris Caye as well.
From the image of Altun Ha’s main temple on your bottle of Belikin beer to the surge of Maya-related events planned in Belize in 2012, the Maya spirit is very much alive here, where Mopan, Yucatec, and Q’eqchi’ Maya have small communities across the country.
When it comes to planning ahead and promoting “The Year of the Maya,” Belize is, by far, the most organized, forward-thinking country in the region. The Belize Tourism Board (www.travelbelize.org) has an official 2012 slogan, phrased as a challenge: “Where will you be when the world begins anew?” A detailed, constantly updated listing of events, conferences, races, concerts, and festivals is posted on their website.
As part of the broader 2012 campaign, the Belize Tourism Board is offering a special 2012 Passport, which allows travelers to purchase bulk visits to the main archaeological sites; it includes a special commemorative book, stamps, cards, and stickers to collect at each site. These should be available at hotels and airports.
© Josh Berman from Moon Maya 2012