After a night-bus south from Mexico, I arrived in Belize. Belize gained its independence from British rule in 1981 but still retains quite a lot of influence from its colonial past. For starters, English is still the native language (where Spanish is spoken everywhere else), they drive on the right side of the road and even have the Queen on their currency.
Belize is probably most loved by diving enthusiasts due to the abundance of wildlife in the oceans (similar to the Great Barrier Reef) and the infamous ‘Blue Hole’ that people travel all around the world to see. For me, the highlight was snorkelling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
There is really nothing quite like it; you can swim with thousands of different species of fish, rays, nurse sharks and even manatees. It is an experience unlike any other.
To the west of Belize are several sets of Mayan ruins. Whilst there, I visited the pyramid of Xunantunich (which can be found just 45 minutes away from the town of San Ignacio).
Strangely, these ruins were practically deserted without any other tourists in sight.
After my short stay in Belize, I crossed the border into Guatemala and headed to the town of Flores.
Whilst I don’t normally give comparisons between countries, I would have to say that I had a much better experience in Guatemala and believe that it is the better country to visit between the two.
It’s strange, I never had a bad experience in Belize but, while walking through Belize City especially, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t a safe place to be. It reminded me of Salvador in Brazil where week after week I met tourists who were threatened or robbed on the streets of Pelourinho. It wasn’t a nice feeling to have. On the other hand, I never once felt that way in Guatemala. In fact, I was taken back by how peaceful and beautiful Flores is – it’s the perfect spot to visit for anybody who wants to experience the country.
I was lucky to be in the town during the country’s Independence Day – where people celebrate throughout the weekend with parties, parades and by running through the streets with fire torches.
On my last day, I visited the ruins of Tikal. These were probably the biggest set of Mayan ruins that I’ve seen and you would honestly need an entire day to explore them all!
If you have a chance, I would recommend going to these ruins before sunrise – this would mean waking up at the ungodly hour of 3:30AM but I promise that it’s worth it!