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Belize

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Continent:America National flag
National flag: Belize
Capital city:Belmopan
Area:22,965 km2 ( 147. )
Population:279,457 Person ( 167. )
People density:12 Person / km2
GDP per capita:1,925 $ / Person ( 78. )
GDP:537,954,725 $
Official language:english

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Wedged into the northeastern corner of Central America, Belize offers some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery – both above and below water – in the Caribbean. Add to this magnificent inland landscapes, archaeological ruins and wildlife to rival any destination in the region, and it’s easy to see why the number of visitors to this tiny country increases every year. Despite its small size – roughly that of Wales or Massachusetts – Belize has the lowest population density in Central America, a fact that contributes to its easygoing, friendly and, with the exception of bustling Belize City, noticeably uncrowded character.

Belizean territory comprises marginally more sea than land, and for most visitors it’s the sea that’s the main attraction. Lying just offshore is one of the country’s, and the continent’s, most astonishing natural wonders – the dazzling turquoise shallows and cobalt depths of the longest barrier reef in the Americas. Beneath the surface, a brilliant technicolour world of fish and corals awaits divers and snorkellers; while scattered along the entire reef like emeralds set in sapphire, a chain of islands, known as cayes, protects the mainland from the ocean swell and holds more than a hint of tropical paradise. Beyond the reef lie the real jewels in Belize’s natural crown – three of only four coral atolls in the Caribbean. Dawn here is a truly unforgettable experience as the red-gold disk of the sun rises over the foaming white reef crest. These reefs and islands, among the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet, are increasingly under threat; Belize, however, is at the forefront of practical research to develop effective protection for the entire coastal zone, which for visitors means a chance to explore some of the best marine reserves in the world.

In fact, Belizeans’ recognition of the importance of their natural heritage means that the country now has the greatest proportion of protected land (over 40 percent) in the hemisphere. As a result, the densely forested interior with its plentiful natural attractions, including the highest waterfall in Central America and the world’s only jaguar reserve, remains relatively untouched. The rich tropical forests support a tremendous range of wildlife, including howler and spider monkeys, tapirs and pumas, jabiru storks and scarlet macaws; spend any time inland and you’re sure to see the national bird, the unmistakable keel-billed toucan. Although it’s the only Central American country without a volcano, Belize does have some rugged uplands – the Maya Mountains, situated in the south-central region and rising to over 1100m. The country’s main rivers start here, flowing north or east to the Caribbean, and forming some of the largest cave systems in the Americas along the way. Few of these caves have been fully explored but each year more become accessible to visitors.

In addition to these natural attractions, Belize boasts a wealth of archaeological remains. Rising mysteriously out of the forests are the ruins of the ancient cities of the Maya, the civilization that dominated the area from around 2000 BC until the arrival of the Spanish. Traces of this astonishing culture have been found all over the country; Maya ceremonial artefacts have even been discovered deep in caves. And although only a few sites in Belize have been as extensively restored as the great Maya cities in Mexico’s Yucatán pensinsula, many are at least as large and in their forest settings you’ll see more wildlife and fewer tour buses.

Culturally, Belize is as much a Caribbean nation as a Latin one, but with plenty of distinctively Central American features – above all, a blend of races and cultures that includes Maya, Mestizo, African and European. English is the official language – Belize only gained full independence from Britain in 1981 – and Spanish is equally common, but it’s the rich, lilting Creole, based on English but typically Caribbean, that’s spoken and understood by almost every Belizean, whatever their mother tongue.

[ Buy on Amazon: Rough Guide to Belize 2 ]

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Map of country Belize

Map of country  Belize

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