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Belize, Central America
Categoty: Travel destinations
Belize: An unknown paradise in Central America
A small country with many faces: inside you will find jungle full of important monuments of the Maya, on the coastline Creole residents speak Anglika and remind Jamaica and the islands of stunning coral reefs, sandy beaches of the Caribbean. What else would call "exotic getaway"?
Unknown to most travelers paradise faraway Belize - after few know that it was the former British Honduras. Maybe not so strange, since it is one of the newest members of the international community. The tropical forests of mahogany, pine, Ceiba, breadfruit and tsiklodentra was why Spaniards and Britons claimed Aesop sovereignty of Belize. Eventually, the British prevailed and added the British-as they called it-Honduras to the list of colonies. But in 1964 the country gained its own government with British supervision in 1981 became an independent nation in 1983 officially changed its name to Belize.
Small country with an area of only 23,300 square kilometers and 60% of its territory, and its territorial waters be designated protected areas and national parks. Among them the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, length 290 km, declared by UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes 70 different species of coral and 400 species of fish. In the north the territory of the country is flat and the southern regions dominated by the Maya Mountains. Over 540 bird species have been recorded-among them many species of migratory, toucan, woodpecker, Macau and many parrot species-and the first protected area of jaguar (an endangered species) and animals that belong to the family of felines. Dense jungle crossing rivers, between mountains, waterfalls, caves (very impressive that of St. Germain in Ntangkrigka that it labyrinth of cavernous rooms with narrow passages, stalactites and stalagmites, underground rivers and streams of light from openings in the ceiling) dominate territory - and among them the ruins of ancient Mayan cities. Most archaeological Mayan cities are still buried by the thick jungle. In Altun A (Water of the Rock) and Lamanai (Crocodile was covered by water) began excavations in 60s and 70s, and later followed by the EBA Canal (Area of teak trees), Karakolis (Snail) with the highest pyramid Serros Maya (Mayan mountains), and many others.
The Belize has a population of 265,200 inhabitants and is divided into six districts: KOROS, Orange Walk, Belize, Key, Stann Creek and Toledo. Residents who have English as the official language, are of different nationalities. The Mayans belong to three different breeds: Kektsi who came to work on sugar cane plantations in the South, Mopan River valley Belize and Gioukatekoi who lived from Korosal by Orange Walk, and together constitute 10% of the population. When they arrived in the country the British settlers to exploit the timber, they brought with them African slaves and Caribbean Indians of the Antilles. The offspring of these tribes are the Creole, who speak a mixed language from English, Maya, Spanish, Afrikaans and constitute 60% of the population. The Mestisos (Spanish with Maya Indians) speak Maya-Spanish, while other residents are refugees from Mexico's Yucatan, Guatemala and Central America in general. Within this medley there are minorities such as Gkarinagkou, descendants of African slaves shipwrecked in the West Indies, speaking Gkarifouna. The descendants of laborers from India who arrived in 1844-1917 to work in the cane, no longer speak their mother tongue Hindi, and remained in the country and traders from China, Syria and Lebanon, and a small proportion of occupied and ethnic German Mennonites.
The capital of Belize is Belmopan with a population of about 7,000 inhabitants. It is a very quiet town, a center of the independent parliamentary and democratically elected government of the country. Already since 1930, the largest city in Belize City was badly damaged by the devastating tornadoes and tidal waves in the Caribbean, as well as in 1955, while the final blow given by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Thus, he decided to open his Belmopan, in which all government agencies were transferred to 1970.
The old capital of Belize City
The mouth of the Belize River lies the town separated from the creek Chaoulover. The Belize City has about 70,000 residents and, although no longer the country's capital, remains a cultural and economic center. Most buildings are wooden, Victorian architecture and built after the devastation of 1930. Among the few who survived, is the governor's palace, one of the oldest buildings in Belize, residence of the British governor, the work of British architect Christopher Vren 1814. The palace has now turned into a cultural center where exhibitions and cultural events, and some places are as a museum, with a collection of furniture, silverware and everyday objects that stood out the crystal glasses of wine of kings Victoria and George 6th and give the climate colonial era. Of the most stable buildings and the Cathedral of St. John, built in 1812 by African slaves with bricks that were used as a counterbalance to the ships, and is the oldest Anglican church in Central America. The colonial building of the Supreme Court in Regent Street was built in 1926 and boasts a wrought staircase and the quadrangle old clock.
Among the attractions is the Baron Bliss Lighthouse, so named in honor of the eponymous baron who, though he only saw the coast of Belize from his private yacht, was so excited that he bequeathed his entire fortune to the state after his death . Under the Lighthouse is the tomb-monument, indeed every March 9 is a representation of the ceremony's funeral. The shopping center marks the Chain Bridge, which is the only manual bridge of this type. Connects the two banks of the river and opens when starting the big boat to the islands (Quiche). Impression you make Jamaican origin "rastafarianoi", which will surely encounter in the streets of the city center and stand out from the very long hair that is not cut ever since prohibits the sects. They believe in the redemption of the black race and on their return to Africa, and pray to the king of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, whom they call by its proper name, Ras Tafari.
The ancient Mayan city of: Lamanai
The River New River, in the province of Orange Walk, leading to the ancient city of Maya Lamanai. Dense woodlands surround the river with birds' nests, where they have recorded more than 409 different species. Due to the abundance of fish in the river is largely based on the survival of the inhabitants of the region, while fishing with fishing line and hook onto dugouts. In point Sipgiarnt resident community of Blue Creek Mennonite.
The Mennonites, deeply religious, keep the tradition of Amish and old speak a German dialect known as Nedergerman. Very humble and shy, all wearing hats and women dressed in traditional long dresses. Cultivate sugar cane and citrus with traditional ways, since they insist on rejecting everything modern, and manufactures handmade furniture which sell in the local market of Belize City.
The city Mayan Lamanai, continuously inhabited for 3,300 years - from 1500 BC until 1875. The word at Lamanai Mayan language means "crocodile was covered by water." Through the dense jungle on the banks of New River, among tall trees Ceiba, Breadfruit, wild fig and black orchids, emerges the ceremonial center with impressive buildings, pelota court and temples. The Temple W 10-43 is the highest of the pre-classical period. The area, which was one of the largest and most important ceremonial centers, including even the most representative architectural patterns from the pre-classical to post-classical period of the Pre-Colombian America. Near the river pier was built just two years ago the impressive new museum with exhibits significantly from the archaeological site: big stone inscriptions, ceramics, and various ritual objects.
And the exotic Ampergkris
To the west of the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, in waters that are 4-5 meters deep, emerge Cayes - Quiche as pronounced. Among the 200 large and small islets of Belize in the Caribbean singles Caye Caulker and especially Ambergris Caye, which is the largest, with San Pedro, the largest and most developed tourist town. It was named in honor of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, was founded in the mid-1800s and was a refuge for refugees Mestisos the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Towards the end of the 19th century, the island was sold to bank auction by the British Government to the British James Hume Blake for $ 625. Blake decided to cultivate coconuts on the island and when the coconut trade declined, the residents have returned to fishing was the main occupation old. The "Isla Bonita" as proudly call their island by singing Madonna, located 58 km north of Belize City and has a population of 2,000 inhabitants. Ideal landscape with old wooden houses painted in bright colors, the typical Caribbean style, but mostly with white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, depleting the shades of the blue with the sunlight, and coconut on the sand countless huge shells.
Rich and the bottom, especially in coral reef, which is just four miles from the coast of Ampergkris Ki and registered as a protected area. The Marine Park Hol Chan («small canal" for Maya) is like a huge aquarium with thousands of colored fish in coral. Dives are organized by the faculty of the island with the help of trainers - guides. Every so cruisers embark on this important marine park, while many are limited to swimming with colorful fish and young sharks. Others, less adventurous, merely rides on the boats with glass bottoms, while ambitious anglers sally with fishing boats in selected areas.
Apart from maritime activities vacationers rent bicycles are the main means of transportation in this picturesque island or choose cute electric golf cars, although the city with three main streets walked very comfortable. On the main beach, one kilometer long, are almost all luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, completing the enchanting image of an exotic island.
Blancaneaux Lodge: hotel of Coppola
The first visit of famed director Francis Ford Coppola was in Belize after independence in 1981, to persuade the rulers to create a global satellite communications center. Can this mission be failed, but he fell in love with this paradise (like features), which is strongly reminiscent of the jungle in the Philippines when he turns the Oscar-winning film "Apocalypse Now."
In a landscape with dense vegetation dominated by tall pine trees, 450 altitude, beside the waterfalls with crystal clear waters of the river Privasion decided to buy the abandoned Blancaneaux Lodge along with 10 hectares of jungle in western Belize within the protected forest, which in first he used as a personal retreat for family and chosen friends. In 1993, celebrating its 54th birthday with friends who came highly for celebration, Blancaneaux Lodge began to function as a hotel famous for travelers. For the conversion of enlisted the help of the Mexican architect Manolo Mestre, who created villas and cabanas wood in the jungle, and propped on poles with hand woven palm leaf roofs.
Today along the riverbank, the complex includes 7 villas and six luxury cabanas, while the wedding bell above the big waterfall formed by the river. The interior decoration done by him Coppola and his wife Eleanor, who traveled for this reason in Mexico, Guatemala and Bali, choosing features furniture and decorative folk art matched with Nature. Local artists created the ebony furniture like colorful hand woven linen with ancient mystical symbols of the Maya. The bathrooms in the rooms were a Japanese-style, covered with small tiles, available exclusively cosmetic and herbal soaps. All vegetables and fruits served in complex produced organic gardens, and production not only sufficient, but many times the surplus sold to the local market of the nearest village of San Ignacio. Still cultivated variety of Arabic coffee, for which Coppola brought the special roasting machines for espresso and cappuccino. Beyond the paste and pizza which was built in the first place specialist wood oven (due to the Italian origin of the director), the menu includes excellent recipes with fresh local fish, chicken houses, and the famous "lemon chicken ala Coppola "! The wines are produced by the family vineyards in Napa valley and imported by air in order to ensure their quality during transport.
In the complex work and the first autonomous private units utilizing hydropower river, so that there is continuous supply of electricity - something new for the country suffering from frequent interruptions. The stables housed the horses of the family, using both the guests for riding in the surrounding areas and other activities offered are: swimming in waterfalls, caving, climbing, canoeing and bird watching.
The Gkarinagkou and their music
It has been many centuries since a ship carrying slaves from Africa was wrecked near the Caribbean island of St Vincent. There Africans who fled and managed to escape. In 1797, the British brought 4000 people, almost the entire population of Saint-Vincent in Honduras; half dead on the road. From Honduras, the Gkarinagkou, as they were called, were scattered in the coastal communities of Central America and so arrived in Belize. Today the villages of Gkarinagkou's strong African element, both in clothes, food, and their music: Punta Rock, which is a combination of traditional rhythmic drums and pop music. Andy Palacio is the most popular representative of this musical stream, which is considered the national music of the country, although Gkarinagkou constitute only 7% of the total population. The area is Ntangkrigka hometown Punta Rock and countless hometown bands.
Very special is also the old music stream illegal, and rely more on improvisation and rhythms of percussion. It was the musical genre that dominated when Gkarinagkou arrived in Belize and later incorporated Latin American and Spanish elements and added acoustic guitar throughout. The Westernization of music with modern pop elements brought Parani into oblivion and there are few-and-elders today virtuoso musicians. Only surviving musician - is legend Paul Nampor of Punta Gorda. If you have a special interest, visit the area Ntangkrigka not only to listen to music, and also buy handcrafted drums made by the teacher Austin Rodriguez.
The trip to Belize offered by Greek travel agencies organized as part of a larger trip includes round of the Central American countries within 19 to 21 days.
Usually a day stay and tour in Belize City and one day excursions to Lamanai and Ampergkris Ki. The total cost of this trip airfares, accommodation, half board and tours in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, starting from 4,200 euros. If you decide to vacation exclusively in Belize, for 15 days you calculate about 1,200 euros for airline tickets, 500 for 12 nights, about 300 euros for food and around 300 for drinks and various activities, visits, tours, etc. which you can book from the hotel you will be staying. Total 2,300 euros.
HOW TO GET THERE
Quite distant journey to Belize, can be combined with visits to other nearby destinations like Mexico and especially Guatemala, from which you can go to Belize City by road and air, the city Flores (base for visiting Tikal, Mayan ceremonial center).
The Belize City is also from Miami just two hours. Daily direct flights are with American Airlines and Taca from Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco (in this case, it is of course necessary visa America). You can also fly with Lufthansa to Guatemala City (via Frankfurt and Mexico) and then in Mexicana or Taca for Belize City - and this in my opinion is the most economical and comfortable option. From Belize City to small aircraft will go to Kish Island (islands), of which Ampergkris is the largest and is 15 minutes flight from the airport in Belize City, or by water taxi within a half hour. To get to Blancaneaux Lodge, which has its own airstrip, will rent small aircraft or, drive with 4 x 4, you rent. Within the city will move by taxi.
WHERE TO STAY
• In Belize City select the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina (2 Marine Parade, tel: +501-223-3333), located in the safe area of the historic city and is quite satisfactory. Luxury style in Las Vegas, but a special personality is Hotel & Casino Princess (Newton Barracks rd, tel: 501-2232670).
• The hotel Coppola, Blancaneaux Lodge (tel: +501-92-3878, fax +501-92-3919) is located near San Ignacio is an ideal place for those seeking seclusion in Nature.
• In San Pedro you will find amazing accommodations, from small humble guesthouses to luxury resort. The exotic beach are the Ramon Village Resort (tel: 601-6491990), the San Pedro Holiday Hotel (tel: 501-2262014), the Aqua Marina Suites (tel: 501-2264675), the Banyan Bay ( +501-2263739, www.banyanbay.com).
Where to entertain
The Belize generally not suitable for furious holidays. In most bars of downtown Belize City might be better to watch because it can be dangerous for tourists, so you limit yourself to bars of large hotels and restaurants like the Calypso Hotel Princess, which occasionally host local bands modern music. In San Pedro there are too many bars and really there to party as the island is safe.
WHAT TO EAT
The cuisine of Belize is typical of the Caribbean, with Creole influences, presented in dishes with meat, chicken or pork with rice and beans, whereas in the north women make a bread from cassava. Fresh fish accompanied by steamed vegetables and potatoes will enjoy more on the islands, as well as delicious lobster with spicy sauce or without and rice with coconut milk. Of course almost all restaurants serve dishes of European and American cuisine. Avoid for protection from stomach upsets the raw salads and fruits that do not peel yourself. Very tasty is the local beer Belikin, and certainly will drink only bottled water. Well-known restaurants are the Smoky Mermaid (Tel: +501-2234759), Chateau Caribbean (Tel: +501-2230800), Harbor View (tel: 501 -2236420) to Belize City and Blue Water Grill (tel. : +501-2263347), Palmilla Restaurant at Victoria House (tel: 501-2262067) at Ampergkris Ki.
What To Buy
In Belize City you can buy, in addition to hand-made ornaments, wood carvings, ceramics and jewelry, coffee Belize packed granular or ground and will find the central market of the city. Interests are music cd mainly reggae bands, Punta rock and Parana, and paintings of local artists. Shopping center is the area around the Chain Bridge, while in San Pedro, along the long beach, there are too many souvenir shops. The National Handicraft Center (tel: 501-2233636) is located on Fort Street Belize City and includes artefacts from across the country. Those who have musical interest for percussion, let's look for the famous percussion manufacturers to buy some traditional drum. Those philatelists, let's take a look at the mail shop in Queen Street.
Language and currency
The official language is English, with several words of the local dialect and spoken Spanish and Indian dialects of Maya. Official currency is the Belize dollar, where a euro corresponds to approximately 2.62 Belize dollars, while the U.S. dollar is equivalent to about two dollars Belize. To better serve you best to have American dollars, which the change easier.
Most days of the year, the weather is hot and humid. The dry season lasts from October to May and from June to October, especially from mid-August to mid-September is the hurricane season in the Caribbean affecting the coast and islands of Belize. From mid-December to April is the best time to visit - make your reservations early.
• The carnival is celebrated throughout the country every year and many dance groups give performances.
• Fishing Tournament with a similar prize in Belize City.
• cycling race in honor of Valentine's Day, where cyclists start from Belmopan and ends in Belize City.
• The Belize visa is not required. With your departure from the country will pay departure tax $ 20 America.
• Get your films and slides you will need in advance, and perhaps hard to find what you want in Belize, and take your bags with silicone caps to protect them from moisture.
• If you travel package will not need vaccines, but if you plan to stay long, it is advisable to take pills for malaria. But certainly take your repellents and ointments for mosquito bites, sun protection cream and your staff small pharmacy in case.
• Avoid the center of Belize City in the evenings as it is dangerous, while the day visiting with friends.
• Watch your money and your passport (which always hold a separate point a photocopy), do not take your jewelry but do not wear fake nor impressive, as the locals are not able to succeed.
• Greek Embassy in Belize, tel: 501-8220351.
• Time Difference: 8 hours back in the summer, nine hours behind the winter.
Accommodation: www.radisson.com / belizecity / bz, www.princessbelize.com
For rare recordings of local musicians: www.stonetreerecords.com
Local travel agents: www.jaguarbelize.com
For rejuvenation and body treatments with natural beauty products: www.maruba-spa.com
Volunteer work in archaeological excavations, national parks and marine parks, research institutes: www.lamanai.com, www.bfbelize.com, www.oceanic-sociaty.com
Fishing trips: www.belizeriverlodge.com
Tourist services: www.btia.org, for guides www.belizeguide.org, for hotels www.belizehotels.org, car hire www.budget-belize.com, for cheap airfare www.opodo.com
Categoty: Travel destinations
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