Before the world descended into lockdown madness, I was lucky enough to be travelling on the other side of the world, exploring beautiful Belize and Mexico. I spent 6 weeks in Belize and loved my time there. I covered a lot of ground, leant about the varied Belizean culture, honed new skills and volunteered for an eco project for a month. In this post I'll offer a guide to budgeting for Belize, describe my route and must-see places and reveal a few more key lesser-visited gems!
Belize is a small country with few major tourist sites, and most of these are situated on the peaceful coast or the tranquil islands. San Ignacio is located in the Cayo region of Belize, amongst rivers, ruins and rainforests, and has a whole unique character of its own. Luckily, I was able to spend a month in the area whilst volunteering nearby, and got to know the city and surroundings very well. I therefore have a list of about 2 weeks' worth of things to do in and around San Ignacio, so this post may be a long one! I fell in love with San Ignacio and it became my favourite place in Belize, so it's not to be missed.
Being based in San Ignacio for a month had many benefits, including being just a short ride away from Guatemala. It's a well-traversed path and most travellers in San Ignacio are either heading to Flores or have just been there. I decided to use a few days off during my workaway to visit Flores and take a tour around the largest Mayan site, Tikal. It was a tantalising taste of Guatemala and it's left me itching to get back to travel around this unique country.
Something that was high on my Belize Bucket List was diving on the reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. I definitely ticked it off and completed my Open Water PADI training throughout six dives on this stunning reef. I completely fell in love with diving, and with the small, characterful island of Caye Caulker, where I spent almost a week. I filled the rest of my days with hammocks, puppies and yoga and I loved it.
Sarteneja is affectionately known as the place where the sun sets on the water. It's the only place in Belize where you can witness this and it gave me some of the best sunsets I've ever seen. Not only that, this small fishing village, visited by few tourists, is a quiet respite from the bustling islands and vibrant towns around the country. There are only boats, animals and jungle here, and it was perfect.
Bacalar is a really unique spot in southern Mexico, just an hour from the border to Belize. It's a standard stop off point for all backpackers traversing Belize and Mexico and unbelievably beautiful. Known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours, it's crystal clear, shallow freshwater invites everybody to jump in or relax on the swings dangling above the surface. At sunrise, it becomes a whole new place was by far my favourite time on the lake.
Valladolid is a colourful city with gorgeous architecture and a Spanish feel to it. The streets are laid out on an easy grid and culminate in impressive plazas surrounded by pretty restaurants and live music any time of day. It feels bright and happy through the day and comes alive with salsa music and street food in the evening. Staying in this lovely little city is only the start of it though as it's surrounded by magical cenotes, is close to the sprawling Rio Lagartos and is the gateway to the famous Chichen Itza.
Isla Holbox felt like true paradise from the moment I stepped off the ferry. Colourful fishing boats bobbing at the harbour, golf carts trundling along the sandy roads lined with wooden buildings and murals, and powered white sand along the whole shore of the small island. To me, it was perfect.
Breathtaking mountain views, scorching sunshine and a peaceful wild camp on the shores of Sprinkling Tarn. Altogether a gorgeous weekend in the Lakes.
Luckily for me, my recent jaunt to Portugal didn't end with pretty Porto and I got to spend a couple of days revisiting one of my favourite cities: Lisbon. This city is undeniably cool, strikingly beautiful and full of life and colour. I loved it the first time I visited and I loved it even more on my return.