Belize: Small Wonder

Article excerpt

Rain Forest sliced by rushing rivers. Swamps. Rugged mountains surrounded by jungles. The largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, playground for sundry shapes of colorful fish. Sandy beaches, palm trees and soothing sea breezes. and magnificent Mayan ruins hidden in the forest depths stunning proof of an advanced civilization that flourished long before Europeans stumbled upon the New World Small wonder that Belize is called the Adventure Coast.

Wedged between Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea, Belize is best known for its Mayan ruins, many of which are still being excavated and are neither as "polished" nor as tourist-laden as their counterparts in Mexico. Altun Ha, the 2,000-year-old temple north of Belize City, is the most extensively excavated site in the country and includes the largest Mayan Jade carving existence.

Xunantunich, lying near the border with Guatemala, was a major ceremonial center for the ancient Mayans and can only be reached by ferry. It's a journey well worth making: Here you will find several excavated status and tombstones, plus "El Castillo," a 130-foot-high pyramid that is climbed along a winding trail that offers a panoramic view of the lush countryside.

While Belize inspires a spirit of adventure, it does not require one: Beaches, snorkeling, the Belize Zoo and the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary - an extensive network of lagoons, marshes and waterways that are home to thousands of bird, including the giant jabiru stork, with its 12-foot wingspan - require little beyond a capacity for enjoyment. …