After Hurricane Hattie struck Belize City in 1961, the decision was made to move the capital and government offices inland. The town now called Belmopan, part of the Cayo District, was built and became the landlocked capital of Belize. Just an hour from Belize City, and equally close to San Ignacio, Belmopan is a calm area with markets, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Belmopan is slowly developing and growing, with more schools, including the University of Belize, restaurants, and conveniences, thanks to an influx of visitors who pass through here on the way to San Ignacio. Belmopan also contains some of Belize’s greatest attractions, including the Blue Hole National Park (not to be confused with the Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef Atoll), home to St. Herman’s Cave and to a beautiful, green turquoise cenote known as the Blue Hole.
Also in Belmopan is one of the country’s most acclaimed adventure lodges and companies, Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch. There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep one occupied in this area as well, such as spelunking, “cave tubing” (floating down the river and caves in a tube), and horseback riding, with many guided tour options available in and around Belmopan.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Market days in Belmopan are Tuesdays and Fridays; you’ll find everything from fresh produce to appliances for sale by local vendors.
- Belmopan boasts ATMs from all banks that operate within the country, which is a rare find.
- Here and throughout the rest of Belize only drink bottled water.
How to Get There
Since Belmopan is relatively small, it is easy to explore on foot. The city does boast good road signage in case you’re driving, and taxis are also available; there is a taxi stand at the Belmopan bus station in Market Plaza. Different bus routes travel through Belmopan and are run by several small, independent companies, so verify where you’re going with the driver.
When to Get There
If you plan to do outdoor activities, consider booking your visit from early December to mid-March, when the weather is pleasant and dry. Because of this, you’ll probably encounter more tourists at this time. The annual Belize Agriculture and Trade Show takes place in Belmopan in May and features exhibits from around Central America, plus a rodeo, rides, music, and more.
Actun Tunichil Muknal This Mayan sacrificial burial site located near Belmopan is a popular excursion for adventurous travelers. Here, visitors can wade through the cave system’s tunnels and passageways, which are filled with stalactites and stalagmites, along with artifacts such as ceramics, stoneware, and human sacrificial remains. From Belmopan, head to the village of Teakettle, where you can meet your guide.
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- Blue Hole National Park
- Crystal Cave (Mountain Cow Cave)
- Actun Tunichil Muknal
- Barton Creek Cave
- Macal River
- Green Hills Butterfly Ranch
- Big Rock Falls
- El Pilar Mayan Ruins
- Cahal Pech Maya Site & Museum
- Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
- San Jose Succotz
- Tikal National Park (Parque Nacional Tikal)
- Belize Botanic Gardens