Getting Oriented

The Cayo's main connection to the coast is the George Price Highway (formerly the Western Highway), a paved two-lane road running 78 miles (128 km) between Belize City and the Guatemala border. The highway is in generally good condition, but shoulders are narrow, and parts of the highway can be extremely slick after rain. Scores of people have died in traffic accidents on the highway in recent years. Secondary roads, mostly unpaved and sometimes difficult to drive on, branch off the Western Highway, leading to small villages and to the Mountain Pine Ridge, the Spanish Lookout Mennonite area, and various jungle lodges. The Mountain Pine Ridge is crisscrossed by an extensive network of gravel and dirt roads, some formerly logging trails.

At Belmopan the paved Hummingbird Highway is one of Belize's most scenic roads (its rival is the newer San Antonio Road towards the Guatemalan border in Toledo District), cutting 54 miles (90 km) southeast through the Maya Mountains to Dangriga, passing Blue Hole National Park. Mile markers on the Hummingbird start in Dangriga and increase as they go to Belmopan.

Belmopan City. Although hardly a tourism hot spot, Belmopan is Belize's newest city (in Belize the government designates urban areas as cities, towns, or villages) with a growing number of restaurants and hotels. The U.S. Embassy has a US$50 million compound here, and around Belmopan are several excellent jungle lodges.

San Ignacio. The hub of western Belize, San Ignacio is a bustling little town. Here you can arrange tours (often at lower prices than from jungle lodges), shop at the local market, and get a good meal, whether you're hungry for Indian, Italian, Chinese, Belizean, or even Sri Lankan.

Benque Viejo. The last town in Belize before you reach Guatamala, Benque Viejo has modest art and cultural attractions worth checking out, as well as a Mayan burial cave.

Mountain Pine Ridge. The largest forest reserve in Belize, the Mountain Pine Ridge covers almost 300 square miles (777 square km). Crisscrossed by old logging roads and small rivers, and dotted with waterfalls, the Mountain Pine Ridge—at elevations up to almost 3,400 feet, and noticeably cooler than other parts of the Cayo—is the gateway to the Chiquibul wilderness and to Caracol. It's also home to three top-notch jungle lodges.

Caracol. The largest and most important Mayan site in Belize, Caracol rivals Tikal in Guatemala in historical importance and archaeological interest.

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