Getting Oriented

The Philip Goldson Highway, a paved two-lane road, renamed in 2012 for a prominent politician (the international airport is also named for him), is the transportation spine of the region, running about 95 miles (156 km) from Belize City to the Mexican border at Chetumal, passing the two main towns in northern Belize, Orange Walk and Corozal. A bypass around Orange Walk provides a way to avoid the congested downtown.

Branching off the Goldson Highway are a number of tertiary roads, mostly unpaved, including the road to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary; the Old Northern Highway that leads to the Altun Ha ruins and Maruba Lodge and Spa; a road to Shipyard, a Mennonite settlement, which also connects with roads to the Lamanai ruins and to La Milpa ruins and Chan Chich Lodge at Gallon Jug; the San Estevan Road that is a route to Progresso, Copper Bank, and the Cerros Maya ruins, or, via a different branch, to Sarteneja. Another route, unpaved, to Sarteneja runs from Corozal Town and requires crossing the New River and the mouth of Laguna Seca on hand-pulled auto ferries.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. A paradise for birders, this wildlife sanctuary is an "inland island" surrounded by a chain of lagoons, in total covering about 3,000 acres. Traveling by canoe among countless birds, you're likely to see iguanas, crocodiles, coatis, and turtles.

Altun Ha. Easy to get to from the Northern Cayes or Belize City, Altun Ha is the most visited Mayan ruin in Belize. Cruise ship tours bring hundreds of visitors here daily. After the ruins, treat yourself to a cold drink or mud bath at nearby Maruba Resort Jungle Spa.

Northwest Orange Walk District. A fascinating combination of Mennonite farm country, wild jungle, and Mayan sites including Lamanai, La Milpa, and Chan Chich, this remote part of Belize is anchored by two remarkable jungle lodges, Chan Chich Lodge and Lamanai Outpost. Sadly, and almost unbelievably, one of the largest Mayan temples in Belize, Nohmul on private lands near Orange Walk Town, in mid-2013 was bulldozed by a contractor for use as roadfill.

Corozal Bay. It's so low-key you may doze off occasionally, but for relaxation at modest cost you can't find a better spot than the shores of Corozal Bay (also known as the Bay of Chetumal). Copper Bank and Sarteneja are especially laid-back. Corozal Town is an expat magnet.

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