The Northern Lowlands of Belize
While Belize City, Placencia Village, and San Pedro are the dominant destinations for tourists in Belize, there’s one stretch of the country that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The Northern Lowlands of Belize are some of the most accessible territory in the country as they’re dominated by farming villages with open stretches of fields and rainforests that are far less dense than that in much of the rest of the country.
The tourism industry here isn’t as robust as it is elsewhere in Belize, so you may want to rent a car if you plan on visiting, but it’s one of the best places to go if you want to meet real locals and see what life is like in the less developed regions of Belize. When tourists do decide to visit the Northern Lowlands, it’s normally to see the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. It might not be the most tourist-friendly region, but scoring a trip to the ruins is rarely difficult. The most common excursion is a full-day tour that takes you up the New River, through denser rainforest, and into the lagoon where Lamanai is positioned. Not only is it a window into the life of ancient peoples, but it’s rich with wildlife and birds.
If you do decide to stay, it’s worth taking some time to visit the local villages to immerse yourself in the local culture. The two biggest settlements here are Corozal and Orange Walk. But while Belize is an English speaking country, this region offers the widest cultural diversity around. This region has one of the largest populations of the Mestizo people. Their cultural heritage is largely influenced by the Spanish and Mayan ethnicity of these locals. The Orange Walk district, in particular, is home to a particularly large population of Mennonites. The local Mennonites still speak German as their native language, and they rely on a way of life that largely eschews modern conveniences for a more simple way of life. Their presence may not influence the food and culture as much as the Mestizos, but it’s well worth taking a time to visit a traditional Mennonite settlement.
As befitting a region less inundated with tourists, finding accommodations can be a little more difficult, so we recognize that you book your stay in advance. Orange Walk is going to have the most promising options, and it isn’t too hard to find a hotel or hostel sitting right alongside the New River. If you want something a little more rustic and immersive, Corozal maintains the friendly demeanor of a coastal town. You won’t find a whole lot to do here, but it is the perfect place to just kick back and relax.