Orange Walk District is home to a mixture of cultures and some 40,000 residents
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Orange Walk District
The beautiful Central American nation of Belize offers plenty of majestic vistas and landscapes. From its pristine beaches to its untouched jungles, the entire country is truly a sight to behold.
The Orange Walk District is undoubtedly one of the best examples of Belize’s natural beauty. Otherwise known as “Sugar City,” this picturesque region is located about an hour from Belize City and 30 miles from Corozal Town. The area is inhabited by more than 40,000 people, making it the third most populous district in the country. Due to the Mexican influence in the region, Spanish and Creole are the most commonly spoken languages in the Orange Walk District.
For visitors to the Orange Walk District, there is plenty to see and do. The ancient Maya ruins at Lamanai and Cuello are always particularly popular. At these historic sites, travelers can immerse themselves in the Maya culture and get an up-close look at how the Maya people lived and worshipped.
The storied history of the Orange Walk District does not stop there, however. It is also home to two 19th century forts. It is believed that Fort Cairns and Fort Mundy were erected by the British Honduras West India Regiment after battles with the locals. Both sites can still be visited today.
Of course, the Orange Walk District is also famous for its vast expanses of untouched jungle. Travelers to the region can go on an adventure into the wilderness in search of a cascading waterfall or a rare bird. In fact, the region’s jungles are home to more than 400 different species of birds – making it the perfect place to relax with a journal and some binoculars.
The Orange Walk District’s abundance of trees made it an ideal location to set up a logging operation – which is exactly what the locals did until the late 19th century. They would cut down trees and float the timber down the New River and on to Belize City where it was then exported to other regions of the world.
Though travelers to Belize have no shortage of superb options to choose from when picking out the best places to visit during their vacation, the Orange Walk District should sit near the top of every list. Its combination of stunning natural beauty and historic sites makes it the perfect place to take in just about everything Belize has to offer.
Orange Walk Town
Orange Walk Town is the fourth largest town in Belize and is located 53 miles north of Belize City. The town is known for its diversity and visitors come to explore Mayan sites like Cuello and Lamanai (pictured above) and a variety of other natural parks.
If you are looking for ideas on what to do once you are in Orange Walk Town, below are our top 9 favorite things we recommend.
The Top Things to See and do in Orange Walk
Altun Ha – This is one of Belize’s most popular tourist attractions where you’ll find the largest ancient pyramid, the Temple of the Masonry Altars. The Temple is 54 feet tall and dates back to the 7th Century. Climb to the top for a spectacular view!
Shipstern Nature Reserve – With more than 27,000 protected acres, this nature reserve is home to wetlands, lagoons, and tropical forests. All five cat species, along with the endangered Baird’s Tapir and over 300 species of birds are found here.
Cuello – Cuello is the oldest Mayan site found in Belize. To see this magnificent relic, you’ll need permission from the Cuello family as it’s located on their own private land.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary– If you enjoy birdwatching, then you’ll love the sanctuary! Located on 25 square miles, you’ll see over 286 species of birds in their natural habitat of swamps, lagoons, and waterways.
Lamanai – It’s one of Belize’s largest ceremonial centers and means “submerged crocodile”. Found on the New River, the 24 miles of Mayan relics is filled with wildlife, birds, and beautiful scenery. Some of the ruins are: temples, plazas, colonial structures, and a visitor’s center. There is also a colonial sugar mill and the remnants of two 16th century Spanish churches.
Mennonite Communities – Orange Walk is known for its Mennonite communities. It’s not uncommon to find farmers with their horse-drawn carriages here.
La Inmaculada Church – Located in the center of town, this Spanish colonial church is a reminder of the influence the Spaniards had in Belize’s history.
Rio Bravo Conservation & Management Area – The area of Rio Bravo is 4% of Belize’s land area and is a protected rainforest. It’s not unusual to see jaguars, toucans, iguanas, and over 400 species of birds living here.
La Milpa – This is the third largest archeological reserve in Belize. At least 85 major structures and 24 plazas have been identified.
5 Can’t-Miss Things to do in Orange Walk
Do you love surprises? If you’re nodding your head yes, include Orange Walk, a small district with big tourism perks, next time you fill your itinerary. Orange Walk is not like the party meccas tourists usually pick; rather sites and experiences will pique your curiosity and keep you engaged, whether you intend to spend your entire vacation there or you’ll just visit for a day or two.
Often referred to as an explorer’s playground because there’s a unique mix of commercial interests, ancient Maya ruins and sport-focused activities, plenty of people come to Orange Walk simply because it’s a foodie heaven where diverse cuisines merge to make the town a gourmet’s paradise. In other words, stay away if you don’t intend to bring your appetite and taste buds.
You’re welcome to read travel books, scour the Internet and ask friends what they recommend you put on your Orange Walk itinerary, but in case their lists fall short of a comprehensive menu of things to do and see, our 5 suggestions could be the highlights of your stay.
1. Eat up. Treat yourself to Orange Walk-style tacos filled with onion, cabbage, chicken, pork or all of the above. If tacos aren’t your thing, try pibil, an authentic Maya dish made by slow-cooking and hearth-searing whole pigs that cook so long, meat falls off the bone. Taste the light side of Orange walk by indulging in ceviche or salpicon and if you’ve room for dessert, keep this in mind: Belize has been called the chocolate capital of the region.
2. Visit Lamanai Maya archaeological site where you can work off some of the food you just consumed. Located along the New River Lagoon shore, you can reach this ruin by either boat or car. On your way, enjoy side shows put on by area wildlife. And in case you enter a trivia contest back home, knowing that the Maya name Lamani translates as “Submerged Crocodile” could cement your reputation as a brainiac.
3. Explore the New River Lagoon itself. It is one of the nation’s top birdwatching spots, so bring binoculars and your birding guidebook. This river was critical to Belize trade for centuries and it’s the longest river within Belize boundaries as well as being nation’s largest body of fresh water. Look for blue-crowned matmots, turtles, iguanas, bats and, of course, crocodiles.
4. Honey Camp Lagoon offers visitors a beach experience that can’t be surpassed. Once ground zero for Maya ceremonies and rituals circa 1000 AD and 1500 AD, you likely won’t find artifacts or sacrificial remains, but the lush beach gives visitors an opportunity to chill out and use their imaginations while digging their feet into the sand.
5. Can’t get enough Maya history? La Milpa Archaeological Reserve adds to your understanding of centuries of occupation by Mayans whose civilization was one of the most advanced in the hemisphere. There are 24+ plazas to stroll; each one is hidden amid lush forest that gives visitors an idea of what life was like during the occupation of this ancient society.
What’s next? Visit Ice Break in Orange Walk where homemade ice creams are the talk of the town. You may not be familiar with flavors like sugar corn, peanut, sour sop and craboo, but remember that you’re in Orange Walk to discover surprises and enjoy guilty pleasures. When you’re asked which flavor you’d like to try, you won’t be the first visitor to sample several of them!
Contact us if you need assistance in planning your Orange Walk vacation.
Get a copy of The Ultimate Belize Bucket List! Written by Larry Waight, a local with more than twenty years of experience in the travel industry, the book is packed with tips, information, and recommendations about all of the best things to see and do in Belize.