Where is Belize Located?
Location And Geography of Belize
Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. Belize has a long coastline on the Caribbean Sea, and is on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula. The latitude and longitude of Belize is 17° 15′ North and 88° 45′ West and is situated on the narrow isthmus of land that connects North America and South America.
To the north of Belize is the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, sharing a border with the Mexican town of Chetumal City. To the west of Belize is the northernmost department (state) of El Peten in Guatemala. The southern tip of Belize shares a border with the Guatemalan department (state) of Izabal.
By air, travelers in the United States can reach Belize from Miami, Florida, Houston, Texas, or Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas in about two hours. Flights from Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia average about three and a half hours.
From a starting point in Central America, it takes a full day to drive from Guatemala City to reach most points in Belize. Passenger boats departing from the city of Puerto Barrios in the Izabal Department (state) in northern Guatemala can reach Belize in approximately 30 minutes. By air, Belize is connected to the cities of Merida and Cancun in Mexico, San Salvador in El Salvador, Flores Pdten (near the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal) in Guatemala, and the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras.
Related: Best Time to Visit Belize
Belize has a long coastline stretching for 386 kilometers (240 miles) facing the Caribbean Sea. Just offshore of Belize is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second biggest coral reef in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize has an area of 22,960 square kilometers (8,867 square miles), slightly bigger than either the nation of El Salvador or the state of Massachusetts, or twice as big as Jamaica. With numerous lagoons and lakes, the total land surface of Belize is actually 21,400 square kilometers (8,300 square miles).
Belize is shaped approximately like a rectangle, stretching 280 km (170 miles) north to south, but just 100 kilometers (62 miles) from east to west, with a combined frontier measuring 516 kilometers (321 miles). Inside Belize are two major rivers, the Sarstoon River and the Hondo River, which define the northern and southern boundaries. The western border of Belize with Guatemala is an artificial line drawn straight north and south, a legacy of the colonial era when the region was under British administration. The western border with Guatemala is known as the “Adjacency Line”, and is officially administered by the Organization of American States (OAS).
Inside Belize, the northern part of the country consists of a combination of flat wetlands merging towards coastal plains, with abundant forests found throughout. The south of Belize forms the lower slopes of the Maya Mountain range. The highest point in Belize is known as Doyle’s Delight, and has an altitude of 1,124 meters (3,688 feet).
Abundant coral reefs form much of the coastline of Belize, along with approximately 450 small islands known locally known as “cayes”. Pronounced “keys”, the cayes total about 690 square kilometers (270 square miles) of surface, and abut the Belize Barrier Reef, which measures 320 kilometers (200 miles) from north to south. Three out of four coral atolls located in the Western Hemisphere are found off the waters of Belize. One special unique feature, the Great Blue Hole, is also found off the coast of Belize.
Belize location on the World Map
Belize location in relation to the Caribbean
Common Myths about Belize
Belize is an Island
Belize is not an island; however there are over 200 islands or cayes along its coast. Belize is part of the isthmus that connects North and South America and thus it is part of the Central American mainland.
Belize is Located in the Caribbean
Belize is located in Central America but it is also considered part of the Caribbean. In fact, Belize has a long and beautiful coastline on the Caribbean Sea.
Belize is in South America
Many people, the world over, believe that Belize is in South America. In reality, Belize is not in South America. Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala.
Belize is part of Honduras
No, Belize is not part of Honduras. In fact, the country doesn’t even share a border with Honduras. However it is important to note that Belize was once called British Honduras and in 1973 it changed its name to Belize.
How many different ways can you spell Belize?
There are many misspellings on Belize. Many travelers have misspelled the country’s name as Belieze, or Beleez, or Balize. So far, we have seen the following misspellings: baliz, balize, beleeze, beleize, beleze, beliese, beliez, belise, bellize.
Where did the name Belize come from?
There are many theories about where the name Belize came from. According to some Belizean historians, the origin is unclear but there is a possibility that it is derived from a Maya word, “belix” which means “muddy water”. Others have suggested that it is derived from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, which was applied to an early settlement along the Belize River and to the river itself. Belize has a sizeable proportion of Africans from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, who could have brought the name with them, as there is a Belize in Angola as well.
Related: Things to See and Do in Belize
Belize on the World Map
Formerly British Honduras, Belize is located on the eastern coast of Central America. Bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the easy by the Caribbean Sea, Belize’s mainland is about 180 miles long and 68 miles wide.
With 22,800 square kilometres of land and a population of 368,310, Belize has the lowest population density in Central America.
The country’s population growth rate of 1.87% per year and is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize Location in relation to Central America
Map of Belize
In Northern Belize, you find Corozal and Orange Walk Districts
In Western Belize, you find Cayo District
The Belize District consists of Belize City and the islands of Belize ( Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye)
In Southern Belize you will find Stann Creek ( Placencia, Hopkins, Dangriga) and Toledo Districts
The following are maps of Belize that highlight the top attractions and destinations in the country.
Belize Culture and History
Belize has a very unique history, being the only country in Central America where English is the official language.
Approximately 3000 years ago, the original Maya culture began moving into the area now known as Belize, establishing an extensive trading network that would flourish until approximately the year 1200 A.D., building the enormous stone cities of Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Altun Ha.
Initially passed over by European conquerors due to a lack of gold and other precious mineral resources, the first European settlement was founded in 1638 by English sailors who survived a shipwreck. Thriving in the mild climate of Belize, more English settlers began arriving in the area, and the country became a base for English privateers and pirates who would sally forth to harvest the rich plunder of Spanish galleons.
Although sporadic Spanish settlements attempted to take root in Belize, the country fell under complete British domination in 1798 after a British fleet won a decisive naval battle against the Spanish in the waters off of St. George’s Caye. In 1840, the British government formally seized control of the country, naming it the Colony of British Honduras. Taking advantage of the American Civil War, the British annexed Belize in 1862, making it a crown colony. In the latter half of the 19th century, many Mayan tribes, Mestizos and Mennonite people emigrated to Belize to escape unrest in neighboring Mexico.
In 1931, a combination of fallout from the Great Depression in the United States and a devastating hurricane strike that completely demolished the capital of Belize City drastically altered the political landscape in Belize, with British overseers taking the opportunity to vastly increase their control of the colony. This prompted many native Belizeans to begin organizing politically, forcing Britain to recognize that Belize wanted full independence in 1961.
Due to a long-standing border dispute with neighboring Guatemala, it took another 12 years before Belize was assured of sovereignty, formally changing their name to Belize from the long-standing colonial name of “British Honduras”. However, it was not until 1981 that Belize became fully independent.
Religion, Language, and Food
Today, most Belizeans are Roman Catholic, but because of the long influence of the British Empire, there are many Protestants and Anglicans found in the country. Due to their unique history, many Maya and Garifuna peoples practice a unique blend of Christianity with traditional spiritual practices.
By law, the official language in Belize is English, used nationwide for all government business and in schools. However, the main language spoken by most Belizeans is a Creole variant of English with heavy borrowings from Spanish and Mayan tongues. In the north and west of Belize, many communities speak Spanish, while other population groups continue to speak their native languages of Arabic, German, or Chinese. Many Mayan communities still speak dialects of the original Maya tongue.
Belizean cuisine has a strong Caribbean influence, with many spicy Creole staples like rice and beans blending harmoniously with native Maya delicacies like fried paca (jungle rat). Not to be outdone, traditional English favorites like corned beef and beans on toast still have their place, appearing on menus alongside Mexican classics such as tamales, escabeche (onion soup), and empanadas. Small “pancakes” made from fried dough known as “fry jacks” are commonly eaten for breakfast, while lunch might consist of meat pies or rice and beans. Dinner might be sere (fried fish with either coconut or banana) or tamales, polished off with local rum or the national brew, Beliken Beer.
While food and drink varies from region to region, tropical staples such as coconut, banana, and spicy hot peppers are popular nationwide, with chicken or pork being the preferred meat of most Belizeans.
People of Belize
Belize is the true definition of a melting pot, a land where many different cultures have blended together to form the special laid-back identity of a Belizean. With an open-minded attitude towards interracial unions, several distinct cultures still exist in Belize today, a mix of Creoles, European Mennonites, East Indians, Chinese, Garifuna, Maya, and Mestizo peoples. Despite their very unique origins, today these traditions and cultures have blended together in Belize to create a harmonious society.
Today, the Creole population makes up approximately 2/5ths of Belize’s population, forming one of the largest ethnic group in the nation. Completely different than the Creoles of Louisiana or elsewhere, Belizean Creoles are descendants of African slaves imported during the colonial era and Europeans.
The highest density of Creoles today center around Belize City in the center of the country, although they also live in the other five districts of the country. Most people in Belize speak Creole, a unique local variant of English, although standard English is the official language. Famous for their love of rice and beans dishes, Creole cooking has become a staple of Belize cuisine throughout the country.
The Mestizos, named for a Spanish word meaning “mixed”, are the other dominant population group found in Belize today. Descended from a mix of Spanish and ethnic Mayans who fled southern Mexico about 100 years ago, Mestizos today are predominant in the north of Belize, including Corozal, Orange Walk, and Cayo Districts. Most Mestizos speak Spanish at home, but are able to converse in Belizean Creole/English when interacting with outsiders.
The Mestizos peoples added their own unique contribution to Belizean cuisine in the form of tamales, garnaches, escabeches, and panades.
Descended from the ancient Mayan imperialists who once ruled the land now known as Belize, approximately 10% of the country today consider themselves ethnic Maya. Found especially in the northern districts of Orange Walk and Corozal, the Maya today are proud of their rich heritage. A sub-group of Maya, known as the Mopan Maya, emigrated to the country in the 1880s, especially around the area of San Antonio Village in Toledo. In the south of Belize, another sub-group of Maya, known as the Kekchi Maya, emigrated from Guatemala in the 1870s, and today are found in the southern districts of Toledo and Stann Hope Creek in Belize.
With approximately 8% of the population, the Garifuna have a unique history. The Garifanu culture was first developed on the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where the descendants of African slaves intermarried with indigenous people. In 1832, the British government forced them to leave en masse, which is when they fled by canoe overseas to the coast of Belize. Every year on November 19, the Garifuna people commemorate their arrival in Belize with the festival of Garifuna Settlement Day.
The Garifuna have also added their own imprint on Belizean cuisine, bringing the dishes sere, hudut, and cassava bread with them, now staples nationwide in the country.
Belizeans from East India were first introduced to the country during the colonial era, brought from India to work on the sugar plantations. Found today primarily in Toledo District, they added a rich patois of Indian dishes and culture to Belize.
Also found in Belize are Arab peoples, predominantly from Lebanon, with others originally from Palestine and Syria. First arriving about 100 years ago to form mercantile enterprises, they remain a distinct feature in both Belize and Cayo Districts.
Although relatively few in number, another distinct segment of Belizean society consists of immigrants from China, who first began arriving over a century ago to engage in trade, and today many local businesses in Belize are owned and operated by people of Chinese origin, especially concentrated in and around Belize City.
The German Mennonites form a very unique pocket of distinct culture, having first come to Belize about 70 years ago when they fled ongoing unrest in neighboring Mexico. Still speaking their own archaic dialect of German, this religious community is centered around villages in Toledo, Cayo, and Orange Walk Districts. Similar to the Amish, they preserve the old ways of dress and custom, and are today still mostly engaged in farming and traditional crafts like furniture making.
The smallest, but fastest growing, distinct community in Belize are the number of expats, mostly retired people from the United States and Canada. Drawn to the warm weather, use of English as the official language, and accommodating immigration laws, they add their own unique contributions to Belizean society. Found mostly in and around Belize City, a growing expat community is also beginning to form in the north of the country near the border with Mexico.
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