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Caracol picture in Belize
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Travel west of Belize City and you'll discover a cluster of ancient Mayan sites, rolling hills, gorgeous sunsets, tranquil butterfly gardens and verdant jungles. In the heart of the Cayo District sits San Ignacio, a small town that boasts traditional culinary dishes and affordable hotels.

Start your tour just 6 miles south of the town at the ancient Mayan ruin Xunantunich. Set along the Mopan River and less than a mile from the Guatemalan border, the temple at Xunantunich was once a civic ceremonial center for the Mayan people.

From there you'll likely want to drive about 60 miles south on the George Price Highway (also known simply as the Western Highway) to the expansive Caracol Archaeological Reserve. The largest Mayan ruin site in Belize, Caracol dates back to 1200 B.C. and served as a home to as many as 120,000 people. The grounds cover 30 square miles and include five plazas, an observatory and more than 35,000 identified buildings, although not all are full excavated.

The region is free to visit 24 hours a day, but most of its sites are only open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Each costs 10 to 15 Belize dollars (about $5 to $7.50) to access.

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#1 Ambergris Caye With its plentiful outdoor activities, this 25-mile-long island off the coast of northern Belize caters to the snorkeling and diving set. The island was originally inhabited by the Mayans to ... Read more » halseike / Flickr

#2 Great Blue Hole Plunge into this deep blue hole and you'll discover imposing ancient stalactites (calcium deposits resembling icicles) and coral fringe. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 — along with ... Read more » Mlenny / Getty Images

#3 Hol Chan Marine Reserve Facing the southern edge of Ambergris Caye, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the oldest reserve in Belize. Its name translates to "Little Channel," in reference to a coral-filled gap in ... Read more » Stephen Frink / Getty Images

#4 Caye Caulker Just about 20 miles north of Belize City sits Caye Caulker, a 4-mile-long, sun-soaked island that boasts superb diving and snorkeling spots and a relaxed tropical ambience. Though the island ... Read more » Harry Kikstra / Getty Images

#5 Cayo District Travel west of Belize City and you'll discover a cluster of ancient Mayan sites, rolling hills, gorgeous sunsets, tranquil butterfly gardens and verdant jungles. In the heart of the ... Read more » KaraGrubis / Getty Images

#6 Placencia Peninsula Imagine tranquil beaches topped with rustling palm trees and backed by pastel-colored beachfront villas and calm Caribbean waters. This is Placencia, Belize's rapidly booming beach town. Stretching across a ... Read more » Walter Rodriguez / Flickr

#7 Lamanai Perched on the New River Lagoon in northern Belize, this sprawling 960-acre Mayan site stands masked in crocodile art. Lamanai means "submerged crocodile" in Yucatec Mayan, which should give you ... Read more » Simon Dannhauer / Getty Images

#8 Altun Ha This popular Mayan site, speckled with tombs, pyramids and temples, served as a trading nexus during the Mayan Empire's Classic Period (A.D. 250 to 900). Altun Ha —meaning ... Read more » ~Ealasaid~ / Flickr

#9 Belize Zoo Stroll through this 29-acre zoo and you might think you've trespassed into a jungle. The small zoo houses more than 45 species: Jaguars roar, keel-billed toucans squawk, colorful scarlet ... Read more » Adalberto.H.Vega / Flickr

#10 Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary In Belize, jaguars rule the land. And the best place to catch a glimpse of these striking wildcats is Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This sprawling reserve was founded in the ... Read more » Victoria Reay / Flickr

Ambergris Caye picture in Belize
Great Blue Hole picture in Belize
Hol Chan picture in Belize
Caye Caulker picture in Belize
Caracol picture in Belize
Placencia Peninsula picture in Belize
Lamanai picture in Belize
Altun Ha picture in Belize
Belize Zoo picture in Belize
Cockscomb picture in Belize
Ambergris Caye picture in Belize
Great Blue Hole picture in Belize
Hol Chan picture in Belize
Caye Caulker picture in Belize
Caracol picture in Belize
Placencia Peninsula picture in Belize
Lamanai picture in Belize
Altun Ha picture in Belize
Belize Zoo picture in Belize
Cockscomb picture in Belize

Ambergris Caye lulls visitors into total relaxation with its powdery sands and luxurious beachside hotels. halseike / Flickr

Located about 43 miles off the coast, the Great Blue Hole plunges 410 feet below sea level.  Mlenny / Getty Images

Some of the best diving and snorkeling in Belize can be done in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Stephen Frink / Getty Images

One of the most popular tourist spots in Belize, Caye Caulker is full of shops, restaurants and beautiful beaches.  Harry Kikstra / Getty Images

The Caracol Archeological Reserve is an expansive area of Mayan ruins that includes 32 structures.  KaraGrubis / Getty Images

The Placencia Peninsula is one of the quieter, less crowded beaches in Belize.  Walter Rodriguez / Flickr

Well-preserved monuments—like this Mayan tomb perched at Lamanai—dust Belize's tropical frontier Simon Dannhauer / Getty Images

Altun Ha boasts a trove of tombs, pyramids, and temples. ~Ealasaid~ / Flickr

Roam through the Belize Zoo and you may catch a glimpse of one of Belize's beloved jaguars. Adalberto.H.Vega / Flickr

Victoria Reay / Flickr

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