Facts About Belize
Belize is located in Central America and it is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. We are a diverse country with various cultures and languages. We also have the lowest population density in Central America with 35 people per square mile or 14 people per square kilometer.
Belize is also known for its extreme biodiversity and distinctive ecosystems. On the coast, there is a swampy coastal plain with mangrove swamps. In the south and interior there are hills and low mountains. Most of our land is undeveloped and is forested with hardwoods. It is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot and it has many jungles, wildlife reserves, a large variety of different species of flora and fauna and the largest cave system in Central America. Some species of Belize's flora and fauna include the black orchid, the mahogany tree, the toucan and the tapir.
The first people to develop Belize were the Maya around 1500 B.C.E. As shown in archeological records, they established a number of advanced settlements within the country. These include Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Lubaantun, and many others. The first European contact with Belize occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus reached the area's coast. In 1638, the first European settlement was established by England and for 150 years, many more English settlements were set up.
In 1840, Belize became a "Colony of British Honduras" and in 1862, it became a crown colony. For one hundred years after becoming a crown colony, Belize was a representative government of England, however in January 1964, full self-government with a ministerial system was granted. In 1973, the nation's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize and on September 21, 1981, full independence was achieved.
From the moment you arrive in Belize – whether you are an adventure traveler, part of a family trip or in the country for a relaxing beach vacation – Belize people and culture make you feel as welcome and comfortable, like nowhere you’ve ever visited.
In Belize, our traditions and customs are varied and represent more than eight diverse cultures. For generations, the people of Belize have demonstrated a cultural commitment to preserve the country’s unique charms. This enduring promise to the land, the waters and you, our visitor, inspires all to achieve a genuine and intimate connection to a variety of extraordinary experiences.
We are truly a melting pot of colorful personalities, making our more than 350,000 residents the country’s greatest resource for tourism. The Belizean people are made up of Maya, Mestizo, Kriol, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Arab and Chinese.
There also are a number of expatriates in Belize from Canada, Europe and the United States – and many of them retire in Belize. A blending of cultures has resulted in one of the happiest and most peaceful countries in the region and a widespread reputation as one of the world’s friendliest tourist destination.
In Belize (formerly British Honduras), English remains the official language, but the most diverse language in Belize is Kriol (Belizean Creole). Other languages spoken include Garifuna, Mandarin, Spanish and Maya.
Come to Belize and you’ll hear familiar words of the English language. In fact, we are the only English language-speaking country in Central America. While English is the official language of Belize, Kriol is the language that we all speak.
When you hear us, you know you’re in a country unlike any other. Even our most up-tight citizens sound relaxed. We have a Caribbean lilt and our words seem a bit shorter. But don’t worry, you’ll understand everything and we may teach you a few phrases you don’t know.
Here, even our language is a diverse adventure. Spanish, African-based Garifuna, Maya-Kekchi, Maya Mopan, Mandarin, German are just a few of the languages that form the unique dialects we speak throughout the country.
Here are a few different ways you’ll hear “good morning”
“Gud Mawnin” – Kriol
“Buiti Binafi” – Garifuna
“Buenos dias” – Spanish