The level expanses of northern Belize are a mixture of farmland and rainforest, dotted with swamps, savannas and lagoons. Most visitors come to the region for its Maya ruins and wildlife reserves. The largest Maya site, Lamanai, served by regular boat tours along the New River Lagoon, features some of the most impressive pyramids and beautiful scenery in the country. The site of Altun Ha, meanwhile, is usually visited on a day-trip from Belize City. The northern reserves also host an astonishingly diverse array of wildlife. At the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a group of farmers have combined agriculture with conservation to the benefit of the black howler monkey, and at the stunning Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, rivers and lagoons offer protection to a range of migratory birds.
Many of the original residents in this region were refugees from the nineteenth-century Caste Wars in Yucatán, and some of the northernmost towns are mainly Spanish-speaking. The largest settlement today is Orange Walk, the country’s main centre for sugar production. Further north, near the border with Mexico, Corozal is a small Caribbean town, strongly influenced by Maya and mestizo culture.