Like many of Belize’s northern cities, Orange Walk, the largest town in the region, was founded by mestizo refugees fleeing the Caste Wars in the Yucatán. Long before their arrival, however, the area around Orange Walk had been worked as some of the most productive arable farmland in Belize – aerial surveys have revealed evidence of raised fields and a network of irrigation canals dating from ancient Maya times. Today, Orange Walk is a thriving community by Belizean standards, and though there aren’t any real attractions in the town itself, it’s a pleasant, low-key base for those looking to explore one of the region’s highlights: the nearby ruins at Lamanai.
At the centre of town is a distinctly Mexican-style formal plaza, and the town hall is referred to as the Palacio Municipal, reinforcing the town’s strong historical links to Mexico. The only real sight in town, per se, is the Banquitas House of Culture (Mon–Thurs 8.30am–5pm, Fri 8.30am–4.30pm; free; 322-0517, www.nichbelize.org), on the riverbank near the bridge, which houses a permanent exhibition charting the history of Orange Walk District from Maya times to the present.