Heading west from Belize City towards the Guatemalan border, you’ll traverse varied landscapes, from open grassland to dense tropical forest. A fast, paved road, the Western Highway, runs the entire way, moving from the heat and humidity of the coast to the cooler, lush foothills of the Maya Mountains. Before reaching Belize’s tiny capital, Belmopan, the road passes two excellent attractions: the Belize Zoo and the Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. West of Belmopan, following the Belize River valley, the road skirts the Maya Mountains. You’re now in Cayo District, the largest of Belize’s six districts and arguably the most beautiful. South of the road, the Mountain Pine Ridge is a pleasantly cool region of hills and pine woods. San Ignacio, on the Macal River, makes an ideal base for exploring the forests, rivers and ruins of western Belize, including Caracol, the largest Maya site in Belize, and the region’s many dramatic caves, often filled with Maya artefacts.

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