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Luxury Belize: Mayan culture and Caribbean cayes

12 days from £3,449pp

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Luxury Belize: Mayan culture and Caribbean cayes

12 days from £3,449pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Belize City. Transfer to Blancaneaux Lodge in Mountain Pine Ridge.
 

You’ll be driven from the airport to Blancaneaux Lodge, a tranquil luxury hideaway located within the beautiful Mountain Pine Forest Reserve of Western Belize. The nearest town is the Cayo District capital, San Ignacio, a 20min drive away. The lodge is reached by a 3hr road journey from Belize City airport via the paved Western Highway. The lodge provides a perfect base from which to enjoy its forested surroundings, jagged peaks, outstanding river scenery, numerous waterfalls and caves. Mountain Pine Ridge is so named for the whispering pine forests which thrive on the poor sandy soil.

The lodge is owned by Francis Ford Coppola and the American film director's influence is evident, from his highly regarded own Napa Valley Californian wines served in the restaurant, to the ceiling fan in the bar used in the opening sequence of his seminal film Apocalypse Now.

 

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Day 2

At leisure.
 

Day at leisure. Excursions available include horse riding and mountain biking through the pine forest. A canoe trip on the serene Macal River is a terrific experience and a good opportunity to spot wildlife. Birdlife and butterflies are particularly abundant. There are many other rivers with plunging cascades and swimming holes to enjoy.

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Day 3

Guided excursion to Caracol Mayan ruins.
 

Guided excursion to Caracol, Río Frío and Rio On.  Situated high on the Vaca Plateau, in the heart of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, Caracol is the most extensive Mayan site in Belize and was only rediscovered in 1936. The site is peppered with 30,000 structures: in its ascendancy the city supported a population of over 150,000. Squatting at an altitude of over 500m above sea level with no natural water body close by it remains a mystery how and why such a huge population centre like Caracol survived and evolved. 

However, the close proximity to both extremely hard stone and copal resin, two commodities highly prized by the Maya, may help explain this enigma. At the heart of the site lies the massive pyramid of Caana (Sky Palace) which is now almost fully restored and reaches a height of over 35m. From the top you can enjoy panoramic views over the mountains. The drive to the site in the early morning occasionally affords a glimpse of a tapir, jaguar or ocelot as it breaks its forest cover to cross the road.

 

 

 

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The main plaza at Caracol surrounded by jungle

Day 4

Light aircraft flight to Gallon Jug, continue by road to Chan Chich.
 

A real adventure today: you embark a 3-seater light aircraft for the short flight from the airstrip at Mountain Pine Ridge to the evocatively named Gallon Jug. From there, you catch your breath and continue by road to Chan Chich Lodge in the Orange Walk District, which has thrived on the plantation cultivation of citrus fruit, and sugar.

Chan Chich is not just a top-of-the-range lodge, it’s a holiday experience in itself. It’s remarkably comfortable, with great facilities including a fully screened pool and a Jacuzzi. Luxurious cabins occupy the lower plaza of a 1,200 year-old Mayan temple. The surrounding rainforest, part of a large private reserve in one of the most remote corners of Belize, has long been spared the destructive impact of hunters and loggers.

A rich diversity of flora and fauna, including howler and spider monkeys, jaguars, ocelots and a myriad of bird species is found here. Whether or not you are fortunate to catch a glimpse of a wild cat during your visit, it is unlikely you’ll leave Chan Chich without feeling humbled by the overwhelming supremacy and beauty of nature.

 

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Jaguar in the Belizean Jungle

Day 5

Guided tour of Lamanai Mayan ruins.
 

Enjoy a full day guided exploration of Lamanai Mayan ruins. Depart for the city of Orange Walk, passing through traditional Mennonite communities and small Belizean towns en route. From there, take a motorised canoe up the New River, flanked by rainforest. There are opportunities to spot wildlife such as crocodiles and a plethora of bird species including the jabirú stork - the largest flying bird. 

After an hour, arrive at Lamanai. Visit the small museum and take a guided tour of the ruins. While not in the same league as Chichén Itzá or Tikal, they are nonetheless impressive. Some of the buildings are in the process of being restored or excavated, but the hidden jungle setting is fabulous. With a little luck you should catch a glimpse of black howler monkeys in the tree canopies with their distinctive eerie roar. 

 

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Day 6

At leisure.
 

At leisure at Chan Chich.

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Day 7

Light aircraft flight from Gallon Jug to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Transfer to Victoria House.
 

It’s another light aircraft flight from Gallon Jug to Ambergris Caye, the most northerly and largest island in Belize, 46km long. The island offers a splendid vantage point from which to enjoy the Belize Barrier Reef less than a kilometre from the shore. The relaxed main town San Pedro has a wide choice of restaurants and bars. The island’s main attractions are sea-orientated: first class diving, snorkelling and fishing.

You’ll be staying at Victoria House, overlooking the Caribbean. This family-friendly, white plantation-style property harks back with nostalgia to British colonial times, but without the formality. A romantic, barefoot resort with a generous infinity pool, it offers both relaxation in the shade of a swaying palm as well as loads of activities into which to channel your energy.

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Victoria House

Days 8-11

At leisure on Ambergris Caye.
 
At leisure on Ambergris Caye. Snorkelling and diving in the nearby Hol Chan Marine Reserve is outstanding - a typical excursion lasts around 2.5hrs with 60mins in the water- and there is a dive shop on the premises' private pier. The hotel also offers flat, reef and deep-sea fishing trips. If you have your driving licence, buggies can be hired.
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Day 12

Transfer to airport

12 days from £3,449pp

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