Off the beaten track
The Toledo district, chances are you have never heard of it. Not surprisingly, the Toledo district is an area in Belize that is not crowded by travellers, yet. A pity, because this area has all the ingredients for a unique round trip. Few places can surpass the combination of nature, culture, history and fun in the Toledo district
Photo: Hickatee Lodge
The town of Punta Gorda, often called PG, is the gateway to everything this region has to offer. PG has about 5,500 inhabitants and is a relaxed Caribbean fishing village. Visit the market here and go in search of exotic local products. Make sure you get to the port in time for the fishermen who come back with their fresh catch. From Punta Gorda, you can discover the varied surroundings.
The untamed nature
The jungle, rivers and the sea. It all comes together in the south of Belize. The interior of the Toledo district consists mainly of jungle. It is good to know that a large part of the jungle is a protected area and you cannot just walk everywhere. Fortunately, there are plenty of places where you can explore the jungle.
Sail by boat across the Monkey River, north of Punta Gorda. Here you will have the chance to see crocodiles, turtles, marsh birds and the noisy howler monkeys. In the Rio Blanco National Park, you will be surrounded by rivers and high waterfalls. Don't forget to bring your binoculars as it is an excellent place to spot birds.
If you are looking for a more active way to discover the jungle of Belize, Blue Creek for example is a beautiful place. Here you can do a beautiful canopy tour consisting of 9 high ziplines and 15 platforms. This way you will fly through the tops of the trees. You will also find the Blue Creek cave, also called the Hokeb Ha. To get here you will take a walk of about 20 minutes through the jungle. The entrance of the cave is covered with plants and to enter you have to go through a shallow puddle of fresh water. Behind it, there is an enormous space that is said to have been used by the Mayans to perform sacred ceremonies.
You will find undiscovered gems not only inland, but also close to the sea just off the mainland coast. At Sapodilla Cayes, about 2.5 hours sailing from PG, you will find a variety of tropical sea creatures. So it is wonderful to dive and snorkel here. But also closer to the coast, for example at Snakes Cayes, you can enjoy great snorkelling.
Immersion in different cultures
What is special about this area is that it is rich in cultures. For example, the south of Belize is home to the Garifuna culture, a fusion of African and Caribbean Indian cultures. Their melodious language was declared an intangible heritage by UNESCO in 2001. In Punta Gorda, you can learn a lot about this culture. You can taste unique local dishes such as cassava pudding and be immersed in the Garifuna music. If you are here in November, don't miss the annual 'battle of the drums and food' party. An event of three days completely dedicated to Garifuna music, flavours and history.
Photo: Hickatee Lodge
In addition to the Garifuna culture, the Mayan culture is also alive and kicking here. Together with a guide, you can visit the Kek'chi Maya families, who open their houses to show you how the Maya lived 50 years ago and today. A traditional meal will be prepared for you and you will start making baskets, textiles and hammocks.
Finally, what should not be missed is chocolate. Cocoa is an important part of Maya culture. Even today a lot of cocoa is grown and processed into chocolate in the Toledo District. Pay a visit to a cocoa farm and learn how chocolate is made from the beginning. Of course, you won't leave here before you can taste your own made chocolate and you will be surprised with a lunch in which cocoa is the most important part.
The special cultures you see today in Punta Gorda and its surroundings were created by the ancient civilizations that settled here many years ago. In the south of Belize, you will find some of the earliest Mayan settlements. Most famous are Lubaantun, once a ceremonial centre, and Nim Li Punit. This one is impressive because of its pyramids and stone pillars. In several places in the south of Belize, archaeological research is still being done on Maya sites. In this way, we learn more and more about how the Maya people used to live.
Staying in the Toledo district
In and around Punta Gorda there are various accommodations from which you can explore the area.
Not far from the village of Punta Gorda you will find the Hickatee cottages. Owners are an American woman and her Colombian husband. During their first holiday to this area, they fell in love with this place and were able to take over the accommodation and they did so immediately. The 6 cottages are nicely spread out over the terrain and the owners provide a hospitable and homely feeling, cooking is done by the host and wife themselves.
Photos: Hickatee Lodge
Copal Tree Lodge
This unique ecolodge is located in the pristine south of Belize near Punta Gorda and overlooks the surrounding rainforest and is not far from the Caribbean coast. Not only will you not lack in comfort, but there are plenty of opportunities to entertain yourself at the location of the accommodation. For example, the accommodation has its own organic farm and a 12,000-hectare nature reserve.
Photos: Copal Tree Lodge
Would you like to make a journey through Belize yourself and visit the Toledo district? We are happy to help you organize a trip that meets your wishes. For more information, visit our page about Belize.
Do you have a question? Feel free to contact us. Call +31 73 610 62 04 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help.