Guatemala and Belize are two classic Central American destinations, and make for one of the best country combos on the Original Travel books.
Gum's the word
When I visited Guatemala and Belize on a recent research trip, both exceeded expectations and I can see why they are such popular luxury holiday destinations. One particularly special place was Uaxactun in Guatemala, a small village and eponymous archaeological site about 45 minutes down a bumpy track from Tikal. Believe it or not, the tiny village was put on the map by Wrigley's chewing gum, who built an airstrip there back in the 1930s to export the tree sap which was then made into gum. Now that we chew synthetic stuff, the airstrip is a grazing area for horses, but the villagers still make a living exporting the natural chewing gum to Japan.
A Unique experience
Back to the point, I was lucky to be able to try out a completely new trip here - camping at a Mayan site. Organised in cahoots with the local community, who have helped with the carpentry, cooking and general maintenance of the site, this is far from your standard tent and sleeping bag set up. The tents are big enough to stand in, with carpeted floors, proper beds and even bedside lamps. The showers and loos are fully functioning and very well kept and at nightfall hundreds of candles are lit all over the site which is pretty magical. Dinner was even served at the foot of an ancient temple, that too covered in candles. Of course there are bugs, so this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a pretty unique thing to do.
Next stop Belize. Slightly out of place in Central America as the only English speakers, this little country punches well above its weight when it comes to diversity. To add to the great jungle lodges and yet more Mayan ruins, Belize has first class Caribbean beaches and incredible diving, and I can recommend no better way of ending a trip to the region than with a few nights relaxing at one of many excellent hotels on Ambergris Cay.
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