In 1961, Hurricane Hattie ravaged the capital of Belize. After Belize City was nearly destroyed, the government realized that a capital on the coast would never be safe from the threat of hurricanes and began building a new capital, Belmopan, in the country’s center in 1971. The result is a quiet capital that is still growing and developing its own personality. Belmopan lacks many of the national museums and monuments that characterize other capitals, but the city has a distinctly international feel thanks to its large concentration of government ministries, embassies and other organization’s headquarters. Most of the area’s attractions are located just outside the city, making Belmopan a great jumping-off point to exploring Belize.
The George Price Center for Peace and Development is one of the capital’s most important institutions. Built in honor of Price, the man who lead the nation to independence, the center includes a small permanent exhibition dedicated to his life and work. It is also the cultural heart of the city, regularly hosting traveling art exhibits, movie showings, theater performances and dance recitals.
The Belize Zoo is one of the city’s biggest draws. The 29-acre zoo was established in 1983 and is home to over 125 native animals. None of the creatures have been captured from the wild; they are either injured and rehabilitate orphans or gifts from other zoos around the world. The tropical environment closely mimics the natural habitat of the animals. Instead of being confined to glass-walled rooms or cages, the animals live in their own compounds complete with thick native vegetation.
The area around Belmopan is riddled with caves, which were considered by the ancient Maya to be mystical portals between the underworld inhabited by the dead and spirits and the living world above. They used the caves for many ritual and mundane purposes, such as burials, sacrifices and storage. Visitors today can explore the fascinating cave system on foot or by traversing the underground rivers via inner tube, canoe or kayak.
One of the most impressive and rewarding caves to explore is Actun Tunichil Muknal. Visitors must trek through the dense rainforest for 45 minutes to reach the mouth of the cave, then wade through waist-deep water until they come to several sacrificial and ceremonial chambers. Earlier explorers have found 14 burial sites and skeletons in the caves in addition to many artifacts used by the Mayans during religious ceremonies. A number of these bones and tools are now covered in calcium, but many others are quite well preserved.
Just north of the city lies Guanacaste National Park, named for the area’s oldest tree ñ a 100-year old guanacaste, or tubroos, tree blanketed with nearly 40 species of epiphytes, including mosses, orchids, ferns, bromeliads and lichens. The 50-acre park is home to over 100 species of animals, including birds, jaguarundis, deer, large iguanas, agoutis, armadillos and more, many of which can be spotted from the park’s two miles of hiking trails.
The nearby Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offers another opportunity for visitors to experience Belize’s incredible wildlife up close. The environmental reserve and education center spans over 1,000 acres of lush natural habitat, and daily tours introduce visitors to nearly 300 different species of birds.
Belmopan Geographical Location
Belmopan is located in the center of Belize near the Belize River.
The approximate population of Belmopan is 14,000.
English is the official language of Belize and while most speak it well it is usually their second language. The majority of Belizeans speak Spanish or Creole as their first language.
Belmopan Predominant Religion
- 50% Roman Catholic
- 27% Protestant
- 14% Other
- 9% None
Belize guarantees religious freedom and many Christians visit the country for religious ceremonies.
The official currency of Belize is the Belize Dollar.
Belmopan is warm throughout the year with the most rainfall occurring in September and October.
Belmopan Main Attractions
- Guanacaste National Park
- The Belize Zoo
- Caves Branch River Cave System
Other Attractions in Belmopan
- Blue Hole National Park
- Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary