Belize, the only English-speaking country in Central America, is a relatively poor nation in most respects but is incredibly rich in natural beauty.

Off the coast is the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. Belize’s dive spots alone attract thousands of visitors, most of whom stay in the offshore cayes. For the archaeology buff, Belize boasts some very impressive Mayan sites. Belize City is home to some impressive museums and historical sites. For the nature enthusiast, there are several beautiful parks and wildlife reserves near Belize City. If you can’t make it to the cayes but want to spend some time on the beach or snorkeling, you may want to visit the southern town of Placencia.

Located on the east coast of Central America south of the Yucat√°n Peninsula, Belize has a long and varied history. Hundreds of years ago, during the Maya classic period, the area was home to an estimated 1-2 million Maya. When the Spanish arrived, there were still some scattered remnants of this mighty empire, most notably in southern Belize. The first European settlers of the area were English puritans seeking freedom to practice their religious beliefs.

Later, the area became popular with pirates working Spanish shipping lanes and loggers. Despite a territory dispute with neighboring Guatemala, Great Britain eventually adopted the area as a British Colony and it was named British Honduras. After the American Civil War, veterans of the Confederate army relocated to British Honduras, settling in the Punta Gorda region. British Honduras became the independent nation of Belize in 1981.