22 interesting facts about Belize

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Home to the breathtaking Great Blue Hole and an enormous barrier reef, these are the most interesting facts about Belize.

The great blue hole
Interesting facts about Belize include its spectacular blue hole (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Belize
Capital city: Belmopan
Population: 399,598
Area: 22,966 sq km
Major languages: English, Spanish, Creole, Maya
Time zone: UTC-6 (Central Time Zone)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Belize

1. From the 16th century, Belize was ruled by the Spanish until 1862 when the country was declared a British crown colony and renamed British Honduras.
(Source: BBC News)

2. In 1973 the country changed its name from British Honduras to Belize.
(Source: Britannica)

3. Belize was the UK’s last colony on the American mainland until it became fully independent in 1981. It still maintains strong ties with Britain.
(Source: BBC News)


4. In fact, even though Belize is a parliamentary democracy it still recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. The Queen is represented by a Governor-General who must be of Belizean nationality.
(Source: The Commonwealth)

5. The Belize flag consists of the Coat of Arms on a blue background with horizontal red stripes. The coat of arms represents the logging industry that initiated the original British settlement.
(Source: Britannica)

interesting facts about Belize flag
The flag of Belize (Shutterstock)

6. The flag also includes the Latin national motto, Sub Umbra Floreo, which means ‘I flourish in the shade’.
(Source: Britannica)

7. It is the only country in Central America to have English as an official language.
(Source: USA Today)

8. Grilled rodent, known in Belize as gibnut, is often served as a local delicacy. It was given the nickname ‘Royal Rat’ after it was served to Queen Elizabeth II during a state dinner in the 1980s.
(Source: The Rough Guide to Belize (2017) Rough Guides: London)


9. Lying off Belize’s coast is the second-largest reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (which is part of the Mesoamerican Reef) was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
(Source: WWF, UNESCO)

10. The Great Blue Hole – or Blue Hole Natural Monument – is a giant marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It is thought to be the world’s largest sinkhole. It measures 300m across and around 125m deep.
(Source: CNN)

11. Legendary marine explorer Jacques Cousteau explored the sinkhole in the 1970s and declared it one of the world’s best dive sites.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

12. Belize was home to the ancient Maya civilisation – one of the world’s most mysterious civilizations. The country is scattered with archaeological sites that date from AD 250–1000.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

maya ruins interesting facts about Belize
Mayan ruins in Belize (Shutterstock)

13. The Maya civilisation was spread across much of what is now southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. The Mayans flourished for nearly 2,000 years without the use of the wheel or metal tools. However, they were accomplished scientists who tracked a solar year of 365 days and built massive stone structures.
(Source: BBC News)


14. The Mayans famously predicted the world would end in 2012. However, it is now considered to be a misinterpretation of their counting system. Instead, their calendar was due simply reset in 2012 and start again.
(Source: National Geographic)

15. In 2017 beaches in Belize were swamped with seaweed that ‘smelled like rotten eggs’. The seaweed has regularly washed up along the Caribbean coastline since 2011, but in 2017 the largest volumes ever appeared.
(Source: The Guardian)

16. In 1941, around 900 lumberjacks travelled from what was then British Honduras to Scotland to help with the country’s’ war effort during World War II. Known as the British Honduran Forestry Unit, the forestry workers left a tropical climate and travelled over 5,000 miles to wintry Scotland.
(Source: BBC News)

17. Belize has a long-running territorial dispute with Guatemala. There have been several flashpoints since Belize became independent, the latest of which was in 2016 when Guatemala deployed 3,000 troops along the border following the death of a 13-year old boy.
(Source: The Telegraph)

18. Belize is home to a number of rare animal species including the jaguars, pumas, ocelots, black howler monkeys, spider monkeys, tapirs, peccaries, tayra, green iguanas, sea turtles and crocodiles.
(Source: Lonely Planet)


A jaguar in Belize
A jaguar in Belize (Shutterstock)

19. There are no major fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks or KFC in Belize.
(Source: The Telegraph)

20. The capital of Belize was moved after the original capital city, Belize City, was devasted by a hurricane in 1961. Belmopan, around 80 km to the west, became the capital city although Belize City remains the country’s most populous.
(Source: Britannica)

21. In Belizean folklore, there are great hairy creatures known as Sisimito or Sisemite. They are known to abduct women and are impossible to track as they can reverse the position of their feet to make it appear they are walking in the opposite direction.
(Source: Encyclopedia.com)

22. Belize is the only Central American country without a Pacific coast.
(Source: Britannica)