This guest post is provided by the Belize Tourism Board.
Around the holidays, shoppers are often encouraged to buy local and find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts for the loved ones on their list. Shopping small allows people to not only support independent businesses, but also pass on a lasting, authentic gift. The Belize Tourism Board thinks we should do the same with our vacations.
To help share the beauty of small nations with the world, the board has named November 29 the first Small Country Sunday—a day to encourage travelers to book their adventure somewhere small and unexplored.
This melting pot of ethnicities is most evident in wide-ranging Belizean cuisine. A sample of local staples includes meat pies, conch chowder, stewed chicken with rice and beans, fry jacks, cassava pudding and black dinner—a black soup made with chicken, ground pork, onions, tomatoes, black recado and boiled eggs.
To whet their appetite, travelers can go on a physical exploration of Belizean history at a variety of Maya archaeological sites. Maya civilization flourished in Belize for roughly 2,400 years, until nearly 900 AD. Despite the passage of time, key sites like Caracol and Xunatunich still stand. Covering nearly 25,000 acres, Caracol is impressive not only for its size, but also its immense agriculture field system and elaborate city planning. Its main temple, Canaã (“sky place”), is 143 feet high—the tallest man-made structure in the country—and boasts a spectacular view of the surrounding jungle. Further north, Xunantunich sits atop a hill, overlooking the Mopan River and Cayo District. This area was a key Maya ceremonial site and is composed of six major plazas with more than 25 temples and palaces. “El Castillo” (the Castle), is the largest pyramid at Xunantunich and stands 130 feet above the plaza. On a clear day, you can see the peak of Caracol or view nearby Guatemala.
For a more modern cultural experience, head to southern Belize, home of the Garifuna community. Members of this ethnic group are direct descendants of two slave boats shipwrecked in 1635 and a tribe of Carib Indians. After deportation by the British in 1797, many Garifuna returned to Belize on November 19, 1802, and settled along the southeast coast. This “Settlement Day” is celebrated each year on November 19 with a parade, street music, drumming and dancing in city of Dangriga. To get a taste of the celebration outside of November, visit the Lebeha Drumming Center in Hopkins for a traditional dancing and drumming demonstration on the shore of the Caribbean Sea.
Outside of these cultural expeditions, travelers can enjoy snorkeling over the second-largest barrier reef in the world, diving in the Blue Hole, tubing through a system of underground caves or walking on the wild side at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve.
Belize may be a small nation, but just like many other hidden gems, it’s packed with adventure and rich cultural opportunities. To help spread the word about beautiful small nations, the Belize Tourism Board is hosting a sweepstakes and giving two would-be travelers the chance of a lifetime: a trip for two to tropical (and tiny) Belize.
To enter, follow the Belize Tourism Board on Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook; then, show or tell why you want to travel small in 2016 using the hashtag #SmallCountrySunday. Two winners will be randomly selected at 7 p.m. CST on Sunday, November 29. Please click here for official rules. And remember, the next time you book a vacation, consider traveling small!