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Belize City, Belize

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Belize City is definitely one of the most interesting and lively places in the country. While the rest of Belize is largely rural and composed of small villages, Belize City feels like a huge metropolis even though its population of around 75,000 people is relatively small compared to other cities.

Originally known as Belize Town, Belize City was founded in 1638 by English loggers on a site formerly known as Holzuz to the ancient Maya. In its more than 400 years of existence, Belize City has been home to smugglers, pirates, loggers, and a motley assortment of people fleeing war in other countries. Belize City also served as the colonial capital and seat of the British Empire in Central America. In 1970, the capital was transferred to Belmopan, but it took more than three decades for many countries to transfer their embassies.

Today, Belize City is a lively urban area populated mostly by Creole people, the descendants of Africans enslaved by the British during the colonial era. After gaining independence from Great Britain in 1981, Belize transformed the central prison into the Belize Museum, which should be every visitor's first stop in Belize City. The museum includes several interesting exhibits and has also faithfully preserved a few of the original jail cells.

Another must-see attraction in Belize City is the Baron Bliss Lighthouse located just a few hundred feet from the water. Despite having never set foot on dry land in Belize, Ernest Victor Bliss, the fourth Baron Bliss, an elderly and eccentric Englishman, fell in love with the people of Belize while cruising offshore in his yacht and talking to local fishermen. Upon his death, he bequeathed a vast fortune to Belize as well as detailed instructions on how to build the lighthouse named in his honor. March 9 is a national holiday and was formerly known as Baron Bliss Day but is now known as Benefactor's Day.

Other interesting attractions in the historic district of Belize include St. John's Cathedral, the only Anglican house of worship in the New World to have crowned four different heads of state, and the Belize Government House, formerly the colonial governor's mansion. Newer attractions include the Belikin Brewery and the Traveller's Rum Distillery, makers of the country's most popular adult beverages.

Belize's only international airport, the Philip S.W. Goldson Airport, is located in Ladyville, just a few miles north of Belize City, and Belize City continues to be the biggest transportation hub in Belize with water, air, and land connections to all points in the country.

To learn more about Belize City and Belize, please visit www.cavesbranch.com.

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