Belize is a small country about the same size as the state of Massachusetts. It is primarily oriented in a north-south direction and is roughly 180 miles long but just 60 miles wide.
Belize is located on the Central American mainland, tucked between Guatemala to the west and south and under the overhang of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the north. Belize has a long Caribbean coastline and has more than 400 offshore islands. These islands are located along the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the northern hemisphere.
Under British colony rule, Belize was known as “British Honduras,” which is a bit of a misnomer as it does not border the country of Honduras. The name, instead, comes from the fact that Belize is close to the Bay of Honduras, a triangular-shaped body of water that borders Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico.
All international flights land in Belize City, but there are several land crossings. To the north, Belize has a border crossing at the Mexican town of Chetumal City. To the west, there is a border crossing where the Belizean town of Benque Viejo del Carmen meets the Guatemalan town of Melchor de Mencos. There is also a water crossing into Guatemala (Puerto Barrios) from the Toledo District of southern Belize.
The northern border of Belize with Mexico is delineated by the Hondo River. The southern border of Belize is delineated by the Sarstoon River. To the west, however, the border is a straight line through the jungle, created as the result of a colonial-era treaty. Guatemala has disputed this border, so it is essential for travelers to only cross via the official border point at Melchor de Mencos/Benque Viejo.
Because of its small size, most destinations on the mainland can be reached in around three hours or less. There are four paved “highways,” which are two-lane roads that can be navigated with ordinary vehicles. These highways connect Belize City to points north (including the Mexican border), Belize City to Belmopan and the Guatemalan border in the west, Belmopan to Dangriga, and Dangriga to Punta Gorda.
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