San Ignacio

(continuer en français) – Last updated: December 20, 2022

San Ignacio is a small, quiet town in the northwest of Belize, located on the banks of the Macal River at a slight elevation, which allows the town to escape the heat of the coast. It has a population of about 20,000 and is at the centre of a growing tourist destination.

Belize is not large, even less so when you look at the inhabited part, so distances are short. San Ignacio is only 25 miles, 41 kilometres, from the capital Belmopan and 71 miles, 115 kilometres, from Belize City and the country’s main airport.

Although there are many visitors throughout the year, they are not overwhelming. The centre of gravity is on Burns Avenue, a small pedestrian street where most of the services for travellers are located, including agencies offering day trips out of town.

There are enough restaurants to indulge in some variety, but this is not San Ignacio’s strong point.

Local life is still dominated by the activity of the locals, with the bus stop and the fruit and vegetable market seeing a few more people gather.

The movement in the town seems to be punctuated by the crossings from one side of the river to the other over the two single-track bridges. There is the Hawkesworth Suspension Bridge, imported from England in 1949, Belize was indeed an English colony, still a member of the Commonwealth.

In the opposite direction, the bridge where Joseph Andrew Drive passes seems much more primitive.

The architecture sometimes looks imposing with large buildings without any specific style.

To brighten up the streets of the town centre, several murals have been painted by students of the local university. In addition to bringing colour, there is also a desire to convey some messages, usually quite consensual.

Around San Ignacio

The countryside around San Ignacio is lush and slightly hilly, with some beautiful homes and many small farms.

The climatic conditions are propitious for agriculture, which also benefits from the presence of several Mennonite colonies in the area. These religious communities are known for their efficient cooperative organisations and innovative farming practices.

A few kilometres from San Ignacio, at Chaa Creek, there is a butterfly farm open to the public. You start with the four rooms of the Natural History Centre before entering the netted enclosure where the butterflies live. The Blue Morpho, whose wings are the same blue colour as the Belizean flag, is particularly noteworthy.

San Ignacio is also an ideal base from which to explore the Mayan cities and natural sites in the area.

Cahal Pech: the site is located on the outskirts of the city. It is a secondary Mayan site occupied from 1200 BC to 900 AD.

Xunantunich: the ancient Maya city is about 6 miles, 10 kilometres, from San Ignacio, the city did not gain in importance until relatively late in time, around 600-670 AD.

Caracol: this was one of the main Mayan entities in its heyday, today the ruins are lost in the jungle 25 miles, 40 kilometres, from San Ignacio.

Tikal: although located in Guatemala, it is easy to organize a day trip from San Ignacio.

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Articles about Belize:

Independence Plaza, Belmopan, Belize

Belmopan: Top 10

Before going to Belize, I would not have been able to put Belmopan on the map, or even say it is the capital of a country in Central America. The recent construction, 1967, and the modest size, 20,000 inhabitants, make the Top 10 exercise a little unusual. Out of curiosity, the city is worth a visit. Here is what you have to see to get an idea of it.

Lamanai, Mayan city

Lamanai is located in the north of Belize near Orange Walk, in the continuity of the Mexican Yucatan where the Mayan civilization thrived around large cities. Lamanai was one of them and although it has had its ups and downs, its existence covers 3,000 years of human occupation.

Jaguar Temple, Lamanai, Belize
Caracol, Belize

Caracol, Mayan city

Only rediscovered in 1937, the Mayan city of Caracol remains isolated in a vast uninhabited forest in Belize. The site was occupied for more than two millennia, often in rivalry with Tikal only 45 miles, 70 kilometres, away.

San Ignacio

San Ignacio is a small, quiet town in the northwest of Belize, located on the banks of the Macal River at a slight elevation, which allows the town to escape the heat of the coast. It has a population of about 20,000 and is at the centre of a growing tourist destination.

San Ignacio, Belize
Shop, Orange Walk, Belize

Discovering Orange Walk

Orange Walk is unlikely to be familiar to most travellers until they discover its name on the map of Belize, in the north of the country near Mexico. There is nothing remarkable about the city, but it is the gateway to Lamanai, one of the great Mayan cities of the past.

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    • I understand that Belize can leave fond memories. It is a country not yet so much visited, but it has an interesting potential. The facilities for tourism are now well established. Thanks for reading.


    • I agree with you, at the moment the Mayan sites are much less exploited than in Mexico for example. Beyond the economic aspect, the fact of rubbing shoulders with foreigners also allows mentalities to open up and evolve. Thanks for your interest..

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny how everyone looks at a photo differently. I was mainly interested in showing the modesty of the town, with no building higher than the trees. But I understand that the river also attracts attention, and it seems that the Maya had a whole series of rituals linked to water and to the river. Thank you for commenting.


    • Knowing the appeal of the Maya, Belize should certainly receive more attention. Likewise, its warm, tropical climate calls for relaxation, and this is increasingly valued by North American countries. The number of visitors is increasing, but as a little-known destination, there is still an element of exoticism. Thanks for your readership.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. We really enjoyed Belize. San Ignacio is a great little town with quite a few sites to see. Great pic of the morpho. We weren’t able to get one of its blue wings, it never seemed to open them for us. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed I had the same problem of closed wings, they only stay open for a fleeting moment when the butterfly pauses or flies away. If I remember correctly, the blue does not come from a pigment but from the way the light is reflected, so these short moments are random to obtain the blue so charismatic of this butterfly. I’m glad you also enjoyed your stay in San Ignacio, which deserves to be better known.


    • For me the Mayan ruins were the main draw of a stay in Belize, while for others it will be the seaside or nature activities. So the country is trying to develop these different sectors and the results are already quite positive.


  2. We were planning on visiting Belize last year before the pandemic happened. It seems like there is so much history in San Ignacio with all the Mayan ruins and sites. I love that students at a the local university have painted several murals to brighten up the town. I’m hoping to visit soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Belize is certainly a place to visit, especially to shorten the Canadian winter. The ruins of the Mayan cities are still relatively uncrowded, which makes it more enjoyable to visit. There may be some mosquitoes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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