Punta Gorda & surroundings
With the capital of the Toledo district one has reached the deep south of Belize. This is where the Southern Highway and the country’s road network end.
From Punta Gorda you can only continue by boat to Guatemala or Honduras. Compared to other parts of the country, which are increasingly shaped by tourism, only a few visitors come to the southern region of the country.
Punta Gorda itself is not a beauty, but the friendly inhabitants compensate for this lack.
A constant breeze from the Gulf of Honduras accompanies visitors along the promenade known as Front Street, where several restaurants and pubs have also settled.
As elsewhere in Belize, Punta Gorda’s nearly 6000 inhabitants represent a multicultural mix, including Garifuna, Creoles, Lebanese and East Asians, but the most noticeable is the high population of Mopan and Kekchi Maya. However, the majority of them live in the surrounding villages as self-sufficient small farmers.
Several Mayan ruins in the area – mostly unexcavated and not restored – testify to the heyday of this culture. Special mention should be made of Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit. Lubaantun is characterized by mortarless temple platforms, built in the style of the so-called “in-and-out masonry”, where the upper level protrudes slightly from the lower level.
Nim Li Punit, which among other things has a beautiful ball court and carefully worked stelae, means “big hat” in the Kekchi-Maya. The model for this naming is supposed to have been the representation on stele no. 14, on which a ruler with an oversized headgear is depicted.
At least as interesting as the cultural remains of the past are the natural attractions of the Toledo District. One of the world’s largest river caves is the Blue Creek or Hokeb Ha Cave. Supplied by an underground spring, the blue river, which owes its name and colour to mineral deposits, has made its way through the limestone for thousands of years, creating a cave more than 8 km long with stalactites and stalagmites on its walls and floors.
A visit to the cave is possible without an organised tour, if you have your own vehicle, as there are experienced local guides who will provide life jackets and headlamps for guests after they have walked half an hour to the cave entrance, which is beautifully decorated with a sky-blue water basin. After just a few metres, visitors are immersed in a dark world that was known to the Maya as a sacred place more than a thousand years ago, as ceramic finds prove.
A special experience promises a diving / snorkeling tour to the Sapodilla Cayes, a series of small picture book islands, which lie much further away from the mainland than the Frenchman Caye in the Port Honduras protected area.