Our first destination in Belize was San Ignacio. Located only half an hour or so from the boarder of Belize and Guatemala, we had decided to stay out here primarily to visit Tikal National Park. Since we only had a couple of nights to spend in this region I definitely didn’t put as much effort into researching San Ignacio as I should have, but it had so much more to offer than we expected or had time for.
From the minute we stepped into the international airport in Cancun to catch our plane to Belize, it felt like we were in the middle of a crazy story. And I guess that’s what it has become. We had booked online what I thought was a regular commercial flight from Mexico to Belize with Tropic Air. It was the only direct flight that day and was a great price! However, our shuttle bus driver had never heard of Tropic Air and had no idea what terminal to drop us off at. After frantically asking a bunch of people at the airport, he drove us around the back of the airport to what seemed like a private terminal for army planes or something. We were so confused! We walked up to the folding table under a Tropic Air sign (I wish that was a joke) to be told that we were the only passengers booked on the flight, so they were happy to take off whenever we wanted. WHAT??!!
Turned out we had actually booked a small charter plane. And we were in fact the only passengers on the flight. To be honest, I’m not even sure why they didn’t cancel it. But everyone at Tropic Air was so lovely, chatting to us about our trip and joking with us as we still had to go through the routine of security and passport checks. We boarded the flight with two lovely pilots and had a very pleasant flight across to Belize. No screaming babies on this flight!
As we landed into Belize there was a whole crew of people waiting for us. I guess there would be for every flight, but it felt so weird with just Thom and I. The Head of Security at the airport greeted us at the plane and we literally walked through a completely deserted airport towards customs as he told us we were the last flight for the day and they were just waiting for us. Literally, not another person who was not waiting for us. We still really don’t understand why they didn’t cancel this flight! But we were so grateful!! We flew through customs and were greeted out the front of the airport by our driver who was taking us to our accommodation in San Ignacio.
The craziness did not stop. Our driver was a lovely man, who took us by a supermarket to grab some food for the long drive to our hotel. It was about a two hour drive to our accommodation and it was already about 9pm, so completely dark. As we began the journey our driver sang reggae music at the top of his voice for the first 45 minutes or so, we realized there was no chance of getting a nap in here. After about 50 minutes, he stopped in the middle of the road in a small town and told us his mate was going to ride with us the rest of the way. He was a police man from the small town who lived in San Ignacio but didn’t have a licence. I swear, I am not making this up. If this hadn’t of been the craziest day ever I would have for sure been convinced that this is where we were going to die. For the remainder of the trip we were drawn into an incredibly bizarre and hypothetical conversation by our driver about the possibility of aliens, the contradictory teachings of religions and local stories of infidelity and scandal until we arrived at our hotel. Just bizarre.
We literally got out of the car and called my mum back in Australia to tell her about our last 6 or so hours. It felt like it wasn’t even real if we didn’t laugh about it with someone else. What a crazy start to our time in Belize.
From the minute we arrived at our hotel – Cahal Pech Village Resort in San Ignacio – we realized that we had severely misjudged this region. We just hadn’t put as much effort into research and planning as I normally would (mainly because the wedding took up most of my brain space during this planning time). There are SO many activities, day tours and excursions that leave from San Ignacio and allow you to explore heaps of Belize. It is definitely known as the adventure capital of Belize.
As I mentioned, San Ignacio was the base for us to go and visit the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala, a two hour drive from San Ignacio. There are also many other Mayan ruins sights that are located in Belize that are an easy trip from San Ignacio, including Caracol, Xunantunich, and Cahal Pech. You can explore the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves, head underground to the Crystal Caves, visit the inland Blue Hole, go horseback riding, cave tubing, canoeing, chocolate making or ziplining, visit Big Rock Falls, the Butterfly Farm or Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve all from San Ignacio. There are so many options for your time here, how many can you fit into your trip?
While our trip to Tikal took up most of our time in San Ignacio, we also had a little bit of time left to take a walk around the town and take in the Belizean way of life. Everyone here is honestly so lovely and friendly, the kind of place where strangers will say hi to you in the street and taxi drivers will most likely have their wife and kid in the back to keep them company during the day. No one obnoxiously waits for a tip (they’re better than that) and their dollar is surprisingly strong. It’s a bright and colourful corner of the world that is probably still a little bit off the beaten track and well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
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