When Lonely Planet highlights a destination, it definitely becomes less lonely, but not to worry – the Belize leg of La Ruta Maya remains one of the most uncrowded, laid back and friendliest ways to explore the heartland of the fascinating ancient Maya civilisation.
La Ruta Maya, encompassing Belize and parts of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, joined Coastal Wales, Northern Kenya, Arunachal Pradesh India, Hvar Croatia, Sicily, Canada’s Maritime Provinces, New Zealand’s Queenstown and Southern Lakes, Borneo and Poitou-Charentes, France, in this year’s list of Lonely Planet’s top ten destinations.
Here in Belize, the Heartland of the Maya, La Ruta Maya also refers to the La Ruta Maya River Challenge, an annual three day canoe race along the ancient Maya river network linking Belize’s interior to the Caribbean coast. Chaa Creek has been entering teams in this race for years and we speak from experience when we say it is not only a gruelling competition, but also a stunningly beautiful way to see the country using waterways and technology (i.e., canoes and paddles) thousands of years old.
However, La Ruta Maya (Spanish for the Maya route), is more commonly used to described the pre-colonial, borderless Maya region of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Central America.
To use Lonely Planet’s description:
More of a universe than a region, La Ruta Maya… spans the Yucatán Peninsula and Chiapas in Mexico, plus Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.
The guide goes on to give a brief description of the Maya, including the widely debunked 2012 end-of-the-world predictions, with the conclusion that;
Whatever your view, all this ‘Maya Mania’ makes 2012 the ultimate year to check out the most mysterious ruins on earth.
We couldn’t agree more. Within Chaa Creek’s 365 acre nature reserve there is a Maya temple as well as some 70 recognised Maya archaeological sites, some of which our guests can explore at their own pace by foot, horseback or mountain bike. The region’s most famous sites such as the huge metropolis of Caracol, the royal palace of Cahal Pech, the exquisite ceremonial centre of Xunantunich are in close proximity, and magnificent Tikal, perhaps the most famous ancient Maya city, is just a few hours’ drive across the border in neighbouring Guatemala.
And, with the nationwide celebrations of Maya culture taking place in Belize throughout 2012, next year will indeed be a great time to explore this fascinating culture and the beautiful region that it flourished in.
Chaa Creek itself was a major Maya trade hub as well as a farming and residential centre, and we will be honouring the area’s rich past with our own celebrations, workshops, activities and tours specifically designed to complement the national and regional efforts marking this once-in-a-lifetime event so accurately calculated by Maya astronomers to occur on the winter solstice of December 21 2012.
Our Maya organic farm, which provides fresh food for our restaurant, families and neighbours will be open to allow guest to learn about the sustainable farming techniques the Maya developed over centuries. The Maya Medicinal Plant Trail carries on the tradition of Maya natural healing, effective over millennia and still used today, and an onsite Maya ‘village’ will provide insight into Maya life, giving guests the opportunity to learn, hands on, how to make tortillas, chocolate from native cacao beans, weavings, thatching, pottery and other skills still relevant to today’s Maya.
Anyone with an interest in Maya astrology, mathematics, music, art, spirituality, healing and indeed any aspect of this fascinating, enigmatic culture will come away with a broader and deeper appreciation of one of the world’s most advanced ancient civilisations.
So yes, we’re very happy to see Belize and our neighbours chosen by those savvy travellers at Lonely Planet as one of the top ten destinations for 2012. Joining company with some of the world’s most interesting and beautiful locations is indeed an honour, and we are looking forward to hosting the sort of intrepid traveller Lonely Planet attracts.
But don’t worry about Belize getting crowded any time soon – with one of the lowest population densities in the Western Hemisphere, we have plenty of room and look forward to welcoming people from around the planet to explore the cultural riches – and even learn from – of one of the most interesting and complex civilisations the world has seen.