By Lebawit Lily Girma
Known as Holpatin in the Maya days, and now affectionately dubbed Shuga City—hub of sugar production and Belizean rum—the northern district of Orange Walk, a mere 53 miles north of Belize City, draws culture lovers, naturalists, and archeology fans. Aside from being sweetly favored with rum factories, Orange Walk is home to Belize’s largest fresh water body at 28 miles long. A boat safari down the New River takes you to Lamanai Archeological site—home to the third tallest Maya structure in Belize—and reveals breathtaking subtropical forests and riverbanks teeming with diverse wildlife, including over 400 bird species, howler monkeys, and morelet crocodiles. Meanwhile, deep in the jungles of Chan Chich, Belize’s five wild cats lurk, appearing by day to the lucky few. Off-the-beaten track sights abound for the intrepid—among them, Honey Camp Lagoon, Blue Creek, and Cuello Archeological Site.
If you’re culture-hungry, Orange Walk won’t disappoint. Experience a game of pok-ta-pok, the ancient Maya sport recently revived in the village of Yo Creek, or visit the traditional Mennonite community in Shipyard, where farmers grow their own foods, from vegetables and livestock to fowls. In Orange Walk Town, take in the district’s history at Banquitas House of Culture.
Food is a passion in these parts, bursting in Mestizo flavors. Orange Walk’s famous tacos are so tasty they draw Belizeans from around the country, but you’ll also delight in salpicón or spicy pork ceviche, and tamales.
To boot, Orange Walkeños are known for their fiery party spirit—local festivals abound year round, including Rum Fest, Fiestarama, Orange Walk Carnival, Taco Fest, and La Fiesta del Pueblo.