Belize - Destination  guide

Belize is the only Central American country where English is the official language. With 900 Maya temple sites, one crystal skull, some of the best dive sites in the Caribbean and their own version of Big Foot/Sasquatch roaming the jungle, you better Belize this is a great destination to explore!

Mayan Ruins

Visit an assortment of ancient Mayan ruins in the Cayo District starting at Xunantunich and concluding at the extensive Caracol Archaeological Reserve. Once home to 120,000 people, the Caracol grounds consist of more than 35,000 identified buildings. Completists can relax, not all of those buildings have been excavated.     

Chill out on Ambergris Caye

Chill out on Ambergris Caye, a 25-mile-long island and gateway to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Divers, snorkelers and beach lovers will enjoy the surrounding barrier reef while those who prefer to keep their feet dry may travers the cobblestone streets of San Pedro.  

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Did I mention Hol Chan Marine Reserve? Get alongside and up close with stingrays, eels, turtles and sharks in this densely populated channel of crystal clear water.

Caye Caulker

Chill out on the sun-soaked island paradise Caye Caulker. Like Ambergris Caye, you can easily access Hol Chan Marine Reserve and most of all relax on this island paradise.

Blue Hole

Another one for the divers, the imaginatively named, Great Blue Hole (well, what else would you call it). A UNESCO World Heritage Site created when a cave roof collapsed about 10,000 years ago. There are plenty of fish to see around the reef but don’t expect to see much life deep down. However, if you bring your flashlight you can explore plenty of tunnels, caverns, ancient stalactites and you may even bump into the odd shark. Best visit during April or May.

Jaguars

Want to see some wild wildlife? Visit the only Jaguar reserve in the world, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary. While there also keep an eye out for ocelots, pumas, peccaries, tapirs, king vultures, armadillos and a whole load of native birds.

Lamanai

Head North to Lamanai to see a fabulous Mayan site decorated in crocodile art and guarded by real ones basking along the banks of the New River. Here you will find three Mayan pyramids, ancient plazas and a 16th century Spanish church.  

Altun Ha

If you like hiking with your Mayan tombs, temples and pyramids, then place Altun Ha high on your list. 

ATM Caves

Seen enough temples and beaches? How about a proper cave tour? Not just any cave tour, the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves involve swimming, diving, crawling, climbing rock formations, walking barefoot and climbing a ladder. Is it worth it? Totally, this physically demanding tour will reveal Mayan artefacts and skeletons in what appears to be an ancient sacrificial chamber. If you’re up for the challenge, book with a tour company from your hotel or in San Ignacio.  

San Ignacio

Rest up for a day or two in San Ignacio where you may explore the nearby Cahal Pech Archaeological Site and Iguana Conservation Project.

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Here are a few suggestions of things to see and do in my favourite places in North America.    

Take heed, my lists are not intended as essential bucket lists and nor are they written in any particular order. To protect our sanity, I’ve limited each country to only ten suggestions. While there may be more worthy sights to see first, you don’t need to worry because you’ll hear all about those as soon as you arrive.

  Canada - Destination  guide

Canada has the most lakes in the world and one of them contains Ogopogo, Canada’s own version of the Loch Ness monster. Canada is also home to Superman’s secret hideaway and this may be the only country in the world where you can accidently bump into someone and receive a heartfelt apology. Huge mountains, waterfalls, loads of wildlife and an untouched wilderness, get amongst it!

Niagra

First stop Niagara Falls. Canada’s most famous natural attraction is as awesome as it is famous, even Superman spent his honeymoon here.  Stand remarkably close to the edge, you’ll be mesmerised by the volume of water plunging 57 metres and saturating everyone riding the Maid of the Mist. Another highlight is standing behind the falls where you may marvel at the bravery required to dig the subterranean tunnel that took you there. After you’re all washed up, soak up the party-town atmosphere on Clifton Hill. Try not to drown yourself in one of the bars though because later you may want to visit the haunted Screaming Tunnel. Apparently, if you light a match in the tunnel you may hear the screams of a young girl who died from burns inflicted by a nearby burning farm.    

Banff and Jasper National Parks

The great outdoors doesn’t get any greater than the Banff and Jasper National Parks. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll see turquoise lakes, snow-capped mountain peaks and scenery that will make you want to emigrate. Begin your unforgettable journey in either Banff or Jasper and travel to the other visiting Lake Louise, Glaciers Skywalk and the Icefields Parkway along the way.

Quebec

If Lois Lane wanted to visit France on her honeymoon with Superman, one would be forgiven for believing the man from Krypton simply moved a French city over ocean to make her happy. Yes, it looks like an old French town and it sounds like an old French town, but Superman doesn’t exist so somehow Quebec really is in North America. Bring your translator app if you’re not au fait with French and if visiting in winter book a night in the Hotel de Glace where you may chillax in a hotel made entirely from ice.        

Montreal

If you like fancy cafés, gazing at lovely historic buildings and shopping for designer labels, head to Montreal. Horse drawn carriages and cobblestone streets will make for a romantic weekend in this vibrant French speaking city.  Or, perhaps you may want to see Habitat 67 instead? Built as an experiment in modular architecture imitating organic growth, this is now, somehow, one of the premier addresses in town. 

Victoria

Don’t speak French? It doesn’t get any more English outside England than Victoria. Double decker busses and a waterfront second to none will leave you spellbound. After a short ferry ride from Vancouver, head to the Empress Hotel for High Tea then enjoy an evening stroll along the waterfront. For accommodation on Vancouver Island, try out ‘Free spirit Spheres’, the ultimate tree house experience and rent a night in a suspended wooden orb. Next day drive out to Fairy Lake and see a lone Douglas Fir tree growing on a partly submerged log.       

Stanley Park

Get away from the big cities and head to Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Whether you walk, ride or drive, you’ll be seduced by the red cedar and douglas fir trees, views to the mountains and most off all a rare opportunity to see many totem poles - some of which were erected over 100 years ago. Afterwards, drive to the 140 metre-long and 70 metre-high Capilano Suspension Bridge and cross the river if you dare. 

Whistler

Ski Whistler, only a two-hour drive North of Vancouver, but one that will probably take four if you like taking pictures. This world-famous ski resort is an unmissable destination, even if you only go for the scenery. If visiting in summer take the hiking trail South to see a handful of crushed railcars  abandoned in the woods. These remnants of a 1956 train wreck make for an unusual photograph and popular canvas for graffiti artists.       

Dinosaurs

Head to Drumhella to see a world class exhibition of prehistoric life on earth, shop for your own fossils & bones and climb inside a four-times larger than a real life T-rex - the largest in the world. 

Star Trek

Star Trek fans will need to visit Vulcan. While the name of the town is coincidently the same as Spock’s home world, the many Star Trek themed businesses, signs and attractions are deliberate. In fact, the whole town appears to have fully embraced the Star Trek universe including an unmissable roadside Starship Enterprise, shuttle and trek/visitor ‘station’ built inside a UFO.  

Toronto

Visit the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, Toronto’s CN Tower. Boasting the world’s tallest steel staircase, this Canadian icon also features a glass floor that will challenge anyone with a fear of heights.  

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  Cuba - Destination  guide

It’s all true, you can experience the romance of an entire nation living in the 1950s in Cuba. But, it’s not exactly like stepping into an episode of Happy Days. While the countryside is stunning, the man-made bits are gritty and much of the infrastructure is rather run down. But do not despair, the gritty bits are the charm and every inch of this island is a photographer’s dream.  

Chill out in Havana

First stop Havana, slow down, relax and drink some Mojitos on the roof bar of the Ambos Mundos Hotel.

Cigars

Visit the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas cigar factory and see where all the magic happens. Be sure to buy a box of sticks on your way out and be weary of sellers selling cigars on the streets. 

Classic cars and the romantic Plaza de la Catedral

Check out, photograph and take a ride in one of the vintage cars lined up outside the Capitol building Havana. Afterwards, enjoy live music and an outdoor evening meal in Havana’s most romantic setting, Plaza de la Catedral.

Fusterlandia

Visit Fusterlandia, Cuba’s very own Park Guell. Inspired by Gaudi’s spectacular efforts in Barcelona, Jose Fuster decided to create his own fancy neighbourhood in Havana, the results are amazing.

La Cabaña

View the 17th century ceremony of “el cañonazo de las nueve” in the fortress of La Cabaña – Havana. You’ll see soldiers dressed in the traditional costumes firing a cannon to warn off any pirates and would-be invaders.

Vinales

Hire a car, a modern one, or maybe a bike and spend a few days exploring the tobacco fields, caves and outcropping limestone formations of Vinales. 

Trinidad

Spend a day exploring the well-preserved and colourful UNESCO heritage site Trinidad.

Che Guevara monument - Santa Clara

See the Che Guevara monument in Santa Clara. You'll see Che on almost every street on the island but there can never be enough Che spotting in Cuba

Bay of Pigs

Dip into the crystal-clear waters and swim over the reef in Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of the Pigs).

Hang out with the locals

Stay and eat with locals wherever possible. Cuba is as much about its friendly people as it is its beautiful sights, and there are plenty of registered casas particulares (bed and breakfasts) to choose from.  However, before agreeing to stay anywhere, be sure to check the aircon works and there is plenty of running hot water.

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  Guatemala - Destination  guide

Snow peaked volcanos, tropical jungles, Pacific beaches and epic Mayan temple complexes, little wonder why the Star Wars rebels choose Guatemala as the location for their secret Yavin base.

Tour Tikal

Tour Tikal and climb the pyramids. The ruins of Tikal are spectacular and Guatemala’s most famous attraction does not disappoint. Star Wars fans will recognise it immediately and be sure to keep your camera close as there is good chance of seeing some of the exotic wildlife up close. Arrive early to avoid the tourists and the hot sun.

Climb volcano Acatenango

Climb Acatenango and see a live volcano up close. You’ll need some serious walking shoes, a head for heights and some warm threads but those who brave it will never forget it.Volcano

More volcano's

If Acatanenango (pictured) is too much trouble, Pacaya is an easier option to see lava fields up-close – bring marshmallows.

Antigua

Spend a couple of days partying in Antigua, birthplace of the Hass Avacado. While there be sure to visit the ruins of Old Antigua and check out the local bus station to photograph Guatemala’s famous chicken buses.    

Guatemala City Sink Hole

See a sinkhole in the heart of Guatemala City. These horrifying holes open up without warning and in 2010 a 60-foot-wide and 30-storey deep hole swallowed a three-storey building. While they are routinely filled in, it’s worth keeping an eye on the news as Guatamala City has a history of these unexpected events from time to time.

Semuc Champey

Visit the natural pools of Semuc Champey. Ok, it’s no easy journey but well worth the eight-hour four-wheel drive trek to dip into these tranquil turquoise pools. 

Chichicastenango markets

Embrace Mayan culture and purchase a few handwoven textiles in the Chichicastenango markets.

Chichicastenango is only a couple of hours drive from Antigua and the markets are held twice weekly. Consider staying overnight to connect with the locals and better experience the Mayan life. While in town don’t miss the colourful cemetery located nearby the markets. 

Flores

Wander the colourful streets of Flores, an island town in Lake Peten located conveniently close to Tikel. Like anywhere in Guatemala, keep a look out for scams and do not use the dodgy ATM unless you hate your money.  

End of the World

See the tall Mesoamerican monoliths and zoomorphic stones at Quirigua. The site is located on the crossroads of an old Maya trade route and contains many engraved standing stones. One such structure details important celestial milestones and doomsayers believed it foretold the end of the world on 21 December 2012.    

Rio Dulce

Take a boat ride along the Rio Dulce to Livingston. Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, crocodiles and manatees – yep they filmed Tarzan here. 

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  Mexico - Destination  guide

Aztec and Mayan temples, jungles, beaches and a capital city that’s sinking at a rate of 15 – 20 centimetres per year.  To a group of wandering nomads in the 14th century, the land under Mexico City seemed like a good place to settle after spying an eagle standing on a cactus with a snake it its mouth. You may not see such a sight on your holiday, but if you do maybe you will want to stay too.

Templo Mayor

First stop, an excavated Aztec temple in the middle of Mexico City. Mexico City is built on top of the ruins of the great Aztec city Tenochtitlan, little remains visible today but at Templo Mayor (the Greater Temple) Museum you’ll quickly get a good taste for the treasures, size and customs of the Aztec empire. 

Artefacts

Spend quality time in the impressive National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Here you will see thousands of recovered treasures and artefacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage. You’ll leave with a greater understanding of the many cultures and will better understand and appreciate the archaeological sites in central America.       

Teotihuacan

For an unforgettable experience, take a morning Hot-Air Balloon flight over the gigantic Teotihuacan Pyramids, Mexico City. After the flight, spend a few hours exploring the vast site with a guide.

Uxmal

Visit the ancient city ruins of Uxmal. Almost all of this incredibly well-preserved city is still accessible to tourists and the intricately carved buildings are huge, photogenic and super impressive! Take your walking shoes and ready yourself to climb for some incredible views.

Chichen Itza

Visit one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza. Arrive early to take quality pictures of the famous Kukulkan Pyramid, the Great Ball Court and the Temple of the Jaguars. If you arrive during the Spring (20th of March) or Autumn Equinox (22nd September), watch for the shadow across the Kukulkan Pyramid giving the appearance of a serpent slithering down the staircase.

Cenote Xkeken

Take a break from all the Aztec and Mayan ruins and visit Cenote Xkeken - near Valladolid in the Yucatan Peninsula.

San Juan Chamula

Head to San Cristobal and take a day trip/tour to the nearby Mayan village San Juan Chamula. Here you will see locals wearing traditional clothing, making tortillas by hand and weaving brightly coloured clothes in their back yards. As you walk the streets you’ll be passed by San Juan Chamula’s version of ice cream men - mobile tortilla sellers on motor bikes. Not to be missed is the local church, built in the Catholic style but with Mayan crosses and Mayan saints lining the inside walls. At the rear of the church, local doctors sacrifice chickens to cure their patients from all sorts of ailments. Like most places in Mexico, the people are lovely but do ask permission before taking their photograph and don’t even think about taking your camera out in the church. 

Palenque

If you have time to visit only one archaeological site on your trip to Mexico, aim straight for the incredibly well-preserved Mayan ruins of Palenque, it’s amazing.  Less crowds and more impressive than the better marketed Chichen Itza. This site was abandoned long before the Spanish arrived in Central America and the jungle has done a fabulous job protecting the many treasures from looters.

Great Pyramid of Cholula

Visit the largest man-made pyramid in the world, the Great Pyramid of Cholula. This gigantic Aztec temple is not only the largest man-made ancient structure, it’s also the best disguised given it is mostly covered in grass and features a Spanish chapel on its summit. Despite the trimmings, this pyramid’s stairways and tunnels are open to the public and it’s well worth the visit.  

Tulum

Check out more than 400 life-sized underwater sculptures at the Museo Subacuatico de Arte de - Cancun (the Museum of Underwater Art - Cancun). While in the area be sure to head down to Tulum to see a sea side Mayan site up close and chill out on its beautiful white sand beaches.  

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  USA - Destination  guide

When in Oklahoma, remember it is against the law to have a sleeping donkey in your bathtub. It’s also forbidden to eat in a building that’s on fire in Chicago and whatever you do, don’t pass wind in a public place after 6pm in Florida. You probably already have a list longer than Hwy 101 of things you want to see and do in the United States, so here are ten less known things you may wish to add to your, already, bulging list.

Page - Arizona

Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend. Antelope Canyon is one of the world’s most photogenic canyons. It’s also one of the most dangerous due to the frequency of flash flooding so go with a guide and check the weather forecast before you enter. If you survive your visit, head to Horseshoe Bend to see one of America’s greatest natural wonders and the location of the opening scenes of Planet of the Apes – Page, Arizona

Seattle - Washington

Step down into an abandoned underground city under Pioneer Square Seattle. This fascinating and often hilarious tour will reveal forgotten subterranean sidewalks, shops, bars and hotels stretching three city blocks - Washington.

Tesla Coil - California

Feed your Frankenstein and see the Tesla Coil discharge lightning at the Griffith Observatory - Los Angeles California.  

Voodoo - Louisiana

For something completely different, enter the New Orleans Voodoo Museum. Here you may learn all about Louisiana Voodoo, have your fortune read and pick up a few Voodoo dolls and spells from the gift shop on the way out. Afterwards, sign up for the walking tour of the unusual above ground St. Louis cemetery - New Orleans, Louisiana.

Petroglyphs and pictographs - Utah

Drive to a ghost town, see thousands of thousand-year-old petroglyphs and pictographs and view scenery to die for in the nine-mile canyon (which is actually 40 miles long). Be sure to take photographs, fuel and water – Utah. 

Ringing rocks - Pennsylvania

Headline your own rock concert at Ringing Rocks County Park. Yes, when struck these rocks really do ring like bells - Pennsylvania.

Willis Tower glass floor - Illinois

Embrace your vertigo and check out Chicago from a glass casket suspended 400 meters above the city on the tallest building in the Western hemisphere (if you don’t count antennas) – Willis Tower Chicago, Illinois.

Mt. St. Helens - Washington.

Walk the stalactite and stalagmite lined Ape Cave, the longest continuous lava tube in continental US. Formed over 2,000 years ago, this 1.5-kilometre-long tube was named after the group of foresters who first explored it, sadly not big foot. However, keep your camera close as sightings of the legendary giant in the area are numerous – Mt. St. Helens, Washington.   

Coral Castle - Florida

Step inside the Coral Castle and apply your brain to solve the mystery of how one man, single-handedly, moved seven-metre 30-ton blocks all by himself to construct his own castle – Florida. 

Avenue of the Giants - California

Cruise the Avenue of the Giants, drive through a tree and stand next to a Redwood nearly 1,000 years old at the Humboldt Redwoods National Park.  After your visit, head to Sequoia National Park and meet General Sherman, not the tallest, but possibly the largest single stem tree in the world and estimated to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old - California.   

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