This Gorgeous District is Belize’s Most Overlooked Destination
Located far in the southern part of the country, Toledo District is the least visited of Belize’s six districts. Yet this lovely stretch of lush rainforests and coastal lowland plains between Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea has a lot to offer for visitors.
Toledo District is sparsely populated, home to around 10% of the people in Belize, but it is where a variety of different cultures can be found, including many of the living descendants of the ancient Maya people who built the cities of Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit. Other cultures represented in Toledo District include Mennonite farmers, Mestizos, Creoles, Garifuna, East Indians, and descendants of a band of Confederate soldiers who emigrated here following the American Civil War.
Toledo District is primarily an agricultural district. Cacao, the base ingredient for chocolate, has been grown in Toledo for thousands of years. Today, chocolatiers such as Ixcaca, T’Chil, and Green & Black continue this rich tradition, producing fine chocolate products that are exported around the world. Many cacao farms host tours and workshops where visitors can learn to make their own chocolate.
The capital of Toledo District, Punta Gorda, is often referred to as “P.G.” for short. Despite its Spanish name, the town is home to a large Garifuna community renowned for its rich musical heritage. Every year, P.G. hosts a Battle of the Drums contest in which drummers play throughout the night in order to win the top prize. Punta Gorda also hosts an annual chocolate festival which features innovative products such as chocolate soap, chocolate beer, and chocolate wine among a delicious array of more traditional sweets.
Other popular activities to Toledo District include visiting a Maya village in order to learn more about their traditional lifestyle, foods, medicinal knowledge, and handicrafts. Toledo District is also home to other farms that conduct tours such as the largest spice farm in the Americas where traditional spices from India like vanilla and cardamom are grown.
Toledo District is also a haven for adventurers. There are vast cave networks to explore as well as several rivers ideal for canoeing and rafting. Other popular adventure activities include snorkeling and diving on the southern portion of the Belize Barrier Reef, bird watching, and boat tours of the well-named Monkey River.