Belmopan is the capital city of Belize. It’s located in the Cayo District and is the smallest capital city in the continental Americas by population.
The city is organized with a ring-shaped design surrounded by residential areas. It’s known for its green spaces and parks, including Independence Plaza, which houses the National Assembly of Belize. The city is also home to the University of Belize, the country’s only national university.
Where is Belmopan?
Belmopan is located in central Belize, a country in Central America. Specifically, it lies in the eastern part of the Cayo District.
Belmopan is positioned near the country’s geographical center, making it a convenient hub for transportation and communication. The city is approximately 50 miles inland from the Caribbean Sea to the east, at an altitude of 76 meters (249 feet) above sea level.
The Belize River runs west of the city, providing an important water source and contributing to the fertility of the surrounding area. This river also gives rise to a landscape of hills and valleys near Belmopan.
History of Belmopan
Belmopan has a relatively recent history compared to many other capital cities. A significant natural disaster and a subsequent decision by the Belizean government influenced the creation and development of Belmopan.
Before Belmopan, the capital of British Honduras (now Belize) was Belize City. However in 1961, Hurricane Hattie struck, causing extensive damage to Belize City. Given the city’s susceptibility to hurricanes, the government constructed a new capital.
In 1962, the government of British Honduras announced the decision to build a new capital city. The site was 50 miles inland, near the village of Roaring Creek. The location was strategically selected for its high ground, low flooding risk, and central position in the country.
The planning and development of Belmopan was carried out with the help of British architects. The city was designed with a ring-like structure, and construction began in 1965 and officially became the capital of Belize in 1970. Despite this, many government offices remained in Belize City for several years, and the relocation process was gradual.
Over the decades, Belmopan has grown and developed, although it remains one of the smallest capital cities in terms of population. It is the country’s administrative and political center, housing many government offices, embassies, and the National Assembly of Belize.
Today, Belmopan is known for its laid-back atmosphere and green spaces. It is a hub for exploring the natural and archaeological sites of the Cayo District, and it’s home to institutions like the University of Belize.
Features of Belmopan
Belmopan is one of the few cities in the world built with a comprehensive plan. British architects planned its design and resembles a ring with a central core of government buildings.
Despite being the capital, Belmopan is a smaller city in Belize. With a relatively small population, it is one of the smallest capital cities in the world by population size. This contributes to a laid-back, tranquil atmosphere.
Geography and Climate
Belmopan, located in the Cayo District of central Belize, sits approximately 76 meters (250 feet) above sea level. This city is located near the Belize River, with the landscape characterized by low-lying hills and valleys.
Belmopan has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: the rainy season (June to November) and the dry season (February to May). The average annual temperature in Belmopan is around 26°C (78.8°F), with November to January being the coldest and May being the hottest. Rainfall varies, but the city receives an average of around 1900 mm of rain per year, with the majority falling during the rainy season.
Belmopan has a population of around 13,000 people. The city’s population comprises a mix of different ethnicities, reflecting Belize’s diversity. This includes Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, Mayan, East Indian, Chinese, Mennonites, and other smaller ethnic groups. English is the official language of Belize, but you’ll also hear Spanish, Creole, and other languages spoken.
As the capital of Belize, Belmopan is an administrative and political center, with the government being a key employer. The city also hosts various embassies and consulates. Besides government services, other sectors contributing to the city’s economy include education, retail, and banking.
Agriculture, while not in the city itself, plays a significant role in the surrounding region’s economy, with products including citrus fruits, bananas, and other crops.
Given its central location, Belmopan is also a hub for transportation and logistics. Additionally, tourism plays a role in the local economy, attracting tourists to Belize’s natural and historical sites.
Things to Do and Places to See in Belmopan
1. The Belize Zoo
Known as “The Best Little Zoo in the Worl,” the Belize Zoo is home to over 175 animals representing over 48 native species. All animals at the zoo are orphaned, rescued, rehabilitated, born at the zoo, or sent to the zoo as part of an exchange program. The zoo aims to provide these animals home while educating the public about Belize’s incredible wildlife.
2. Guanacaste National Park
Situated on the outskirts of Belmopan, this 50-acre park is a sanctuary for Belize’s flora and fauna. Named after a giant Guanacaste tree within its borders, the park provides an opportunity to spot wildlife along its walking trails. It’s a popular spot for bird-watching, with over 100 species recorded here.
3. Blue Hole National Park
Not to be confused with the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, this inland park features a beautiful, fabulous turquoise sinkhole where visitors can swim. It also includes a network of trails leading to caves and other natural features. It’s a short drive from Belmopan, making it a popular day trip.
4. Market Day in Belmopan
Market Day is a lively event held twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, where local vendors sell various goods. You can find everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local produce to clothing, crafts, and traditional Belizean foods. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience local culture and buy unique souvenirs.