General Information About Cayo District, Belize
The Cayo District is Belize's westernmost district and a World Destination in Ecotourism. It borders Guatemala and contains the official western border crossing into Guatemala at Santa Elena. It is home to, among other communities, the capital city, Belmopan, and the western-most town, Benque Viejo del Carmen. The terrain is hilly to mountainous with rocky and limestone plateaus. Cayo is home to the Maya Mountains - an offshoot of the great mountain range which stretches from the Cascades to the Andes. From San Ignacio and Santa Elena also known as Cayo Belize, you can experience and enjoy what the Cayo District has to offer. With a majestic 880,000 acres of protected land in the form of nature reserves and national parks, this district is truly a nature-lover’s dream. While new experiences abound, the people of the Cayo District make you feel right at home. Cayo is full of winding rivers, majestic waterfalls, mysterious caves and breath-taking mountains that engulf a tiny national capital and grand Maya cities. With surroundings so intimate, you can be one with all these genuine experiences.
When the first jungle lodges opened in the early 1980s in the Cayo, few thought this wild area would become a tourist magnet. The mountainous region was too remote. Roads were bad. Restaurants were few. What would visitors do, besides visit cattle ranches and orange groves?
After three decades of thoughtful development, and remarkable growth in lodging, restaurants, and other infrastructure, more than half of those touring Belize visit the Cayo during their trip, making this the country's second most popular destination after Ambergris Caye. Cayo is populated by a wide variety of ethnic groups.
The towns closer to the border are mostly Spanish speaking. The district is filled however with numerous towns and villages which vary from Mayan Indian to Creole. Due to a hurricane in 1961 the Government of Belize decided to move the country's capital to a new city called Belmopan in the center of the Cayo District.
San Ignacio serves as the capital of Cayo District. It got its start from Mahogany and gum production during British rule. It began to attract different people from the surrounding areas, which led to the diverse population of the town at present day. San Ignacio is situated on the banks of the Macal and Mopan Rivers, about 68.5 miles (115 kilometers) west of Belize City.