Above: Shimmering waters off Ambergris Caye

The tiny country ofBelizepacks an astonishing range of attractions into a space slightly larger than New Jersey. The Maya left numerous enigmatic ruins, ranging from small ceremonial centers to major cities such as Caracol, thought to have had 150,000 inhabitants at its height in the eighth century. Forests of tropical hardwoods and palm trees house hundreds of colorful bird species, such as keel-billed toucans and scarlet macaws. The world’s second-largest barrier reef protects the coastline and shelters a rainbow of marine life. And just above sea level, picturesque cayes and barrier islands are home to mangrove forests, white-sand beaches and small-scale resorts.

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