Belize is a nation on the eastern coast of central America, with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Formerly British Honduras, is a country located on the north eastern coast of central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. Offshore, the massive Belize Barrier Reef, dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes, hosts rich marine life. Belize’s jungle areas are home to Mayan ruins like Caracol, renowned for its towering pyramid, lagoon-side Lamanai, and Altun Ha, which is just outside Belize City.
The Maya Civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B.C. and A.D. 300 and flourished until about 1200. In 1502, European contact was made when Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras. In 1638 there was initial European exploration by English settlers. Significantly, this period saw Spain and Britain both laying claim to the land until, in 1798, Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of St. George's Caye. In 1840, Belize became a British colony, named British Honduras, and a Crown colony in 1862. On 21 September 1981 independence from the United Kingdom was achieved.