The Capital of Belize
What is the capital of Belize?
The capital city of Belize is Belmopan. Its population in 2010 was 16,451. Belize is the smallest capital city by population in the continental Americas. Belmopan was founded as a planned community in 1970 and is is one of the newest capital cities in the world. Belmopan is the third-largest settlement in Belize.
Belize City is the largest with 60,000 inhabitants and San Ignacio second with around 18,000 inhabitants. Belmopan is located in a district inland called Cayo District and it was built at an altitude of 76 metres (249 feet) above sea level for a good reason!
Why did Belize move their capital from Belize City to Belmopan?
The former capital Belize City had been hit by severely by Hurricane Hattie in 1961 which destroyed approximately 75% of the city. Since Belize City is a port on the coast, it is a low lying coastal area and this contributed to Hattie’s devastation.
The local government promoted the building of a new capital and in 1962, a committee chose the specific place that is known now as Belmopan, 82 kilometres (51 mi) west of Belize City. They made sure it was in an area inland with sufficient metres above sea level.
History of the Capital of Belize
Belize was a British colony (known as British Honduras) at that time and had no interest to fund such a big reconstruction project. The British were finally convinced to contribute financially by a clever move from the local Belizean government.
The name of Belmopan, is derived from two words: ‘Belize’ and the name of one of the longest rivers in the country ‘Mopan’ which empties into the Belize River.
Foreign governments started to slowly relocate their embassies to Belmopan as it became the functioning capital. In 1981 Belize achieved independence and the British High Commission opened and moved to its current location in Belmopan 1984.
In 2005, the United States government started building a new embassy in Belmopan and this was followed by consulates and some embassies from many of the surrounding countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica and El Salvador. However, ironically Belize City still has most of the country’s foreign diplomatic community, 56 years after Belopan was chosen the new capital city.
Belmopan is exactly in the heart of the country, 50 miles (80 km) inland from the Caribbean and 76 meters (249 feet) above sea level. It is located near the Belize River Valley and looks to the Mountain Pine Ridge foothills.
Belmopan is located on the juncture of two of the main highways in Belize. The George Prince Highway that goes West from Belize City to San Ignacio passes straight through Belmopan. Busses that go to these two cities via this road always stop at Belmopan. Then there is also a second main road starting at Belmopan called the Hummingbird Highway and which heads to the south towards Dangriga and Punta Gorda.
Belmopan is safe and perfectly positioned to go to the biggest cities in Belize but also close to many activities for visitors such as the Belize Zoo, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Reserve, etc.
Culture of Belmopan
The population of Belmopan is mixed and composed of various ethnicities like the rest of Belize including Kriols, Garifuna, Mestizo, Maya and recent immigrants from Asian countries such as China. The population of Belmopan is rapidly increasing and suburbs have appeared.
The distribution of the population in the five zones around Belmopan (Salvapan, San Martin, Las Flores, Maya Mopan and Riviera) are determined to a large extent by the ethnicity. For example most people living in Salvapan have Central American origins.
Belmopan has around 600 business establishments, many of which are run by Chinese. There are five international banks are in Belmopan and several local financial institutions. Belmopan’s government has around 200 acres (81 ha) of land in city limits. The council has started a scheme to attract investment to the city. There are plans to create an industrial park close to Belmopan’s municipal airstrip. Looks like a good place to invest in!
A bus terminal and market complex were constructed in 2003. If you travel by public transport in Belize chances are 100% that you will pass through Belmopan’s bus terminal. So just make sure you stop in this market (which is crossing the street from the bus terminal) to have a great breakfast with stews and fried jacks or anything else you might want hot or cold. It’s delicious and cheap.
Bus Terminal Belmopan
Inside the Bus Terminal of Belmopan
Views from Belmopan’s bus terminal to the food market.
Views from the bus terminal in Belmopan to the street.
Food Market of Belmopan
Capital of Belize – Market of Belmopan
The food market of Belmopan is just in front of the bus terminal
The food market of Belmopan
Great cheap food in the market at Belmopan: fry jacks and beef stew
Cheap street food from 7am to 5pm in the market
Delicious and healthy budget Belizean food: Bbq chicken and rice and beans
Quick Facts of Belmopan
Population (2010) – Total 16,451 – Density 500/km2 (1,300/sq mi)
Time zone Central (UTC-6)
Area code(s) 501 +8
Check below the Things to Do in Belize, in WATER (swim, snorkel, sail) on LAND (hike, see ruins, caves, nature parks) or in URBAN areas.
Caves Nohoch Che’en
Blue Hole Park
Toledo District (Tiger Cave)
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve
Mayflower Bocawina National Park
Hi! I am Ibaia
Too poor to travel the Caribbean?
Follow your Dreams
- Budget Travel
- People & Culture
- Travel Tips
- What to Do in...
- Nature parks
- Scuba Diving
- Off the beaten path
- Maya Ruins