Toledo is Belize’s southernmost district and is sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten Land” by locals. It’s not one of the heavily visited districts in Belize, with its remote location and once-limited means of reaching it, it kept travelers focused on other, more popular locations, but with initiatives like Agritourism, things are starting to change.
The area is home to nearly 1,700 square miles of rainforest, mountains, rivers, and offshore islands, keeping it one of the least developed regions in Belize. Punta Gorda is the most well-known town in the Toledo District, known locally as “PG”.
Toledo is home to several Maya sites, and sees some of the most cultural diversity in Belize. Sparsely populated villages are filled with Mopan and Ketchi farmers, whereas towns like Punta Gorda have large East Indian populations. Homes are simple and it’s not uncommon to see local Mayan women washing clothes in the river while men tend to the fields.
Things To Do
You could easily base yourself in Toledo for a week and not experience everything this rugged region has to offer. Much like other districts in Belize, fishing and other water activities are popular past times. Take a trip to the Snake Cayes where you can kayak, snorkel, or just chill on the beach.
Stay on the mainland and head inland to one of the countless rivers running through the Toledo District. Kayaking and tubing are the activities on rivers like Golden Stream, Monkey River, Rio Grande, and the Sarstoon.
Toledo is also ideal for bird watching with its rugged rainforest terrain. There are nearly 500 recorded species of birds catalogued in the Toledo District, including Western Slaty-Antshrike, Palty Tyrannulet and the Violet-crowned Woodnymph, which can only be found within the Toledo District.
Food and Drinks
The cuisine in Toledo is as varied as its cultural make-up. Look for everything from traditional Garifuna dishes to East Indian specialties. One East Indian specialty to try — tacari and cohune cabbage. Typically made using chicken or fish, it includes a mix of yellow ginger/turmeric, and cumin or curry powder, which give the dish its distinctive yellow hue. Cohune cabbage is not actually a cabbage at all, but heart of palm harvested from the inner core of specific palm trees. Tacari and cohune cabbage can be found all over the Toledo District and is one of the most beloved dishes of the region.
Adventurous eaters should seek out the gibnut, or “royal rat” because Queen Elizabeth was served this local delicacy during her visit back in 1985.
Toledo is regarded as Belize’s chocolate capital so you would be remiss in not sampling some of the local Maya chocolate. Toledo takes its chocolate so seriously they even have an annual festival in May to pay homage to this Belizean staple.
Where To Stay
Depending on your focus while traveling Toledo, you can choose to stay in one of the few properties in Punta Gorda or branch out further to spots in the neighboring mountains. Several resorts outside Punta Gorda feature easier access to many of the nature and adventure activities that Toledo is known for.
Getting to Toledo isn’t as easy as other locations but it’s also not too difficult. If you arriving via the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA), you can take a short flight to the most Southern airport which is in Placencia Village, and from there you can arrange a local transfer to your final destination. Another option is renting a vehicle or public transportation (bus) from anywhere in Belize.