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84km (52 miles) W of Belize City; 32km (20 miles) E of San Ignacio; 161km (100 miles) NW of Placencia

Belmopan is a desultorily planned city and the official capital of Belize. After Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize City in 1961 -- not the first time a storm leveled or flooded the city -- government officials figured enough was enough and decided to move the country's capital safely inland. A host of government buildings, including the National Assembly, is laid out according to a master plan, surrounded by residential areas, with everything connected by a ring road. Unfortunately, the planners who designed it didn't count on the people's resistance to moving here. Belmopan is an example of what happens when you build it and no one comes. In fact, many government workers make the daily commute from either Belize City or San Ignacio -- both are easy rides on well-paved roads.

Unless you are coming to Belize on government business, you will probably want to avoid Belmopan entirely. However, if you are traveling around by bus, you will at least pass through it. If you get into town late at night, don't despair -- you can easily spend the night and make an early onward connection in the morning. The area around Belmopan is chock-full of natural wonders, including Guanacaste and Blue Hole National parks, as well as the Caves Branch River and its network of hollowed-out limestone caves. There are also several very comfortable and interesting nature lodges in close proximity to Belmopan.