San Ignacio, a small town in Western Belize is a great place to spend a couple of nights giving you a base from which to explore Xunantunich, Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, and many other famous tourist sites.
Tourist attractions aside, San Ignacio is an interesting city to explore by foot.
After a long and very hot (110F) day of exploring Xunantunich, my husband and I were exhausted but weren’t quite ready to call it a day.
Since we were fascinated by the diversity of the buildings in the area, we decided to explore the streets near our hotel and get some photos.
As you may notice the picture above is blurry; my camera lens kept fogging up due to the high humidity! It took me a few days to figure out I shouldn’t take photos right after I walk out of an air-conditioned building.
We stayed at Venus Hotel on the main thoroughfare, Burns Avenue, an excellent hotel to choose if you visit San Ignacio.
We decided to walk away from Burns Avenue to check out some of the homes away from the touristy area.
You’ll notice here is some very evident income disparity in San Ignacio (and Belize as a whole).
When it comes to building houses in San Ignacio, there are two common styles;
Wooden Plank Houses
Locals we met told us the land the wooden plank houses are on have usually been owned by several generations of family, who make continuous improvements and expansions as finances permit.
You will see many plank houses around the country on stilts. Due to heavy rainfall and tropical storms, the first floor should be raised above ground level to prevent damage.
Concrete houses are common to see as well. Locals told us they are easier to keep cool and have fewer issues with bugs. A concrete home can be anywhere from $60-$100 USD per square foot. More expensive than plank houses.
Sometimes you will see concrete houses with rebar sticking out of them. The owners are hoping to expand in the future.
Another type of house that is becoming popular are Mennonite Pre-Fab Houses. We didn’t notice any in San Ignacio though.
Another interesting thing in San Ignacio (and Belize) are the grocery stores and the markets.
We were quite surprised to find out there is a significant population of Chinese immigrants in Belize. You will find many of the bigger (and smaller) grocery stores owned by Chinese immigrants.
It’s very common to see shops with Chinese names.
Next door to the large concrete stores you will find a lot of little plank fruit stands and markets.
The fruit is often cut up and ready to eat at these little stands. We loved visiting these shops in the mornings.
Another interesting thing in San Ignacio is the fantastic street art. The murals below were a community art project organized by artist Natalia Pilato. Check out this article to learn more about this fascinating project.
So, during your visit to San Ignacio, after you have had a chance to check out all the amazing tourist sites, take a moment to walk the streets and learn more about the city. It’s a diverse place, and there is so much to learn and see. The locals are very friendly, and will happily share the history of their colorful and vibrant city with you.