The medium-sized settlement of San Ignacio, on the banks of the Macal River in Belize's hilly western region, is another culturally diverse Belizean town—with quick and easy access to superb natural and historical sites. Its wooden and concrete buildings are picturesque, set against the green of the hillside 70 mi/110 km west of Belize City.
Surprisingly, the area has few mosquitoes or other biting bugs, a pleasant change from much of the rest of Belize. San Ignacio (called "Cayo" by many locals, a name which also refers to the entire western region) has mostly budget lodging, but nearby is "cottage country," where some of Belize's best jungle lodges offer horseback riding, romantic settings, river rafting and nature hikes in the bush.
The town's market is an excellent place to buy authentic Belizean crafts and sample local cuisine from food stalls. Green Iguana Conservation project provides rehabilitation for injured iguanas while allowing visitors to interact with them.
From San Ignacio, excursions can be arranged to a number of destinations in the area: Actun Tunichil Muknal and Barton Creek caves, the Rain Forest Medicine Trail, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the Belize Botanic Gardens at duPlooy's Lodge, three butterfly farms (Green Hills, Tropical Wings and the Blue Morpho Breeding Center at Chaa Creek) and the archaeological ruins at Cahal Pech, Xunantunich, El Pilar and Caracol.
Just 10 mi/16 km from the border with Guatemala, San Ignacio can also serve as a base for a day trip to the ancient Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala. To book a trip, go to one of the many tour businesses on Burns Avenue or check with your hotel or lodge.
San Ignacio is connected to its sister town, Santa Elena, by the only suspension bridge in the country, Hawkesworth Bridge. Road connections to San Ignacio from other points in Belize are good, although the Western Highway from Belize City has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the country, especially after rains when some sections are as slick.