National Geographic has joined an all-star list of major travel publishers which have recommended visiting Belize in 2019. In this year’s annual roundup of “best trips” to take in the upcoming year, Belize received top marks for its strong conservation effort and flawlessly beautiful natural scenery.

The historic magazine that published its first edition in 1888 has urged readers to visit Belize in 2019 as a way to support sustainable eco-tourism, particularly in the field of marine conservation. Thanks to tireless work to protect its natural heritage, Belize celebrated earlier this year when its vast offshore coral reef, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, was removed from the “endangered” list. The government of Belize has also banned all offshore drilling and will phase out all single-use plastic by April 20, 2019, to coincide with the Earth Day holiday.

Coral reefs compose just one per cent of the ocean’s surface but are home to a staggering one-quarter of all marine lifeforms. Belize’s reef is divided into several national parks and protected marine reserves that are home to hundreds of tropical fish species, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, rays, and manatees. And the 400 some islands on the reef provide nesting sites for a host of different bird species, including the red-footed booby and the endangered brown pelican. Popular activities on the reef include snorkeling, scuba diving, stand-up paddling, sea kayaking, and swimming.

Not to be outdone, National Geographic also urged its readers to visit the mainland of Belize as well. The country is home to some 600 ancient Maya sites, including the vast stone buildings of Caracol. Located in the middle of thick jungle in the western part of Belize, Caracol was an ancient rival of Tikal, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just across the border in Guatemala. Caracol has more than 260 structures and was once home to up to 180,000 ancient Maya before the city was abandoned for reasons that are still unclear around the year 900 A.D., some 500 years before the arrival of Europeans in the New World.

If you’re heading to Belize in 2019, be sure to stay at Black Orchid Resort, an award-winning property located just a few minutes drive from the international airport. Black Orchid is home to the renowned Pan Di Riva restaurant which specializes in authentic Creole cooking and has lovely river view rooms and suites ideal for honeymooners, families, and adventure travelers.