A place of rare beauty, major historical significance and vibrant culture, Antigua remains Guatemala's must-visit destination. A former capital, the city boasts an impressive catalogue of colonial relics in a magnificent setting. Streetscapes of pastel facades unfold beneath three volcanoes.
Cultural, social and ecological diversity are the hallmarks of Southern Belize. It's here in the south that open savannah and citrus-filled farmland give way to forested hills dotted with Maya villages and ruins, while towns like Hopkins and Placencia offer sun, sand and a bit of local culture.
The northern Nicoya coastline in a snapshot: white-sand beaches, rugged green hills, azure waters, stucco subdivisions. This is some of the most coveted real estate in the country, and when you zoom in, it's a jumble of resorts and retirement properties with a high gringo-to-Tico ratio.
The lush, tropical northern region of Honduras has seduced visitors for centuries with its natural wonders and easy Caribbean vibe. Between the beaches are mangrove swamps and jungle reserves – with manatees in Cuero y Salado and howler monkeys in idyllic Parque Nacional Jeannette Kawas – that scream out be explored.
Central Pacific Coast
Stretching from the rough-and-ready port of Puntarenas to the tiny town of Uvita, the central Pacific coast is home to both wet and dry tropical rainforests, sun-drenched sandy beaches and a healthy dose of wildlife. On shore, national parks protect endangered squirrel monkeys and scarlet macaws, while offshore waters are home to migrating whales and pods of dolphins.
The Bay Islands
Spectacular diving and snorkeling draws visitors from around the world to the three Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahía) – Roatán, Utila and Guanaja – between 25 and 50km off the north coast of Honduras. Their reefs are part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world, and teem with fish, coral, sponges, rays, sea turtles and even whale sharks.
The mountainous departments of Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán and Huehuetenango are generally less frequented by tourists than regions closer to Guatemala City. But with extraordinarily dramatic scenery and vibrant indigenous culture, this part of the country presents an invariably fascinating panorama.
An overland ramble to Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast would be the perfect terrain for an epic novel. Your settings would include wide, muddy rivers surrounded by thick jungle, a fascinating tropical port town and an expanse of mangrove-shrouded black water home to more than a dozen ethnic fishing enclaves.
Lago de Atitlán
Nineteenth-century traveler/chronicler John L Stephens, writing in Incidents of Travel in Central America, called Lago de Atitlán 'the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw,' and he had been around a bit. Today even seasoned travelers marvel at this spectacular environment.