Central American Journey

tours / Adventure

Central American Journey information and booking

from
$5190
  • Duration
    24 days
    Days
  • Group size
    5-16
    Persons
  • Difficulty
    Adventure touring
Check prices & availability

Schedule Details

Summary
  • 24 day trip
  • 23 nights hotel
Equipment Required
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).

Highlights

  • Explore the dramatic Mayan ruins of Tikal and Copan
  • Boat trip on the picturesque crater lake of Lake Atitlan
  • Bargaining in the colourful Indian markets of Chichicastenango
  • Sightseeing in UNESCO city of Antigua
  • Snorkelling or diving on some of the best reefs in the Caribbean, from Roatan Island (Bay Islands)
  • Colonial Granada, Lake Ometepe and Masaya NP in Nicaragua
  • Unique cloud forest at Monteverde
  • Volcan Arenal and turtles of Tortuguero
  • Boquetes, Panama Canal and Panama City

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

This journey traces the main archaeological, cultural and natural attractions of Central America from Guatemala onto Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. There will never be a dull moment on this exceptional adventure as we head south from the jungle clad ruins of Tikal to the World Heritage listed UNESCO city of Antigua and the beautiful Lake Atitlan. We continue via the magnificent ruins at Copan to magical Roatan in the Caribbean, an underwater paradise for diving and snorkelling. Nicaragua and the Isla Omotepe region never fails to impress the more discerning traveller, and neither does Costa Rica with its unique Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano and the turtles at Tortuguero. We cross into Panama and Boquete, known for its cool, fresh climate and pristine environment. We have a day here before crossing the amazing Panama Canal enroute to Panama City.

What's included

  • 23 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 1 dinner
  • Airport transfer on arrival (day one)
  • Mainly private transportation
  • Comfortable well located accommodation on a twin-share basis in 3 or 4 star hotels
  • Internal flight from flores/guatemala city & roatan/tegucigalpa & david/panama city valued at us$330
  • Sightseeing, boat trips and site entrance fees as listed
  • Ferry to roatan
  • Expert local guides throughout
  • Medical kit

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive Guatemala City
You at will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to the group hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, in the evening you will receive the details for the following morning’s flight to Flores.
Day 2 Fly to Flores
Today we fly from Guatemala City to Flores. We transfer directly from the airport to the beautiful city of Flores. The interesting town of Flores is set on a small island in the Peten Itza Lake. Flores is connected to the mainland and to the twin city of Santa Elena by a 500m causeway. For many, the main reason to visit Flores is its proximity to Tikal, but the city itself is well worth a visit in itself. Colonial architecture, red-roofed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, a historic church and Spanish plaza make this sleepy town an ideal stepping stone to Tikal.
Day 3 Visit Tikal
The majesty of the Mayan ruins at Tikal is striking. The winding, mossy jungle paths open up to a surreal world of pyramids and temples, where howler monkeys, frogs and birds like toucans create a cacophonous crescendo. Tikal has a number of step pyramids whose forty-four or so metres you can climb to gain a view across the jungle canopy. From the maze of courtyards of the Great Plaza, temples spread out into the jungle, including the Temple of the Grand Jaguar, and the North Acropolis of King Moon Double Comb. The Mayans settled in Tikal around 700 BC and had started to build the grand North Acropolis by 200 BC. By the time of Christ, the Grand Plaza was being built from stone, but it wasn’t until AD 250 that Tikal became a religious and cultural centre. It reached its glory under King Great Jaguar Paw in AD 300 and underwent a renaissance around AD 700 under King Moon Double Comb, before falling into a mysterious decline, like other Mayan centres, around AD 900.
Day 4 Travel to Antigua
We start early on the long but interesting drive through the Guatemalan countryside and highlands via the capital to Antigua. This highland city was recognized in 1979 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is a highlight of most visits to Central America.
Day 5 In Antigua
We spend a full day visiting the churches, squares, markets and stunning colonial houses of this fabulous city. Surrounding the city are the huge volcanoes that make this part of the world so dramatic. Antigua satisfies everyone’s desire to see a perfect colonial city. It is a city where one can easily wax lyrical about its great beauty. Today we shall have the opportunity to explore this magnificent city and visit the Great Plaza, Cathedral, San Francisco Church, La Mercad Church, the Cultural Centre, Jade Factory and a coffee plantation.
Day 6 A day on Lake Atitlan
We drive the short distance to Panajachel, one of the most interesting villages set on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Surrounded by volcanoes, its shores are dotted with Indian villages, all of which have retained their distinctive cultures – the local dress and colours varies from village to village, much like the clans of Scotland, and market stalls line the narrow streets. We enjoy a boat trip on Lake Atitlan, considered to be one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. Our boat trip includes Santiago, where we can learn more about the local people, their famous weavings and their typical clothes.
Day 7 Market at Chichicastenango
Today we visit the superb market at Chichicastenango. Livestock, handicrafts, fruit and embroidery all give way in this bustling market to the focal point – the church, strewn with flowers and filled with genuflecting Indians whose elaborate rituals see them crawling to the altar, while ‘Cofradias’, or members of the traditional brotherhood, swing incense above their heads. We return to Guatemala City for the evening.
Day 8 Copan
From Guatemala City we cross into Honduras and spend the day visiting the magnificent Mayan ruins of Copan. Some 3450 structures have been uncovered here and the site is extraordinary. Unlike jungle-clad Tikal, Copan features immense lawns that lead to the maze-like Great Plaza, clad with stelae portraying King Eighteen Rabbit; the carved ball-court; and the famed Hieroglyphic Stairway, with its beautiful glyphs and reliefs telling the story, perhaps, of King Smoke Shell, its builder. You can also wander around the acropolis and the beautiful El Bosque, we stay overnight in the charming village of Copan Ruinas
Day 9 La Cieba and boat to Roatan
We head out of Copan and head towards Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands. Our journey is by vehicle and ferry as we pass through San Pedro Sula, a cosmopolitan city and the industrial and commercial heart of the country, and on to La Ceiba, the principal port of the country and a popular seaside resort. La Ceiba is sandwiched between the Nombre de Dios Mountains and the sea and the climate is often very hot. We board a ferry to Roatan which makes up part of the Barbareta Marine National Park. We will stay and explore the island for the next couple of days.
Day 10 to 11 Roatan Island
Roatan has a flourishing fishing industry, profiting from exports to the USA. The shores are both sandy and rocky and there is excellent snorkelling and diving on the reef off the northern shore. Inland, if you walk into the hills you will find a few caves and Mayan burial sites to explore. An unpaved road runs from Coxen Hole (the local name for the main town, also known as Roatan) to the eastern end of the island linking most of the villages. French Harbour, a town on the southern shore is worth a visit if only to eat the best seafood on the island as it is the centre of Roatan’s lobster fishing industry. Oak Ridge, to the east is a lovely fishing village built on an offshore caye and Port Royal, once an important base for Henry Morgan and his fellow buccaneers has beautiful beaches and is a good place to rent a dory (dug-out). If you are looking to explore the coastline by boat, get a ride on one of the larger boats which ply the waters along the coast between the main beaches. We are staying near the quieter beaches in West End Bay. During these 2 days we are more or less free to explore the island at our leisure. There are no activities included on these days.
Day 12 Fly to Tegucigalpa
Our initial mode of transport will be the ferry from the island and then we will fly to Tegucigalpa for a mid afternoon arrival. Time permitting there is an opportunity to have a quick look around Honduras’ capital. Overnight hotel in Tegucigalpa.
Day 13 Bus to Managua in Nicaragua
Today we have a flavour of local travel as we board a local bus to Managua. The bus departs at 9am and arrives at 5pm. We just have overnight in Managua, so there is a chance to glimpse the city.
Day 14 Managua to Granada
This morning we leave Managua for the Masaya National Park. The Masaya Volcano, considered a god in the eyes of the indigenous tribes, is a magnificent sight from the surrounding area and the views from the top, particularly across Lake Managua to Momotombo Volcano are even better. The mountain is shrouded in mystery and is the subject of ancient legends. As you approach the park you cross a huge lava flow which covers the volcano’s northern slopes. The Santiago crater is coloured by chemical deposits and a unique species of parrot nests on its sheet cliffs. There area couple of lookout points and various trails – some along the rim of the crater and one leading down to the Laguna de Masaya. Coyotes are sometimes spotted in the park but more easily sighted are the flowers which include orchids and the yellow sacuanjoche, Nicaragua’s national flower. On our way to Granada we visit the town of Masaya. Masaya is an important artistic centre, due largely to the sizeable and active Indian community that lives in and around the town. Many of their crafts are sold in the market – one of the best in the country – and in shops and workshops around the town. Granada is perhaps Nicaragua’s grandest town. It lies in the northwestern shores of Lake Nicaragua and was the site of the first Spanish settlement in Nicaragua. Today it is the oldest colonial city in Central America with its original architecture. Granada is a relaxed and quiet place and the market is the only place you will find much noise, colour and activity. Ruins of forts built to forestall attacks can still be seen along the banks or the Rio San Juan and on islands in the lake. The Parque Central is undoubtedly the most charming in Nicaragua - with trees, benches and cafes, it is strongly reminiscent of Spain.
Day 15 Granada to Ometepe
A morning ferry takes us to Ometepe, the largest island in Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe means ‘two hills’ and refers to the volcanoes of Concepcion, the second highest in the country and Las Maderas. There are some hiking routes around the island – an 8 mile path links Altagracia with Moyogalpa across the northern slopes of Concepcion and there are also trails along the coast. There are archaeological sites on the island but most artifacts are now in the museums in Managua or Granada. Overnight hotel on the island.
Day 16 Ometepe to Monteverde
We take the ferry back to mainland to transfer to Penas Blancas, the crossing point to Costa Rica and we make our way to the town of Santa Elena, located in the cloud forest of Monteverde. This spectacular area of biodiversity is one of the last remaining cloud forests in the world. The peaceful town of Monteverde encompasses six different eco-zones with elevations from 1,300m–1,800m. Monteverde benefits from a perfect climate for 400 species of birds, including the shining Quetzal and humming birds, 2,500 species of plants, 120 species of amphibians, and 100 species of mammals. We expect to arrive in time for some free time in the afternoon to explore the area. There are a number of options for some unique activities either this afternoon or tomorrow morning (All activities can be booked and paid for locally depending upon your preferences): *take a guided hike to a Tree Top Walkway which gives spectacular views from the foremost suspension bridge system in Costa Rica. Accessible for all ages and physical conditions, the 1.7 mile trail leads to 8 suspension bridges which traverse primary cloud forest that cover a total distance of 1,200 feet. The bridges give a great advantage to view the flora and fauna that are only found in the upper elevations of the forest canopy. *Cloudforest hike *Zip-line canopy *Waterfall rappelling *Coffee Tour *Butterfly Gardens
Day 17 to 18 Arenal
This morning we can continue to enjoy Monteverde and the various activities on offer. In the afternoon we leave the hotel and make out way to Lake Arenal where we travel by boat across the lake and then continue by road to La Fortuna, the nearest town to the Arenal Volcano. Arenal has many beautiful walks and other optional activities at your own expense
Day 19 To Tortuguero
We leave Arenal and head for Tortuguero (translated as "Region of Turtles") which lies on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The last part of our journey is by boat on the mysterious canals. Today the area is famous as one of the premier breeding grounds for turtles. Tortuguero beach is the most important nesting site of the endangered green turtle in the Western Hemisphere. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest here. The Green Turtle population is believed to have come perilously close to extinction in the 1960s when nearly every female turtle arriving to nest in Tortuguero was taken for the export market for turtle soup. Once a thriving wood milling area, the companies here built an impressive network of canals across the area. The old rusted machinery left by the vanished wood milling companies remains but the main legacy from these companies are the canals they dug along which they transported the wood. These canals now form part of Tortuguero National Park and are home to hundreds of species of birds and mammals.
Day 20 In Tortuguero
This morning an early morning boat ride on the canals affords the best opportunity of seeing the animals and birds in their morning activities and there is an optional hike in the National Park.
Day 21 Transfer to Boquetes
Today we are off to Panama and our journey begins the only way out of Tortuguero – by boat. Continuing into the highlands of Panama we reach the town of Boquete, known as the “Valley of the Flowers and the Eternal Spring”.
Day 22 In Boquetes
Tucked away on the eastern slopes of the Volcan Barú this small and charming mountain village produces some of the sweetest oranges and richest coffees in all of Panama. The village benefits from sunny and cool mountain weather and it’s healthy climate has prompted many to believe it is the secret to longevity since many native Boqueteños have lived well on past their one-hundredth birthdays. The surrounding hills and slopes are primarily covered in shade-grown coffee plantations, providing a rich product recognized by international connoisseurs. Known for their sustainable farming practices, these farms are recognized the world over by conservationists and are home to an abundance of birds equal to those found in the cloud forests higher on the mountain. Coffee is primarily picked by the Guaymi Indians during the months of October through February. Coffee picking season is a festive time when colorfully clad Indian families come from various parts of the province to harvest the coffee cherries.
Day 23 To Panama City
After breakfast it is about a 45 minute transfer to the domestic airport in David where we pick up our local flight to Panama City. The afternoon free to explore Panama and take an optional tour to the canal. Overnight in Panama City.
Day 24 Trip concludes in Panama City
The trip concludes after breakfast.