Splendors Of Central America18 days & 17 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Panama City, San Jose, Monteverde, Granada, Suchitoto, Copan, Livingston, Flores & Antigua
This exploratory journey through Central America takes in the natural and cultural wonders of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, with an option to extend to Belize. Discover highlights ranging from tropical landscapes, volcanoes and lakes to colonial heritage and superb Mayan cities. Get an insight into the history of the civil war and colorful indigenous cultures, and learn about the amazing engineering feat that is the Panama Canal.
Day 1Arrive Panama City
You will be met and taken to your hotel.Crowne Plaza Panama City Hotel - 3 Nights
Day 2Panama City
Panama City was the principal shipping point to and from South and Central America in colonial times. Your tour begins with a visit to the ruins of Old Panama, which was founded in 1519 and lies to the north-east of the modern day downtown. Continue to the Casco Viejo (the colonial district), which dates from the late 1600s and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will visit the French Plaza and surrounding area with its French, Italian, American and Spanish colonial architecture. End your excursion with a short visit to the Panama Canal Administration Building to view the murals by American artist William B Van Ingen, depicting the story of the canal's construction.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or take an optional tour, such as a visit to the new Biomuseum, designed by Frank Gehry.Crowne Plaza Panama City Hotel (B)
Day 3Panama Canal
Early this morning, transfer from your hotel to Flamenco Marina for a northbound partial transit, or to Gamboa for the southbound partial transit. A partial transit cruise takes you through both Pacific sets of locks, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel, and the Gaillard Cut. This tour lasts about 6 to 8 hours, depending on canal and road traffic, and includes soft drinks and lunch on the boat. Depending on availability, you will travel on the Pacific Queen, Isla Morada or Fantasia del Mar.Crowne Plaza Panama City Hotel (B, L)
Day 4To San Jose, Costa Rica
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to San Jose.Hotel Presidente - 1 Night (B, L)
Embark on an excursion to Paos Volcano this afternoon. Poas Volcano is the most visited park in Costa Rica. It features two impressive craters: one active and one that contains a beautiful lake. The massive active crater often has sulphuric smoke rising out of the boiling muddy lake, while the other beautiful crater lake is surrounded by dwarf vegetation and lush cloud forest, with species of birds and plants native to the volcano. The road to the park passes quaint villages, coffee plantations, dairy farms and spectacular views. Following your tour continue to your hotel.
Day 5To Monteverde
Travel by road to Monteverde, a journey of approximately 4 to 4.5 hours, of which the last 1.5 hours is on unpaved roads.Heliconia Hotel - 2 Nights (B)
Located within a private reserve in the Monteverde cloud forest area, the Sky Adventure hanging bridges are a system of suspended walkways that allow visitors to stroll through the treetops of the cloud forest and get close to the flora and fauna. The tour includes almost a mile of easy trails and features six bridges of different lengths, some of which are up to nearly 800 feet.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve covers 10,500 hectares and is a private reserve set up by the Quakers who settled in the area in the mid-20th century. A cloud forest is quite a different environment to the rainforests of the rest of the country. The cooler temperatures and high rainfall create an ecosystem which supports a profusion of plant life and a diverse variety of species of birds, amphibians, butterflies, insects and mammals. The reserve has many short and longer trails surrounded by hanging vines and flowering orchids. Take a walk to learn about the varied flora and fauna, while looking out for wildlife, including the elusive quetzal. In the hummingbird garden, amidst waterfalls and natural flora, it is also possible to observe many species of hummingbirds and their aerobatic displays up close.
Note: Comfortable walking shoes, rainwear and a good insect repellent are recommended.
The afternoon is at leisure. Explore the little town or take an optional excursion which can be booked locally.Heliconia Hotel (B)
Day 7To Granada, Nicaragua
Drive from Monteverde to Granada in Nicaragua. This is a journey of approximately 7-8 hours, including rest stops and border formalities at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border crossing. The journey time is approximate and may be longer if there are delays at the border.Dario Hotel or Hotel Colonial - 2 Nights (B)
You will be collected at your hotel and driven by road to Penas Blancas, at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border, a journey of approximately 4.5 hours. The first 1.5 hours when leaving Monteverde will be on unpaved roads.
At the Penas Blancas border crossing your Costa Rica representative will assist you with Costa Rican exit formalities and drive or walk with you to the 'Punta del Aguja' (crossing point) or as close as is allowed. It is not normally possible to take the vehicle right up to the 'Punta del Aguja', so you may have to walk a short distance with your luggage. Your representative will assist you with the luggage. A representative from Careli Tours will be waiting for you on the Nicaragua side of the crossing point with their vehicle. You will drive to the Nicaraguan immigration building, where your representative will assist you with the immigration formalities before you continue on in to Nicaragua. Please wear sensible footwear as the road and pavements along the border crossing can be dusty and/or wet.
Continue by road to Granada, a journey of approximately 2 hours with a short stop at Catarina viewpoint.
The colonial city of Granada was founded in 1524 by Captain Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, next to the Mombacho volcano and Lake Nicaragua. Named after the city of Granada in Spain, it has plenty of colonial churches, narrow streets and large houses with beautiful indoor patios and tiled roofs. The tour will reveal the history of the city: the adventures of filibuster William Walker who invaded the city in the year 1855; the civil wars that damaged the city in the past and the current restoration process. Visits will include La Merced Church, the Casa de Los Tres Mundos, and the San Francisco convent, with its mysterious pre-Columbian idols.
Continue to Lake Nicaragua for a boat ride around some of the islands.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure, or take an optional afternoon tour such as a chocolate making workshop.Dario Hotel or Hotel Colonial (B)
Day 9To San Salvador - Suchitoto
Drive from Granada to Managua International airport, a journey of approximately 45 minutes, and board your flight to San Salvador.Posada de Suchitlan - 2 Nights (B)
Upon arrival, drive to Suchitoto, a journey of approximately 1 hour 35 minutes.
Day 10To Route of the Flowers
Your day will begin at around 8:00 am with a short guided tour of Suchitoto. Walk along the narrow cobblestoned streets, past colonial whitewashed houses and art galleries. Learn about its history and conservation and visit cultural treasures including the church of Santa Lucia and Las Ruinas theater.Hotel Mision de Angeles (B, L)
Drive from Suchitoto to the Route of the Flowers via Joya de Ceren & Volcanoes National Park; approximate journey time is 8 hours, including stops.
Transfer by road to the small archaeological site of Joya de Ceren, a journey of approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. This remarkably well-preserved Mayan village was buried under volcanic ash in the sixth century AD and was only rediscovered in 1976. Known as the Pompeii of the Americas, the small site has been recognized by UNESCO and features a small but interesting museum. Following a guided tour, continue by road to Coatepeque Lake, a journey of approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Lunch will be taken here with scenic views over the lake.
After lunch continue to the Volcanoes National Park to visit Cerro Verde. Cerro Verde, an inactive volcano located at an altitude of 6,677 feet, is covered with lush dwarf cloud forest. Here take a short walk to various viewpoints offering spectacular panoramic views of the black and barren Izalco volcano, once known as the 'lighthouse of the Pacific', the Santa Ana volcano (the tallest of the area and also known as Ilamatepec or 'old lady mountain' in Nahuatl), and the beautiful natural surroundings of the national park, including the lake.
After the visit, continue by road to the Route of the Flowers, a journey of approximately 1.5 hours.
Day 11To Copan, Honduras
This morning you will set out to explore the charming town of Ataco, as Concepcion de Ataco is more commonly known. Set in the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountains and surrounded by coffee plantations, the town was originally founded by the pre-Colombian Pipils and its name in Nahuatl means 'place of the high springs'. Explore the picturesque cobble-stoned streets lined with colonial houses and shops of local artists, weavers and artisans. Colorful murals adorn the walls of many buildings and depict floral and religious motifs as well as scenes from local rural life.Hotel Marina Copan - 2 Nights (B and box Lunch)
Drive from the Route of the Flowers to Copan, via Santa Ana; total journey time is approximately 7 to 8 hours, including stops.
Note: Large coaches are not permitted to transit in the town of Copan due to the narrow streets. If you are travelling in a large coach, the group will need to walk approximately 2 blocks (less than 5 minutes) from the coach to the entrance of the hotel. Your luggage will be transported in a small van.
You will be picked up from your hotel and taken to the site of the Mayan ruins at Copan. Here, you will enjoy a guided tour of this beautiful site, which is famous for its intricately carved stelae and remarkable hieroglyphic stairway as well as its comprehensive museum.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure, or take an optional afternoon tour to the tropical bird sanctuary.Hotel Marina Copan (B)
Day 13To Livingston, Guatemala
Travel from Copan to Livingston in Guatemala, via Quirigua and Puerto Barrios. Total journey time is approximately 8 to 9 hours.Hotel Villa Caribe - 1 Night (B)
Depart Copan at 8:00 am and travel by road into Guatemala to the Mayan stelae site of Quirigua; journey time is approximately 3 hours, but may be subject to delays at the border. After a short exploration of the site, continue by road to Puerto Barrios on Guatemala's Caribbean coast, a journey of approximately 1.5 hours, not including a stop for lunch (payable locally). In Puerto Barrios board a motor boat for an hour long trip along the coast to Livingston.
Note: A waterproof jacket should be carried in your hand luggage and kept accessible for the boat journey.
Day 14To Flores
Livingston, located on the Caribbean has a distinct culture, known as Garifuna. The way of life is very similar to that of Jamaica, with the sounds of reggae, excellent seafood and a laid back atmosphere. Take a short walking tour including the House of Culture and the church.Villa Maya - 2 Nights (B)
Take a scenic boat transfer through the Rio Dulce gorges to the town of Rio Dulce, visiting en-route the Ak'Tenamit indigenous community development project and Bird Island. The boat transfer lasts approximately 3 hours, including stops.
Drive to Flores, a journey of approximately 3.5 hours.
Amid the dense tropical jungle of El Peten lies one of the most spectacular cities of the ancient Mayan civilization. Tikal flourished during the 3rd and 4th centuries and recent excavations have uncovered a complex of structures, which predate the existing ruins. Located in a national park covering 222 square miles, Tikal has an array of remarkable structures. Here one finds majestic buildings such as Temple IV (228 feet high) and the Great Pyramid of the Lost World, surrounded by lush vegetation and inhabited by a great variety of local fauna.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or take an optional excursion.Villa Maya (B, L)
Day 16To Guatemala City - Antigua
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to Guatemala City.El Meson de Maria - 2 Nights (B)
Upon arrival, drive to Antigua, a journey of approximately 45 minutes.
This afternoon, take a walking tour of Antigua, visiting some of the most important sites of this charming city, including the main plaza, cathedral, La Merced monastery and San Francisco monastery.
Enjoy the day at leisure. Optional excursions include a visit to a local community, where textiles are produced, or a coffee plantation and Mayan traditions museum.El Meson de Maria (B)
Day 18Depart Guatemala City
You will be driven to Guatemala City, a journey of approximately 45 minutes for your return flight.(B)