Enjoy a Central American odyssey on this adventure from the chaos of Mexico’s capital to the heady heights of San Jose. Journeying through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, this epic adventure takes in the tantalising highlights of the region. Get acquainted with Central American cultures, spectacular landscapes and fascinating histories as you explore the wealth of ancient ruins, spot the range of unusual wildlife, dive into the unique underwater worlds and relax on idyllic Caribbean beaches. Get to know the friendly locals and discover why Central America is an adventurer's delight on this epic overland adventure from Mexico to Costa Rica.
Days : 47
Price : From AED 13,820*
*Per person twin sharing and excluding flights
Trip Style : Basic
Trip Type : Individuals
Physical Grading : 2
Bienvenidos a Mexico City! This is one of the world's largest urban centres, a melting pot of modern and ancient offering a huge variety of museums, galleries and architectural delights, along with thumping nightlife and unparalleled street food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, but if you arrive early then perhaps head to the Zocalo – the massive central square – and check out the Aztec ruins and colonial architecture. There are also plenty of parks, smaller plazas and gardens to relax in and adjust to your new life in Mexico.
After sleeping off last night's tacos, your leader will take you on a walk around town and point out the metro, ATMs and other need-to-knows. The rest of the day is free for you to explore as you wish. Art fans will want to check out the Frida Kahlo Museum, while history buffs may want to take an optional trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan. The ruins are located 50 km out of the city and a local guide will lead you down the 'Avenue of the Dead', pointing out the famous Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. There's also time to visit the Virgen de Guadalupe. In the evening, why not join the Mexican Night Out Urban Adventure, in which you can get among Mexico's Holy Trinity of entertainment: Cantinas, Mariachi and Lucha Libre wrestling. Sip some tequila at a cantina, shuffle and sway to Mariachi music and watch masked wrestlers dive, fly, writhe, and grandstand for the audience for a truly loco night out.
Enjoy free time for a final exploration of Mexico City. The group will head to the bus station in the late afternoon to catch a local bus to Puebla (approx. 2.5 hours), and if you're the grazing type, please make sure you bring some snacks along for the journey as well as some water. The local buses in Mexico aren't the colourful school buses seen in other areas of Central America – most are comfortable, coach-style vehicles equpiped with bathrooms. The air conditioning will be blasted often, so don't forget to bring a jacket too. On arriving in Puebla, your leader will take you out for an orientation walk and run through some common Spanish phrases to help you make the most of the days ahead.
Puebla is a rapidly growing city featuring many well-maintained churches and buildings from the colonial period, and today is free for you to discover the city at your leisure. Though there are enough churches to visit a different one every day for a year, two of the best examples are Santa Domingo Church and the Rosary Chapel, located in town. Further afield lies the Great Pyramid of Cholula, containing five miles of tunnels and ancient history with the enormous Popocatepetl Volcano serving as a backdrop. Puebla also has plenty of markets where you can brush up on your bargaining skills or pick up some local handicrafts. In the evening, why not try some mole poblano, a native Puebla dish that's famous all over Mexico. Perhaps you could even try making it yourself during an optional cooking class.
Journey by local bus to Oaxaca, arriving after approximately five hours. Oaxaca is a beautiful, old colonial town full of graceful arcades and colourful markets, in which you'll find the Zapotec and Mixtec people whose ancestors have populated this region for thousands of years. As always, your leader will take you on a quick orientation walk to show you the ropes then the next couple of days are free for you to explore. The city is known for its arts scene, particularly its folk and fine art, but you'll also discover a grungier side to Oaxaca including some incredible examples of street art. Walk the narrow, cobbled streets, or maybe sit back in one of the squares, sipping mezcal and watching the world go by.
There's an opportunity today to visit the spectacular temples of Monte Alban just outside of Oaxaca. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and this World Heritage site is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre, with terraces, dams, canals and pyramids carved out of the mountain. Alternatively, why not take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins, the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua and a local mezcal distillery. In the evening, if you've any energy left, you could have a go at plating up some delicious local fare during a cooking class, or just head out for some food with your fellow travellers and enjoy the town's atmosphere.
Use today to take part in whatever optional activities you couldn't fit in yesterday, or enjoy a relaxed day in town instead, strolling the pretty streets and people-watching from local cafes. This evening the group will take a first-class overnight bus to the highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas, a journey of approximately 13 hours. There'll be a toilet, reclining seats and plenty of leg room, as well as air conditioning so be sure to bring a jumper on board. Please keep in mind that though the bus is comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections and if you suffer from motion sickness, this is the time to have your medication handy.
The bus will arrive in San Cristobal early this morning. Leave your luggage at the hotel and begin exploring San Cris, a small town hidden in green valley surrounded by pine trees. Your leader will take you on a tour around town and point out all the important facilities, then the rest of the day is free for your own exploration. Take in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and soak up the old-world feel mixed with strong, pre-Hispanic roots. Stroll through the market, chat with the locals and maybe buy some of the colourful weavings the highland town is known for, before grabbing a drink and some food with your travel buds if you're up for it.
The villages surrounding San Cris are home to the Tzotzil and Tzeltal peoples, who still maintain a strong sense of tradition both in dress and custom. Today you'll visit the village of San Juan Chamula with your leader, home to the fascinating Iglesia de San Juan. This church, with its pine-covered floor and air thick with incense, is often frequented by shaman who come to carry out cleansings using firewater and ancient prayer. Please understand that there is a strict ban on cameras inside the church. Outside, the town of San Juan Chamula is alive with colourful markets that sell local handicrafts and delicious street food. If this visit doesn't appeal, your leader can help organise a boating trip in the Sumidero Canyon, which is as old and impressive as the Grand Canyon, or a canyoning adventure through El Chorreadero. Once you've returned to San Cris, why not hit up a local cafe for an 'elote', a traditional highland corn snack and the perfect treat after a big day.
Travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Palenque (approx 6 hours) today, stopping en route at the Agua Azul waterfall for a refreshing swim. Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. Situated in a hot jungle, Palenque is the jumping off point to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name, which you'll have a chance to check out tomorrow.
Today you have the chance to visit the ruins of Palenque. Situated on a hilltop, the ruins date back to 600 AD and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you walk among the temples (closed-toe shoes recommended), listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins which are still un-excavated and remain hidden in the forest, and you can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle. This afternoon, travel by private vehicle to the historic town of Merida (approximately 8 hours), the capital of the Yucatan region.
Founded in 1542 on the site of Tho, an ancient Maya city, the colonial city of Merida retains much of its old-world charm thanks primarily to its architecture. Check-in to your hotel then take a wander through Old Town, strolling the buzzing streets and visiting the city's museums. It's also worth walking up, or down, the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo for an insight into the city's 19th-century wealth accumulated from harvesting the henequen plant. Spend some time hanging in the Plaza Grande, a green, shady square enclosed by a 16th-century cathedral, City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo, and check out the outdoor markets where you can stock up on hammocks or sample some local food specialities like the seriously spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.
Today you can choose to visit the Maya ruins of Uxmal, which lie just an hour's drive from Merida, on an optional tour including transport and a local guide. Not much is known about the site, but it's thought that the city was constructed around AD700, was home to 25,000 or so people and once dominated the region along with Chichen Itza. Much of the site is decorated with masks of Chac, the rain god, and important buildings include the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, the Quadrangle of the Nuns, the Governor's Palace, the House of the Tortoises and the Ball Court. You can also choose to visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary, which is home to vast flocks of flamingos, herons and over 200 different bird species. In the evening, why not join in some dancing with Merida's locals. The town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor every Sunday, with salsa and merengue bands providing the tunes.
Travel to Playa del Carmen by private vehicle, stopping en route for an included visit to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza (this first leg will take about two hours). Named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid dominates the site and there is also a large ball court where games used to be held. Nearby, excavations of the Well of Sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones. The group will spend 2-3 hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on to Playa (approx three hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun that also has bit of a party atmosphere. After a quick orientation walk, pick a place to kick back with a margarita and watch the sun go down.
Today is a free day to enjoy as you like. Use your time snorkelling in fresh water rock pools (called Cenotes), strolling along the white sands or for an adventure further afield, take a ferry across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving. Perhaps take an Urban Adventure with an expert local guide.
Leave behind one paradise for another, quieter version. Travel south by local bus to Tulum, where white sand beaches and Maya ruins await after a mere one-and-a-half-hour journey. Take an orientation walk with your leader around the small town when you arrive, then head to the cliffs or the shore to enjoy the sunshine at your own pace. The famous ruins that hug the cliff edge are no longer a well-kept secret, so if crowds aren’t your thing it’s best to get up early tomorrow to beat them. Maybe grab a snack and a beer at a beach shack, then hit the sand and the water (rinse and repeat). In the evening, maybe grab a few of your fellow travellers and find a spot to watch the sunset with a margarita in hand.
Today is as clear as the waters of the Caribbean, so you can spend it how you like. Perhaps start your morning by renting a bike and exploring on two wheels. Then maybe head to Akumal Bay for a change of scenery or check out one of the many fresh water rock pools known as cenotes. You can buy an organised tour to each of these attractions or venture off on your own as both are easily accessible using local transport. Cenote Dos Ojos is perhaps the most spectacular of the natural pools, but it be prepared for a three-kilometre walk each way from the local bus drop off. Remember, pack plenty of water and snacks so you don’t get caught out! If you haven't already, you might want to take the opportunity to head to Mexico's most famous archaeological site, Chichen Itza, which is about a two-hour drive away. Chat to your leader about what’s on offer and how to organise optional activities.
Bid adios to Mexico early this morning and head south to Belize. Be prepared for a long day of travel on the road without a chance to stop for lunch, as the total driving time including the border crossing will take around eight or nine hours. First, travel to the town of Chetumal by public bus (3.5 hours approximately). Then jump on a local bus the border (20 minutes), undertake border formalities, then board the same bus to Belize City (3 hours approximately). Once in Belize City take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (1 hour). Expect to arrive on Caye Caulker by 6 pm. Phew! What a day, but trust us, it’s worth it. Perhaps go for an evening stroll to get your bearings on the island, then if you have the energy why not hit a beach bar and unwind. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.
Good morning and welcome to heaven! Today is free for you to explore the island and surrounds or simply relax. Whatever you choose to do, it’s bound to be impossible to keep the smile off your face. If you feel like snorkelling, ask your leader about organising a trip to the colourful coral reef nearby, or perhaps head further afield to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the world’s second-longest coral reef. Manatee spotting is one option nature lovers should consider, as the opportunity to encounter these gentle giants is a special one. Of course, you could always take a stroll and find a swaying palm tree with your name on it. They make the perfect place to nap, read a book and soak up the island vibes.
What’s better than one day in paradise? Two, of course! Wake up when you like, because you’ve got another free day. Like any good seaside Eden, Caye Caulker is home to super fresh seafood, which you can dig into with your feet planted in the sand at one of the many ‘floor free’ outdoor restaurants. The islands famous lobster are available between 15 June and 15 February, and you can expect to pay far less than at home but more than your average island meal. Some of the best meals can be found by the roadside, so why not grab some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with fire water to really get into the spirit.
From the islands to the highlands, today you’ll bid farewell to Caye Caulker and catch a ferry to Belize City (one hour) and then take a local bus to San Ignacio (three and a half hours). Local buses in Belize are a little more basic and crowded than you may have experienced elsewhere in Central America. Get ready for a stop-and-go experience on the journey; there are very few official bus stops in Belize, so the bus will stop as required by roadside passengers. On arrival, your leader will take you walking tour of San Ignacio and its twin sister Santa Elena, which will give you a sense of how vibrant the local Garifuna and Maya communities are. Perhaps tonight head out in search of a Maya-style dish like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus).
You have a full day at your leisure to discover San Ignacio. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the ideal base. One optional activity that will appeal to history buffs is a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial site positioned on a hill that overlooks the countryside. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river. Also nearby is the cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal, a living museum of Maya relics. Wade through cool waters to find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons preserved by the calcium-rich environment of the cave for over 1400 years. Easily spooked? Maybe you'd prefer the a cave with fewer (as far as we know) skeletons, like the one in Mountain Pine Ridge. In the late afternoon, the barbecue stalls of Santa Elena start to set up for the dinner rush. It's only a 15-minute walk, so consider wandering over to enjoy a juicy chicken leg and a chat with the locals.
Rise and shine for an 8 am taxi ride to the Belize-Guatemala border. Once you've crossed over, board a bus to Tikal National Park (approximately 2.5 hours). In Tikal there will be time to buy lunch before visiting the impressive archaeological site. Towering above the jungle, the five granite temples of Tikal are an imposing sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the evergreen forest are a maze of smaller structures waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and the chance to spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. Choose to explore on your own or pay a little more for a guided tour (or maybe see the site from above on an optional zip-line ride). Tonight, set up the tents and mattresses and spend some time under the stars. The weather is always warm in this part of the world but a thin blanket is provided for extra comfort. There are also basic shared bathrooms and showers at the camp.
If you can't get enough of Tikal, you have the option to visit the site again in the (very) early morning at your own cost before departing at 8 am to Flores. It's just a one-hour ride away, and on arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of the island of Flores. Continue by private minivan to Rio Dulce (approximately 4 hours). On arrival in Rio Dulce, transfer to the hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also on the water, a journey which can be organised through the hotel. Alternatively, a 40-minute jungle walk will get you there. The hotel is a great place to relax and look over the water, with reasonably priced meals and drinks served in the hotel restaurant. Now that you are back in a Spanish-speaking nation, why not join an informal Spanish lesson put on by your leader? Muy bien!
With plenty of free time today, consider taking advantage of some of the optional activities available. Maybe take a scenic boat trip down the river to the coastal enclave of Livingston for a taste of Creole-Caribbean culture. This laidback town on the Caribbean coast feels very different from the rest of Guatemala thanks to its Garifuna population. Or perhaps go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot local manatees or explore nearby San Felipe Fort.
Leave the 'Sweet River' behind and travel by private minibus to the city of Antigua, a journey which should take around eight or nine hours, allowing time for lunch. The road between Rio Dulce and Guatemala City is one of the busiest in the country. Traffic is slow, there are frequent road works and many, many, many (seriously) slow trucks. Be armed with patience, music and a good book and the journey will be easier to handle. Spend the night in Antigua before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. Though there's not much tie in Antigua today, you owe it to yourself to reward you patience with a tamale – meat and dough steamed in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, which consists of a rich dark sauce served with vegetables and meat (usually chicken). You may also want to take this time to purchase a few snacks for your time at the homestay on Lake Atitlan as the meals there can be very basic.
Be up early and ready for an 8 am departure. Travel by private transport for two and a half hours on winding roads to Chichicastenango. Home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country, on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce. After doing a little shopping at the market, head to San Jorge La Laguna, a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan (about 1.5 hours). Arrive in San Jorge La Laguna, meet your host family and start getting to know each other. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on how large it is. Locals in San Jorge La Laguna are both very friendly and very shy. In order to make the most of this experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Draw on your newly learnt Spanish and get ready for some serious hand signals. Houses in San Jorge La Laguna are very basic. Your room may only consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, and the bathroom will most likely be outside your room and shared with the rest of the family. The mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you and the meals can be very basic but filling, consisting of corn, rice and beans.
Say goodbye to your host family this morning and move on to the neighbouring town of Panajachel. Located on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Once you arrive in 'Pana' your leader will take you on a brief walking tour of town so you can get your bearings. The rest of the time is free for you to explore. Why not go for a swim, hike to San Pedro volcano or kayak on the lake, there aren't many places in the world that serve up active adventure in such a beautiful locale. The surrounding area is also dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan.
Morning! Hit the road again at 9 am and make the three-hour journey back to Antigua by private vehicle. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be seen. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Antigua including Cerro de la Cruz lookout, the local market and the chicken bus station next door, where the colourfully-decorated American school buses park. The rest of your time in Antigua is free for you to explore at your own pace. If you fancy a spin on the dance floor and want to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons so you'll be able to perfect your moves. As always, ask your leader for details.
Enjoy a free day exploring this photogenic city. Perhaps check out the ChocoMuseo located on 4th Street West, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, which was first documented by the Guatemalan Maya, as well as it's historical importance. Otherwise, grab a coffee from one of the many myriad shops in central park and sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's chilled-out vibes. If you want to learn more about Guatemalan coffee, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and buy some to take home.
Enjoy a free day exploring the city. Perhaps check out the ChocoMuseo located on 4th Street West, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise, grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's city vibe. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take home. If you're into salsa dancing or if you'd like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons so you'll be able to perfect your moves.
Rise and shine for a long day of travel, leaving at around 4 am to beat the rush-hour traffic around Guatemala City. All up you'll be spending eight hours driving to Copan by private vehicle, and while the scenery is breathtaking in sections, it's a good idea to pack a book or download a few podcasts in case you find you need to break up the journey. Head into Honduras through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala, arriving in the charming town of Copan in the early afternoon. While most people use Copan as a base to explore the nearby ruins, there are plenty of other points of interest, both along the cobblestone streets and set into the lush surrounds. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to cafe. Or perhaps head to the nearby hot springs on an optional tour. Less than USD 50 gets you hours of soak time in mud baths, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools plus dinner, all among winding jungle paths.
This morning is free for you to continue explore Copan and its surrounds. Perhaps make an optional visit to the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan, the remnants of the southernmost of the great Maya sites for which Central America is famous. Unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae – carved columns – still intact on site, there are also temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. A stroll through this old-world capital is bound to leave you pondering the adbrupt collapse of such a creative civilisation. Alternatively, nature lovers may wish to travel two kilometres out of town to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve. Dedicated to the conservation of the Central American macaw, the reserve also houses toucans, motmots, parrots, kingfishers and orioles. At approximately 1 pm, wave goodbye to Copan and head across the border to El Salvador by private vehicle. There's another substantial amount of time spent on the road this afternoon, so have that book (or your most sparkling conversation) handy to pass the time. All up the drive should take about seven hours, depending on conditions, and you are expected to reach the colonial town of Suchitoto in the evening.
Begin the day with a guided orientation walk of Suchitoto, widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Stroll past gorgeous colonial facades and get your bearings. Birders will want to crane their necks – Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path. The rest of the day is all yours to get among the optional activities on offer. Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande. Also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for the aforementioned migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe hustle a crew of four or more together and take a boat trip to Bird Island, or perhaps grab a historically-minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the civil war.
Enjoy a sleep in today and head south-east at about 10 am by private vehicle to coastal El Cuco (approximately 5 hours). There are some great dark-sand beaches close to town, including the beautiful Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores, one of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to a beach for a few beers under shaggy palms and relax while you wait for the sunset. As night falls, perhaps enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crab are some of the best in the country.
Today you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful coast around El Cuco at your own pace. If you and a few others feel like getting active, you could take a trip to see nearby Conchagua Volcano. The views from the lookout are stunning, but you'll need a minimum of five people to take part. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a boat out on the ocean, find some inner peace during a free yoga class at the hotel or simply relax in a hammock on the beach.
Rise early for a full day of travel by private vehicle. Leave El Cuco at around 8 am and drive to El Amatillo border crossing (approximately 1.5 hours) before a 2.5 drive by of Honduras (including a stop for lunch) to the next border crossing Guasaule, and finally reaching Leon after another 2.5 hours. Upon arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of this charming city. Though it's the second largest in the country, Leon is relatively free of tourists, making strolling the mural-lined streets a real pleasure.
Make the most of Leon in the morning. The street food behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral is some of the best in town, so why not grab a 'Nica taco'. Made with maize, rolled and then deep fried, these beauties are usually served with shredded cabbage and smothered in cream in Leon. Board a local bus bound for Granada at 2 pm, making the three-hour journey to the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, the city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. Set out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival. Visit busy markets, the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada', a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Today is all yours, so explore the city at your own pace. You may want to take a more comprehensive tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets or wander the cobblestone streets snapping photos of the colourful buildings. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua, and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat. Or perhaps hire a kayak and find your own way around, stopping to wave at fisherman who live in wooden huts on the islets, or the monkeys who live in the trees the huts are built from. Just remember not to take a dip, as freshwater sharks live in the water! Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get close to some hissing giants.
Spend a morning at leisure in Granada. Perhaps start the day with a classic Nicaraguan breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, soft cheese, plantains and strong coffee. Then maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of indigenous stone statues. At 2 pm take a local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port of San Jorge to catch a one-hour ferry across the seemingly endless waters of Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua, one active and one extinct. The island is home to fruit plantations, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as howler monkeys, caiman and parrots. Spend the evening on the island, and maybe head out for a beer at one of the waterfront bars.
Spend today however you wish on this gorgeous island. Both Concepcion or Maderas Volcanoe are hikable, but be warned that at 1700 and 1340 metres above sea level respectively the treks are no walk in the park. If you are going to tackle them, ask your leader for a recommendation for a local guide. You should also be aware that even for the very fit, both volcanoes will likely take all day (8–10 hours) to summit and then descend. You might prefer to splash around in the clear waters of the natural springs, soak up the sun on the beach or check out the ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) scattered about the island. While the restaurants on the island are of decidedly mixed quality, your leader can give you the lowdown on which places to avoid and which to make a beeline for. Stick to local fare and you'll have more luck – perhaps try indio viejo, a stew of corn, beef, onion, tomatoes and capsicum.
Today is another early start in order to grab a 7 am ferry to the mainland (1.5 hours) and a one-and-a-half-hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. A USD 3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border also requires a one-km walk, during which you must carry your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter Costa Rica, so if you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them. Once in Costa Rica, travel by private minibus for five hours to Monteverde. Phew. Long day, but you made it! Welcome to beautiful Monteverde, which you can begin exploring straight away on a walking tour with your leader. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world, on your walk.
Today you have a free day to discover the lush reserve at your own pace. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the thick canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. Guided tours are particularly helpful for those interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna. You can get guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes at the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium.
Spend a final morning in the thickets of the jungle, perhaps taking one last walk to search for wildlife. Depart by shared minibus at 2 pm and head to La Fortuna. It takes about one-and-a-half-hours to reach the shores of Lake Arenal, followed by a further one-and-a-half-hour journey across the lake to the little town of La Fortuna. On a clear day you'll have fantastic views of the surrounding area, and watching the massive Arenal Volcano loom larger and larger as you approach is a spectacular sight. Once you reach La Fortuna hop on another minibus to the hotel, then freshen up and head out on a walking tour. La Fortuna is a favourite among travel writers for a reason – words like picturesque and breathtaking spring to mind when trying to describe the town in the shadow of the volcano.
Good morning! Why not start today with a smoothie and plan how you want to explore. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges, which is a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. Or perhaps check out the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of evergreen rainforest. Active types might want to hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Alternatively, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.
Watch the volcano fade into the distance as you begin the five-hour local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Head out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival to see the main highlights. Later, perhaps visit the Gold Museum, which has an amazing collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. Prefer to have someone else do the organising for you? Check out the Urban Adventures offered in San Jose, from craft beer tours to day-trips to the countryside. Fin out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/San-Jose-tours
Today your adventure through Central America comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day, but please be aware you must comply with the hotel's check-out time. There's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, so if you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team are happy to assist (subject to availability).
|Start Date - End Date||Availability||Price|
*Per person twin sharing and excluding flights
|21SEP2019 - 06NOV2019||AED 16262|
|28SEP2019 - 13NOV2019||2||AED 13823|
|05OCT2019 - 20NOV2019||0||AED 14782|
|12OCT2019 - 27NOV2019||8||AED 14371|
|19OCT2019 - 04DEC2019||1||AED 14371|
|26OCT2019 - 11DEC2019||2||AED 14371|
|02NOV2019 - 18DEC2019||0||AED 14371|
|09NOV2019 - 25DEC2019||5||AED 14371|
|16NOV2019 - 01JAN2020||0||AED 15522|
|23NOV2019 - 08JAN2020||3||AED 14922|
|30NOV2019 - 15JAN2020||1||AED 14922|
|07DEC2019 - 22JAN2020||2||AED 16117|
|14DEC2019 - 29JAN2020||0||AED 15066|
|21DEC2019 - 05FEB2020||9||AED 17557|
|24DEC2019 - 08FEB2020||10||AED 17557|
|28DEC2019 - 12FEB2020||0||AED 17723|
|04JAN2020 - 19FEB2020||9||AED 17557|
|11JAN2020 - 26FEB2020||8||AED 17557|
|18JAN2020 - 04MAR2020||1||AED 14922|
|25JAN2020 - 11MAR2020||8||AED 14922|
|01FEB2020 - 18MAR2020||11||AED 14922|
|08FEB2020 - 25MAR2020||12||AED 14922|
|15FEB2020 - 01APR2020||13||AED 14922|
|22FEB2020 - 08APR2020||11||AED 14922|
|29FEB2020 - 15APR2020||0||AED 14371|
|03MAR2020 - 18APR2020||14||AED 14371|
|07MAR2020 - 22APR2020||5||AED 14371|
|14MAR2020 - 29APR2020||15||AED 14371|
|21MAR2020 - 06MAY2020||15||AED 14371|
|24MAR2020 - 09MAY2020||14||AED 14371|
|28MAR2020 - 13MAY2020||12||AED 14371|
|04APR2020 - 20MAY2020||3||AED 16909|
|11APR2020 - 27MAY2020||7||AED 16909|
|25APR2020 - 10JUN2020||14||AED 16262|
|02MAY2020 - 17JUN2020||13||AED 16262|
|16MAY2020 - 01JUL2020||13||AED 16262|
|23MAY2020 - 08JUL2020||16||AED 16262|
|13JUN2020 - 29JUL2020||15||AED 16262|
|20JUN2020 - 05AUG2020||15||AED 16262|
|27JUN2020 - 12AUG2020||14||AED 16262|
|04JUL2020 - 19AUG2020||15||AED 16262|
|11JUL2020 - 26AUG2020||15||AED 16262|
|25JUL2020 - 09SEP2020||13||AED 16262|
|01AUG2020 - 16SEP2020||16||AED 16262|
|08AUG2020 - 23SEP2020||16||AED 16262|
|15AUG2020 - 30SEP2020||10||AED 16262|
|22AUG2020 - 07OCT2020||14||AED 16262|
|05SEP2020 - 21OCT2020||16||AED 16262|
|12SEP2020 - 28OCT2020||15||AED 16262|
|19SEP2020 - 04NOV2020||14||AED 16262|
|26SEP2020 - 11NOV2020||13||AED 16262|
|03OCT2020 - 18NOV2020||16||AED 16909|
|10OCT2020 - 25NOV2020||14||AED 16909|
|24OCT2020 - 09DEC2020||13||AED 16909|
|31OCT2020 - 16DEC2020||12||AED 16909|
|03NOV2020 - 19DEC2020||12||AED 16909|
|07NOV2020 - 23DEC2020||15||AED 16909|
|10NOV2020 - 26DEC2020||16||AED 16262|
|14NOV2020 - 30DEC2020||15||AED 16909|
|17NOV2020 - 02JAN2021||14||AED 17557|
|21NOV2020 - 06JAN2021||16||AED 17557|
|28NOV2020 - 13JAN2021||16||AED 17557|
|19DEC2020 - 03FEB2021||16||AED 17557|
|22DEC2020 - 06FEB2021||16||AED 17557|
|26DEC2020 - 10FEB2021||15||AED 17908|
|29DEC2020 - 13FEB2021||16||AED 17908|