This is a summary of the itinerary we followed for the 8 weeks we spent travelling through this amazing part of the world which took us from Playa del Carmen, Mexico (technically North America) and down to Panama City. We travelled through all 7 Central American countries: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
So far, we have organised our entire world trip which started on 1st January 2016 ourselves. For a new experience and for some respite from the constant planning necessary for independent travel we decided to try an organised tour for days 25 to 39 of this Central American section of our 2016 world travels. This took us from Antigua, Guatemala to San Jose, Costa Rica.
Day 4 – 5: Tulum (Mexico)
Day 9 – 10: Travel to San Ignacio (Belize) and visit ATM Cave
Day 11: Travel to Tikal and stay overnight in Tikal National Park (Guatemala)
Day 12: Travel to Flores
Day 13: Fly from Flores to Guatemala City and travel to Panajachel (Guatemala)
Day 14 – 21: Panajachel Lake Atitlan
Day 21: Stay in Guatemala City
Day 22 – 24: Antigua (Guatemala)
Day 25: Start Intrepid tour ‘Central American Journey‘
Day 26: Copan (Honduras)
Day 27 – 28: Suchitoto (El Salvador)
Day 29: El Tunco (El Salvador)
Day 30: El Cuco (El Salvador)
Day 33 – 34: Ometepe Island (Nicaragua)
Day 35 – 36: Monteverde (Costa Rica)
Day 39: San Jose (end of Intrepid tour)
Day 40 – 44: Manuel Antonio
Day 44: Travel back to San Jose
Day 45 – 49: Bocas del Toro (Panama)
Day 50 – 52: Boquete (Panama)
Day 53 – 56: Panama City (Panama)
The 8 weeks we spent travelling through Central America were fantastic. The scenery was spectacular ranging from steaming and humid jungles, firey volcano’s, huge expansive calm and serene lakes, emerald green rolling hills and gorgeous Pacific and Caribbean beaches.
There is a tremendous variety of flora and fauna throughout Central America. We’ve seen bright blue Morpho butterflies as big as your hand; stunning birds of all colours; lush green plants and trees and animals such as hummingbirds, iguanas and sloths that we had never seen in the wild before.
Before starting the trip we had scoured the Internet looking for ideas and inspiration. As well as being massively inspired and excited about the trip we had read quite a few horror stories about Central America being corrupt, unsafe and full of bandits.
Fortunately our Central American journey was smooth and trouble-free. Other than Granada, Nicaragua where we didn’t feel comfortable in the evening even when walking around in a small group, we didn’t feel particularly unsafe anywhere else. However it is essential to take similar safety precautions as you would in most places in the world including London, our home city.
- Take care at ATMs although many have armed security officers
- Watch your bag/backpack at all times especially when in queues
- Be aware of pickpockets especially in crowded areas
- Only use registered taxis and negotiate price beforehand
- Be sure the taxi driver quotes (and sticks) to the correct currency. (i.e. Belize or US dollars)
- Keep valuables hidden (or don’t take them)
We found the people of Central America to be genuinely warm and friendly. In each country everyone and even complete strangers in the street greet you with a friendly “buenos dias” (or “good day”).
We also found Central America to be clean and, where there is a road, well maintained in many places. While the local people are often considered to be poor, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador they didn’t seem as poor as those living in some of the South East Asian countries we visited earlier in the year.*
There are mostly cars rather than tuk tuks and the roads have pavements rather than… um… nothing. You don’t have to risk your life amidst all manner of beeping and bibbing scooters and tuk tuk’s driving in all directions each time you venture out. You can walk around properly and in a civilised manner on a pavement which might be considered something of a luxury in many countries.
*We are basing these opinions on our own experiences and first impressions having spent a short amount of time in each country this year.
We would love to spend longer and visit some of the countries again in the future, time, work, money and opportunity permitting!