Central America

24 days

If you’re craving a Central America adventure, you’ll love this trip. Travel through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world. From stunning lava lakes to towering Mayan stelae, you’ll see the best of the natural and man-made sights throughout upper Central America, along with a guide to ensure you get the most from each location.

Antigua Guatemala

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Copan ruins, Honduras

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Volcano Izalco

El Salvador

Ometepe Island



On your Central America trip, you’ll visit Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan, view the Mayan ruins in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and walk cobblestone streets in multiple UNESCO sites. Climb volcanoes in Nicaragua and Honduras and swim in the volcanic waters of Ojo de Agua. Enjoy the culture of Ometepe Island in Nicaragua while cooking and staying with a local family. It’s the trip of a lifetime, so make it count!


Today, you’ll arrive in Guatemala City, the biggest city in Central America, and will be taken to a nearby hotel. There, you can rest up from your journey and prepare for the upcoming adventure. Our guide will escort you to a welcome dinner where you’ll have a chance to try some of the famous Guatemalan cuisine.

Wake up early and hit the road after a delicious breakfast at the hotel. You’ll head to Lake Atitlan, which is a stunning blue lake that fills the crater of an ancient volcanic eruption. Once nominated to be one of the seven wonders of the world, this lake is a very important part of Guatemala. It’s surrounded by small indigenous villages that you can visit by boat.

Your first visit will be to Santa Catarina Palopo. This town is best known for its amazing painted houses and is one of the best places on the lake for photos. There are currently more than 850 buildings with Mayan designs painted on them, thanks to a non-profit organization called Pintando el Cambio. Here, you’ll have ample time to explore, get photos, and check out some of the local artisans at work.

Your first full day at Lake Atitlan will be filled with discovery. You’ll be exploring several of the villages around the lake. It’s the perfect opportunity to get a real feel for the area and to immerse yourself in the rich culture that thrives here. 

You’ll visit three towns on the lake, taking a lancha (boat) to each one:

Santiago Atitlan: Best known for its artisanal crafts, Santiago is the largest town on the lake, occupied mainly by Tz’utujil Maya. Here, you’ll find a variety of handwoven textiles, carefully beaded decorations, and plenty of other types of crafts. The town also has a fascinating history, some of which can be seen in the imposing Catholic church in the town square. Take a close look at the panels behind the altar and you’ll find depictions of Christ. 

San Juan La Laguna: Located on the western shore of the lake, San Juan is often ignored by tourists, but it’s a hidden gem. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to eat lunch at a weaving cooperative where the women cook a traditional meal for guests. They are more than happy to share their unique back loom weaving with you, as well, and you can purchase many traditional textiles while visiting.

San Marcos La Laguna: One of the more beautiful villages, San Marcos is a mix of expats and tourists near the lake, while Maya people make up the slopes of the town. You’ll find plenty of coffee shops and cafes to enjoy here, but the real attraction is the stunning view. From San Marcos, you can easily get some of the best photos of the lake and its volcanoes.

On our way to Antigua, we’ll stop at the Iximche ruins. This site gives you your first glimpse into the Mayan history of Guatemala. Iximche was the first Guatemalan capital, during the 1400’s and 1500s. While much of it has been destroyed, there are still temples, ball courts, and partially restored plazas to explore. The site also boasts a small museum so you can learn more about the area’s history and get more of a feel for what it was like to live here. Today, Kaqchikel people still use the site for rituals.

After enjoying the quiet nature of Iximche, it’s time to drive on to Antigua. This UNESCO World Heritage Site takes you back to colonial times, with cobbled streets and Spanish architecture. You’ll have plenty of time for a tour once you’ve arrived, so we’ll head to a local coffee plantation and learn more about the number one most exported product in Guatemala. At the plantation, you’ll follow the entire process of coffee, from planting to roasting and drinking. Of course, you’ll get to sample some of the freshest coffee you’ve ever had.

You’ll finish the day out with a walking tour of the city and then head up to the lookout above Antigua. From here, you can see the entire city laid out, as well as the three main volcanoes, one of which is active, around Antigua.

There are thousands of Mayan ruins throughout Guatemala, as well as a large number that have yet to be discovered. Today, you’ll visit the Yaxha ruins. Start the day with a quick flight from Guatemala City to Flores Island, then your guide will take you to Yaxha National Park, where there are three sets of ruins.

The park is a biosphere reserve, so you’ll walk through rainforests and wetlands where there are plenty of wild animals to see. Spider and howler monkeys are some of the most commonly spotted, but you may also see tapirs, toucans, and spoonbills. 

While smaller than Tikal, Yaxha is still impressive with around 500 structures that include nine large temples, multiple altars, two ball courts, and many other structures. The real reason to visit, however, is the 40 stelae that are scattered throughout the site. These stone structures are carved with scenes from Mayan history. Enjoy a picnic lunch among the pyramids and look out over the nearby blue lagoons, Yaxha, and Sacnab for even more photo opportunities.

You can’t visit Guatemala without seeing Tikal, so today we’ll delve into the jungle to explore this famous archeological site. Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, features more than 3,000 ancient structures. It was once the biggest city center in Maya civilization and it’s abundantly clear that it was a modern marvel in its time as you walk through it. At one point, it’s estimated that Tikal’s population was around 100,000 people. Surprisingly, the area of Tikal that you’ll be exploring makes up just 5% of the entire city.

You’ll walk through history as you explore the temples and plazas of this civilization center. It’s surrounded by nature, making this a beautiful place to enjoy learning about Mayan history and culture. Every step you take was once made by people thousands of years ago. Tikal was a thriving city between 200-900 AD and every part of it was carefully planned out. For example, the pyramids seen here were used to calculate the Mayan calendar, based on astronomical observations. The temples face specific directions, as well, according to the sun’s position. It’s truly breathtaking to see it all in person.

Your next destination is Rio Dulce or Sweet River, so named for the fact that the water here is fresh or sweet. The town of Rio Dulce is just the starting point for even more adventure, however. You’ll board a boat here and travel about an hour to the town of Livingston, a stunning journey between jungle-covered rock cliffs

Right as the river turns to the Caribbean Sea, you’ll find Livingston, a town that is built along the water’s edge. The town itself is simple, yet inviting, with a vibrant Garifuna culture. It’s only accessible by water, which means the area is unique to Guatemala and has a history and culture of its own. Your hotel features a dock jutting out over the water, where you can rest in a hammock and watch the many pelicans and other birds catch fish in the sparkling green water.

After the laid-back day at Livingston, you’re ready for another boat ride back to Rio Dulce. You’ll pass the Castle of San Felipe de Lara, an important landmark on the river. During the 16th century, this Spanish fort served to protect Lake Izabal from pirate attacks, which were surprisingly frequent at the time. You can still see the canons that were used for protection, standing on the parapets of the castle. There are also plenty of bird islands throughout your journey, so keep your camera ready.

After a fun boat ride, it’s time to move on to the second country in your itinerary, Honduras. You’ll cross the border and head to Tela, in Honduras.

You’re in for a treat today! Take a boat through the fascinating mangrove forests of Punta Sal National Park and check out some of the amazing animals that inhabit them. Mangroves are an essential part of keeping land from eroding and they provide a habitat for many creatures. The marine reserve is only accessible by boat and it provides the opportunity to see flora and fauna that are hard to spot elsewhere. Expect to see some howler monkeys at the very least.

We’ll bring along snorkel equipment so you can take some time to enjoy the fish along a coral barrier reef. Cocalito Beach is a light sand beach that feels cut off from the outside world. With warm tropical waters and a scattering of fish, you’ll have fun here whether you’re swimming or snorkeling.

While in Honduras, you’ll visit the Lancetilla Botanical Garden. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking quite a bit. The gardens are divided into two sections, the greenhouse and the forest reserve. In the arboretum, you’ll find a variety of tropical species that have been collected from four different continents. Outside, in the forest, there are plenty of trees filled with birds to view. 

Lancetilla Botanical Garden is a research station and one of the biggest botanical gardens in the world. It was founded in 1925 and was originally meant to be a research station where the United Fruit Company could experiment with fruits. Today, it’s a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike, particularly those who want to go birdwatching in the forest. One of the highlights is to walk through the impressive bamboo tunnel, so don’t miss it while you’re looking for birds!

The verdant forest near Pulhapanzak Waterfall makes for a pleasant walk. The falls themselves are impressive, but they’re not the only thing to enjoy here. If watching a waterfall 45 meters (141 feet) isn’t enough excitement for you, then you may prefer to ride the ziplines above it.

You’ll also visit Lake Yojoa, Honduras largest lake which covers 110 square miles. It was formed after a volcanic explosion and serves as the biggest freshwater reserve in the country. Enjoy the calming view, and be sure to get some photos here. You’ll also enjoy a trip into the Taulabe Caves, where you can check out impressive limestone formations.

Leaving Yojoa behind, you’ll head to the Macaw Mountain Reserve in Copan. The bird rescue works to help injured or sick birds be rehabilitated and then released back into the wild. The 10-acre reserve is the perfect place to wander around the giant aviary and view macaws and other birds in their natural habitat. You’ll learn more about how the center works and will see for yourself how the birds are treated here. Finish off your tour with a cup of incredible organic coffee.

Next, you’ll take a tour of Copan. This easygoing town is home to the Copan Ruins, but it’s a destination in and of itself. The colorful houses and quaint streets are worth a stroll and you can try some authentic Honduran cuisine here, as well. Stop by the Tea and Chocolate Place where you can enjoy learning more about the area and nature. It’s a mishmash of a museum, coffee, and tea house where you can learn more about Honduras. Try out their exotic chocolate drinks or sip a cup of tea while you watch the amazing sunset from the terrace.

The Copan ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are located on the edge of the Copan River. While Copan was originally a farming community in 1000 BC, it later developed into a very important Mayan city and had up to 20,000 inhabitants. Popular between 250-900 AD, this city covers roughly 250 acres. It had a city center with two large pyramids, multiple temples, and plazas. Further out, residential areas were quite developed, but today, the main attraction is in the center. Copan is well known for the sculptures you can find on the walls, called friezes, but it also features several stelae or carved stone slabs that were set upright around the area. 

The Hieroglyphic Stairway, leading to a temple, has well over 1,000 carvings of hieroglyphic symbols that are fascinating to look at. This town was also known to produce the most accurate solar calendar that was available at the time. Now, you can walk around the Great Plaza and examine the stelae placed there to represent the kings who once ruled here. 

Finally, you’ll have a little more time to explore the town of Copan and its charming streets.

Today, you leave Honduras behind and move on to El Salvador. You’ll drive to Suchitoto, which was founded in 1528, during the Spanish Conquest. Less than two decades later, it was abandoned but has more recently been repopulated and built into a truly beautiful place. When you step into the town, you immediately feel that you’ve been whisked back to the colonial era. 

You’ll have time to explore the area on your own, so make sure you get some shots of Lake Suchitlan. You can visit any number of charming coffee shops, cafes, and artisans in the area. 

Lake Suchitlan is an artificial lake, created as a reservoir in 1973. It’s well populated with a variety of fish, many of which are offered in restaurants in the nearby Suchitoto. Several small islands in the lake host a variety of native birds, so you’ll have the chance to visit these islands by boat. 

You have three options for the day’s itinerary. They all include a birding tour, as well as a city tour:

  1. Start the day with an early morning boat trip to see the birds on the islands before breakfast. Once you’ve eaten, enjoy a tour of the city.
  2. If you’d rather relax in bed, head out on the boat tour around 11 am and do your tour of Suchitoto after lunch.
  3. Finally, you can take a 9 am city tour and finish your day with a sunset tour to the bird islands.

Each of the options is sure to be an enjoyable experience. 

Today, you will visit San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. It’s a full day as you’ll spend time touring the city and visiting some of the more popular sights in the area, including the National Craft Market. If you’re interested in artisanal crafts, this is where you’ll find them. Everything from fabrics to ceramics are available here and this is certainly the best handicrafts market in the city. You’ll also see the historic town center and visit Panchimalco, a colonial city just outside of San Salvador. It’s pre-Columbian and is home to a church that was built over two centuries ago.

You’ll also visit El Rosario church. While the interior isn’t always open to the public, it’s a beautiful church. The simple exterior belies the true beauty of the stunning light and arches inside. We’ll visit in the late afternoon so you can get the full effect of the light pouring through the windows and creating rainbows across the altar. 

El Boqueron is a unique nature reserve in the middle of San Salvador. Located on top of the San Salvador volcano, this national park features easy trails and multiple viewpoints of the crater. There’s also a mini crater called El Boqueroncito to view. Enjoy the myriad of flora and fauna available here and get some steps in. Dinner will be nearby, at a restaurant where you can overlook the city and watch the sunset.

La Ruta de Las Flores or the flower route, is a picturesque journey from Sonsonate to Ahuachapan. The route takes you through quaint villages, and busy markets, and gives you a chance to explore the local culture.

We’ll stop in Apaneca to see the Apaneca Lagoon, with its brilliant green water, and the Albanian Labyrinth. Created with over 2,000 cypress trees, the giant maze is a fun challenge and one of the top five labyrinths in the world

You’ll also visit Ataco, where you’ll be greeted with colorful murals along cobbled streets. It’s well known for its quality art and you’ll have a chance to visit Axul Artesania where there are plenty of handicrafts available for purchase. In Salcoatitan, you’ll see an ancient ceiba tree in the entrance plaza. This tree has great importance to the indigenous people living here and has been around since the city was founded. 

Juayua is a pretty town to visit, but if you’re there on a Saturday, you get the bonus of visiting the Gastronomic Festival. Taste test incredible spiced prawns, local rice dishes, and assorted meats grilled over an open flame. Alternatively, you can spend more time in Ataco.

Joya de Ceren, an hour and a half from El Salvador, is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in El Salvador. Frequently referred to as “Pompeii of the Americas,” this site was originally buried by volcanic ash in 590 AD. The ash preserved everything nearly perfectly, making it a unique place to visit. 

In Joya de Ceren, you’ll see how Mayan farmers lived. They built on a previous layer of fertile ash but suffered the same fate later on. At the site, you can see 10 completely or partially excavated sites, including storehouses, a public building, and a sweat bath, among others. Everything, down to bowls of beans, was preserved by the ash, giving a unique look into the history of the area. 

Enjoy your lunch while looking over Lake Coatepeque, a volcanic lake that is best known for its stunning blue and turquoise colors. When you’re finished eating, it’s time for a hike to Cerro Verde. You’ll walk through the forest on an extinct volcano and visit the stunning orchid garden there. From the top viewpoints, you should be able to see Izalco and Santa Ana volcanoes, and multiple towns, as well as Lake Coatepeque. Sip fresh coffee and enjoy a mountaintop dessert before returning to the hotel.

Your trip to Nicaragua will be via plane, so we’ll head to the International Airport of El Salvador and fly to Nicaragua. There, a driver will meet you and take you to Leon, a beautiful colonial city. You’ll have the rest of the day to rest from your adventures, or you can explore a little. 

Nicaragua is home to 7% of the biodiversity around the globe and built the first geopark in Central America. It’s also considered the land of lakes and volcanoes. You’ll enjoy visiting this diverse country.

Leon has quite a tumultuous history. Founded in 1524 on the shores of Lake Managua, it moved to its current location after a massive earthquake in 1610. There it was the capital of the Republic of Nicaragua until 1855. Today, Leon is the commercial center of Nicaragua and while it’s a destination place, it doesn’t feel touristy. 

You’ll tour the city and visit the cathedral, which is a UNESCO heritage site, where you can walk up on the rooftops. You’ll also see several popular churches, including La Recoleccion and El Calvario. The latter is found in a beautiful Subtiava neighborhood that celebrates indigenous life. After seeing the local market and the Ortiz-Gurdian Arts Museum, it’s time for lunch and a brief rest.

Mid-afternoon, you’ll take a 4×4 to Cerro Negro and climb an hour to the top of Nicaragua’s most recent volcano, which is also one of the most active volcanoes here. From the summit, you can see the entire Maribios mountain range, made up of young cinder cones. The view is spectacular. Watch the sunset before heading down to eat dinner in the center of the city.

An early departure is essential today, to arrive at Leon Viejo. One of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nicaragua, Leon Viejo is one of the oldest Spanish settlements found in the Americas and was lost for hundreds of years. Rediscovered in 1931 and again in 1967, the ruins have proven essential in determining historical events and timelines. 

After exploring the plazas and tombs of Leon Viejo, it’s time to drive to San Jorge port and take a ferry to Ometepe Island. The island features dual volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, which created the island through eruptions. Here, you’ll arrive at a village called La Paloma, near Moyogalpa. We’ll be hosted by a sustainable community tourism project run by local women. You’ll see what sustainable projects are worked on here and walk through peaceful gardens, guided by locals. 

Next, you’ll have a chance to prepare a traditional meal and eat it with your host family. A Jamaican wine tasting brings the evening to an end and you will go home with the host family to spend the night in their house. This unique experience gives a whole new view into the lives of ordinary people here in Nicaragua.  

Ometepe Island is well-known for its incredible coffee, so today you’ll see where some of this coffee is grown. On the Magdalena Coffee Farm, you’ll spend some time hiking along a trail that leads through stones throughout the coffee plants. The basalt blocks are carved with petroglyphs that date back to pre-Columbian times and are one of the highlights of visiting Ometepe Island. 

Our next destination is Ojo de Agua, a spring pool where you can swim in refreshing water that emanates from the volcano. It’s divided into two pools and provides a relaxing place to enjoy your lunch. After a few hours of splashing around, it’s time to take the ferry back to the mainland and drive to Masaya Volcano National Park

Not only is Masaya Volcano National Park the largest national park in the country, but it was also the first one. It’s made up of two volcanoes with five craters and you’ll be hiking to the top of the tallest crater to look over the volcanic complex. These are still spewing gasses, which makes the view even more interesting. Once it gets dark, you’ll hike down to the active crater to look at the lava churning below. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  

Arriving in Granada, you’ll enjoy a city tour. There’s plenty to see in the oldest colonial city of the New World that is still occupied. It’s a beautiful colonial city featuring colorful buildings and a rich history.

During your tour, you’ll visit the spice and fruit market in the center, where the sights and smells are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. You’ll have a fruit smoothie at the Cafe de la Sonrisa and climb to the bell tower of La Merced, a church with an incredible panoramic city view. After lunch, you can rest or explore on your own until late afternoon.

Around 4 pm, we’ll board a boat and go out to the Isletas de Granada, made up of over 300 tiny islands. Gentle water makes for an easy journey and gives an amazing view of the sun setting behind a volcano. Before the sunset, you’ll have a chance to get some incredible photos of the archipelago islands. 

Your final dinner in Nicaragua will be in Granada, upon your return from the boat ride. 

Your amazing adventure throughout upper Central America has come to an end, but we hope you’ll return someday. You’ll be taken to the Managua International Airport where you can catch a flight home.

map, expenses & price

Central America Trip

Expenses included:
-Private transportation.
-Hotel accommodations.
-Domestic flights.
-Professional certified guides.
-All park entrance fees.
-Tours and excursions as listed.
-Daily breakfasts.

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