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Stroll along striking black-sand beaches and through steamy tropical rainforests as you mosey your way around Central America. This is a trip full of outdoors adventure and local know-how. Whether you're shopping in colonial Antigua, exploring the intricately carved structures at Copan or relaxing by the sea in El Salvador, get local insight with likeminded travellers during this incredible nine-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. It's colourful, it's local and it's unforgettable - get ready for a Central American fiesta.
Day 1: Antigua
Welcome to Antigua, Guatemala. With crumbling churches, vibrant markets and bohemian cafes set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes, Antigua is the perfect place to ease into your Central American adventure. Speaking of adventure, yours officially kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today at the hotel. If you do decide to arrive in the city a little early (smart move!), there's plenty to do. Maybe satisfy your cravings and learn the art of old-world chocolate production at the ChocoMuseo, or sit by the fountain and people watch in Central Park. After the welcome meeting, the night is yours, so perhaps head out with some of your fellow travellers for a tamale: a classic staple of Mesoamerica that sees dough, meat and sauces steamed and served in a corn husk.
Day 2: Copan
Rise and shine for a day of travel, leaving at around 4 am to beat the rush-hour traffic around Antigua. All up you'll be spending around 8 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 have some snacks ready to make the journey more comfortable. During the drive, your group leader will run an informal Spanish lesson, providing you some useful phrases to break the ice with the locals. 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 natural hot springs. This optional tour gives you hours of soak time in mud, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools in the lush jungle, with an included dinner.
Day 3: Suchitoto
This morning, take a visit with your group 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. Otherwise, nature lovers may wish to travel 2 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. Wave goodbye to Copan early in the afternoon and head across the border to El Salvador by private vehicle. There's another substantial amount of time spent on the road this afternoon (approximately 7 hours). Depending on traffic and conditions, you are expected to reach the colonial town of Suchitoto in the evening, just in time for a late dinner.
Day 4: Suchitoto
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 4 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.
Day 5: San Miguel / El Cuco
This morning, get your chef’s hat on with a pupusa making session in a private home. These thick cornmeal flatbreads are a classic Salvadorian recipe from the Pipil culture, and are stuffed with some delicious ingredients, like cheese or chicharron (fried pork). Later on, head 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 swim or a relax under the palms with a beer while you wait for sunset. As night falls, you could enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crab are some of the tastiest in the country.
Day 6: El Cuco
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 5 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 resort or simply relax in a hammock on the beach. Life’s good.
Day 7: Leon
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.
Day 8: Granada
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. Otherwise a thrilling volcano sand boarding adventure could be on the cards! In the afternoon, get ready for the 5-6-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. First, take a taxi from the hotel to the bus station, next board a local bus bound for Managua that will depart when it's full and takes around 2-3 hours depending on the amount of stops it needs to make and the complexity of onloading and offloading the passenger’s luggage. There will be about a 30-45-minute transit in Managua before taking the next public bus to Granada with a duration of approximately 1.5 hrs, and finally taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the hotel. Upon arrival, your leader will take you through the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada': a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Day 9: Granada
This Central American adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day. If you'd like to stay in Granada, our travel specialists can help arrange additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
- Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
- Copan - Archeological site (entrance fee and transport, no guide)
- Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
- San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
- Leon - Leader-led orientation walk
1 Lunch(es) Included
Health and Safety Protocols for Intrepid Tours
Protection against COVID-19 as well as other transmissible diseases requires enhanced protocols in hygiene and sanitation. We will put in place additional measures, in line with government health advice and with global health authorities (including the WHO and CDC) to ensure that we maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
Handwashing is one of the most important safety measures to prevent the spread of disease. Intrepid will actively reinforce its importance by:
- Implementing a handwashing policy that dictates when, how often and for how long all staff, leaders and crew must wash their hands on-trip.
- Promote the importance of hand hygiene to customers through signage and online customer material.
- Contract suppliers that have hand hygiene protocols in place
- Contract suppliers that provide hand sanitizer in public places (where applicable)
- Educate staff, leaders, crew and suppliers on the importance of hand hygiene via training.
Practicing good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread of disease by reducing the number of droplets in the air when you sneeze or cough. Intrepid will:
- Actively reinforce its importance to customers through signage and online customer material.
- Educate staff, leaders, crew and suppliers on the importance of respiratory hygiene via training.
- Contract suppliers who have respiratory hygiene protocols in place.
In addition, in areas with high community transmission and/or places that are difficult to maintain physical distancing, we recommend the the following at-risk people also wear them. Intrepid follows the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that masks should only be used as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy and that the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene must also form part of the strategy.
On our trips, regardless of destination, the following people must wear medical/surgical masks:
- Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 regardless of whether or not they have been tested yet.
- People caring for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases (outside of hospitals/clinics).
In addition, in areas with high community transmission and/or places that are difficult to maintain physical distancing, we recommend the the following at-risk people also wear them.
- People over 60
- People with underlying health conditions
- Provide medical/surgical masks as part of the First Aid Kits carried by leaders.
- Educate leaders, crew, staff and customers on the correct method to wear, handle and dispose of a mask.
- Require all customers, leaders and staff to comply with any local regulations or requirements that require the use of a mask in public or in certain places
Intrepid follows the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that it is not necessary for the public to wear fabric masks generally.
However in certain circumstances, in places where community transmission of COVID-19 is high and/or physical distancing is not possible (e.g. on public transport, in shops or in other confined environments) then a fabric mask can be a useful barrier to prevent the spread of virus.
Fabric masks be purchased commercially or handmade, and are generally not standardised like medical masks. Fabric masks should:
- Cover the nose, mouth, and chin
- Be secured with elastic loops or ties
- Include multiple layers
- Be washable and reusable.
Protection against COVID-19 as well as other transmissible diseases requires enhanced sanitation processes. Intrepid will take the following measures:
- Require all suppliers to detail their cleaning and sanitation protocols
- Audit/monitor all suppliers on their cleanliness and sanitation.
- All cleaning and disinfecting products must be approved by health authorities (e.g. WHO).
- All rooms must be thoroughly cleaned between guests with all high touch surfaces in shared areas regularly cleaned and disinfected.
- Hand sanitizer should be available in public areas.
- There must be a process in place for customers to escalate any concerns regarding hygiene or sanitation.
- Staff must be trained and able to answer questions regarding safety protocols in place.
- All tents must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between use.
- If staying at a campground, ensure all bathrooms are well stocked with hand soap and paper towels. If the area is remote, with limited facilities and/or minimal staffing, then customers should be informed to bring their own hygiene equipment.
- All mini buses, transfers, charters, overland trucks must be thoroughly cleaned between guests with all high touch surfaces in shared areas regularly cleaned and disinfected.
- Hand sanitizer should be made available
- Close top bins with bin liners should be available on board and disposed of at every stop
- Must be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day
- Tables and chairs must be disinfected after each guest use
- Avoid buffets where possible. If buffets are used, prevent customers from handling food and operating machines (e.g. self-serve coffee stations)
- Either disinfect shared use objects (e.g. table salt) between guest use. Where possible, Intrepid will try to source safe alternatives to single serve packaging.
- Staff must be trained and able to answer questions regarding safety protocols in place.
- Preferred: Provide hand sanitizer to guests at the door before entry
- All equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between guest us
- Staff must be trained and able to answer questions regarding safety protocols in place.
Limiting the number of surfaces touched by large numbers of people helps prevent the spread of disease. Therefore, it is important to proactively move towards contactless or low touch solutions for travel. Intrepid will:
- Prioritise contactless/low touch as a key feature when sourcing new tech or solutions.
- Remove any paperwork required on the ground (e.g. signing forms, feedback cards)
- If details must be entered using a shared device (e.g. insurance details), then it must be disinfected between each customer. Preference is to move entirely to digital solutions.
- Accommodation should provide online check in (no paperwork)
- Contactless keys (e.g. QR codes)
- Contactless tech (e.g. lights)
- Online ticketing for attractions and transport
- Online payment
Physical distancing is important in the preventing the spread of COVID-19 as it can be transmitted via droplets sprayed when coughing, sneezing, singing, yelling etc…
Intrepid will take the following measures:
- Require all suppliers to detail their physical distancing protocols
- Follow local regulation and advice on the need for physical distancing.
We will continue to offer this as an option. Single supplements are available for single travellers who do not wish to share a room. We will work closely with accommodation suppliers to ensure increased availability of single rooms.
- Consider whether it is appropriate to offer single tents for solo travellers as customers will be much closer together then in a traditional room.
- Consider whether staggering meal times may reduce the number of people sharing a dining tent.
Intrepid will consider the following factors when designing or amending transport options on trips.
- Local laws or requirements regarding physical distancing on transport
- Hygiene protocols of the transport provider
- Level of active community transmission in the destination
- Using designated seating on transport. Customers have assigned seats throughout the trip.
- If trip is longer than 15 minutes and air conditioning is available, it must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip.
- Designing or amending itineraries to reduce the duration of travel.
- Increasing the size of the vehicle, using multiple vehicles.
- Educate all leaders, crew, staff and customers to maintain a 1.5m distance wherever practical in public (e.g. queueing at a museum).
- Proactively design product to avoid crowds by visiting attractions at off-peak times.
- Proactively design product to avoid crowds on public transport or at airports where practical.
- Follow local regulations on table spacing and guest seating in restaurants. Wherever possible, try to ensure groups are sitting at their own table without strangers in restaurants.
- Proactively design product that focuses on experiences that assist with physical distancing (e.g. picnics over crowded marketplaces) if relevant for that destination.
Screening for COVID-19 helps isolate anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and stops the spread of disease. It is likely to become more common for future travellers.
Pre-Departure (Brand Material)
Customers should be informed as part of ‘Essential Trip Information (ETIs) or other similar trip notes if their trip is likely to include any of the following:
- Testing for COVID-19 before being able to pass through immigration and/or board planes.
- Negative test results to be uploaded for visa purposes.
- Thermal temperature checks in airports, train or bus stations, major hotels or attractions.
Pre-departure, all customers are required to fill out an online questionnaire (“self- declaration/assessment” form) to identify any high-risk customers before travel.
Extra qualifiers will be included to address customers with symptoms that can be contributed to pre-existing conditions (e.g. breathlessness to asthma).
Customers answering YES to any question should be removed from the departure and appropriate arrangements made.
Intrepid will not require a negative COVID-19 test as proof of health from customers or leaders at this stage unless it is required by local law or regulations.
This is partially due to the lack of availability of testing for people with no symptoms in many parts of the world and may change in due course.
- Ask customers, leaders, crew and staff to monitor their own health
- Display appropriate signage on COVID-19 symptoms
- Educate leaders, crew and staff on how to identify COVID-19 symptoms
- Describe COVID-19 symptoms in group meetings
If customers, leaders or crew show symptoms of COVID-19 and are either unable to or unwilling to be tested, Intrepid reserves the right to remove them from our trips to prevent any risk to others.
Flexible Booking Conditions
Customers will be supported by flexible booking conditions to stay home if unwell or displaying symptoms
Flexible Work Conditions
Intrepid will support leaders and crew to stay home rather than lead a trip if they are unwell or displaying symptoms. Schedules will need to be created with back up availability of leaders/crew.
Data Collection & Health Tracking
Intrepid will assist government health departments in tracking and tracing any customers, staff, leaders, crew or suppliers at risk of contracting COVID-19 via exposure to a known case and/or outbreak by providing relevant details in line with privacy laws and regulations.
COVID Tracking apps
Intrepid strongly recommends that customers and staff download COVID tracking apps (e.g. COVIDSafe in Australia, StayHomeSafe in Hong Kong) to assist in reducing the spread of disease within their communities.
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