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Embark on an in-depth Central American adventure from Mexico's capital to the home of the Panama Canal. Pass through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama on a small-group journey through remote villages, traditional cities, ancient Maya and Aztec ruins, verdant cloud forests and pure Caribbean beaches. Get acquainted with the local cultures, spectacular landscapes and fascinating histories of Central America as you explore the wealth of tradition, spot the range of unusual wildlife, dive into unique underwater worlds and spend time travelling at your own pace. Did you hear that? Central America is calling - you better Belize it.
Antigua , Bajos Del Toro , Boquete , Caye Caulker , Chichen Itza , Chichicastenango , Copan , Granada , La Fortuna , Lake Atitlan , Merida , Mexico City , Monteverde , Oaxaca , Palenque , Panama City , Playa del Carmen , Puebla , Rio Dulce , San Cristobal , San Ignacio , San Jose , Santa Catalina , Suchitoto , Tikal , Tulum
Mexico CityBienvenidos a Mexico City! This is one of the world's largest urban centres, a bustling metropolis with so many influences, offering a huge variety of museums, galleries and architectural delights, along with pumping nightlife and unparalleled street food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, but if you arrive early, perhaps head to the Zocalo – the massive central square – and check out the Aztec ruins and colonial architecture nearby. There are also plenty of parks, plazas and gardens to relax in and adjust to the Mexican way of life.
Mexico CityWake up in Mexico City, ready for a leader-led walk to orientate yourself to the city. Pass by the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace, Bellas Artes, Paseo de la reforma and more. After exploring the main sights of Mexico’s capital, you sure would have worked up an appetite. For lunch, join your local leader on a ‘taco crawl’ around town to taste Mexico City’s delicious street-food staple, tacos al pastor, among plenty other delicious treats. After eating your way around the city, the rest of the day is free for you to explore as you wish. In the evening you could visit the famous Plaza Garibaldi or sip cocktails with your fellow travellers in one of the many trendy bars in the city, whatever takes your fancy.
PueblaStart the day with a visit to the community of San Pedro Tlahuac, home to Nahuatl descendants who keep their way of life alive. The community practices traditions from pre-Columbian times, including chinampa farming, fiestas and ancient ceremonies. After an included lunch, your group will head to the bus station in the late afternoon to catch a local bus to Puebla, and if you're the grazing type, make sure you bring some snacks along for the journey. The local buses in Mexico aren't the colourful school buses seen in other areas of Central America – most are comfortable, coach-style vehicles equipped with bathrooms. The air conditioning will be blasted often, so don't forget to bring a jacket. On arrival in Puebla, your leader will take you out for an orientation walk and run through some handy Spanish phrases to help you make the most of the days ahead. Put your newly learnt Spanish skills to the test with an evening visit to La Pasita bar, where you’ll have the opportunity to taste pasita – a sweet liqueur made of raisins in one of Puebla’s most famous bars. Salud!
PueblaPuebla is a rapidly growing city featuring many well-maintained churches and buildings from the colonial period. 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 over eight kilometres (five miles) of tunnels, with the enormous Popocatepetl Volcano serving as a backdrop. In town, Puebla also has plenty of markets where you can brush up on your bargaining skills or pick up some local handicrafts.
OaxacaToday we journey by local bus to Oaxaca. Oaxaca (pronounced ‘wuh-haa-ka’) is a beautiful, old colonial town full of graceful arcades and colourful markets. You'll find Zapotec and Mixtec influences around the city as ancestors have populated this region for thousands of years. 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 and some incredible examples of street art. Walk the narrow, cobblestone streets, or maybe sit back in one of the squares, sipping mezcal and watching the world go by.
OaxacaThere'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 Mitla Ruins, visit a traditional weaving arts town, and stop by a local mezcal distillery. In the evening, if you've any energy left, you could head out for dinner with your fellow travellers and enjoy the town's lively atmosphere.
Oaxaca / Overnight BusUse today to take part in any optional activities you couldn't fit in yesterday, you could have a go at plating up some delicious local fare during a cooking class or enjoy a relaxed day in town at your leisure. This evening the group will take an overnight bus to the highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Reclining seats and toilet are available on the bus. The bus is air conditioned, so be sure to bring a jacket on board. Please keep in mind that though the bus is comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections, so if you suffer from motion sickness this is the time to have your medication handy.
San Cristobal de las CasasThe bus will arrive in San Cristobal de las Casas early this morning. Leave your luggage at the hotel and begin exploring this highland town, hidden in green Chiapas valley surrounded by pine trees. Your leader will take you on a tour around town and point out all the important places. Then you'll visit the village of San Juan Chamula, home to the fascinating Iglesia de San Juan. This church, with its pine-covered floor and air thick with incense, is often frequented by shamans who come to carry out cleansings using firewater and ancient prayer. Please note that there is a strict ban on cameras inside the church. Outside, the village is alive with colourful markets that sell local handicrafts and great street food. We’ll also stop by the town of Zinacantan to explore another local church. Your visit to Zinacatan church will reveal a fascinating mixture of Christian and Mayan religion, which helps you understand some of the local culture in this region. The rest of the day is free for your own adventure. Stroll through the market, chat with the locals and maybe buy some of the colourful weavings they are known for, before grabbing a drink and some food with your fellow travellers.
San Cristobal de las CasasThere’s no alarm clock needed this morning as today is yours to explore San Cristobal de las Casas at your own leisure. Perhaps, take in the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, and soak up the old-world feel mixed with strong, pre-Hispanic roots. Or try something more active and ask your leader to help organise an optional boating trip in the Sumidero Canyon, which is as old and impressive as the Grand Canyon (at your own expense).
PalenqueTravel along a windy road by private vehicle to Palenque, stopping en route at the beautiful Agua Azul cascades and Misol-Ha waterfall for a refreshing swim. Once you've arrived in Palenque, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. Situated in a steamy jungle, Palenque is a central town close to the nearby Maya ruins of the same name, which you'll have a chance to check out tomorrow.
Palenque Ruins / MeridaToday you visit the Palenque archaeological zone. The stunning Mayan temples of Palenque are quite rightly considered a must-see during any trip to Chiapas, or indeed Mexico. Situated on a hilltop, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Maya 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 on your own Indiana Jones-style adventure. This afternoon, travel by private vehicle to the historic town of Merida, the capital of the Yucatan region.
MeridaFounded 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 people and architecture. Take an orientation walk with your leader, then enjoy free time for the rest of the day. Maybe take an optional trip to the Merida Contemporary Art Museum for an interesting perspective on contemporary life in the city. Or perhaps just spend some time wandering the Plaza Grande: a green, shady square enclosed by a 16th-century cathedral, City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo. Or head to the outdoor markets where you can find local specialities like the seriously spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.
MeridaToday you can choose to visit the Maya ruins of Uxmal, a 1-hour drive from Merida, on an optional tour which includes transport and a local guide. It's thought that the city was constructed around AD700, was home to around 25,000 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. Alternatively, you could choose to take an optional guided tour to Las Coloradas – the incredible pink lagoon that’s home to flocks of flamingos.
Chichen Itza / Playa del CarmenTravel to Playa del Carmen by private vehicle, stopping en route for an included visit to the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza. 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 revealed treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones. The group will spend a few hours at Chichen Itza before continuing on to Playa del Carmen. After a quick orientation walk around Playa del Carmen with your local guide, pick a place to kick back with a margarita and watch the sun go down.
Playa del CarmenToday is a free day to enjoy at your own pace. Perhaps use your time snorkelling in freshwater rock pools – cenotes – by booking yourself in on a day tour, or for an adventure further afield, take a ferry across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving. If relaxing is on the cards, grab a towel and simply laze back on one of the pristine stretches of sand nearby – the tropical Caribbean is waiting. Later on in the evening, there is a group meeting booked for 6 pm where you can regroup and meet some new travellers joining you! Here, you will get briefed about the next stage of your adventure. Until then, go with the flow.
Playa del CarmenWake up without an alarm – today is yours to explore this beachside paradise at your leisure. Known for its coral-clad reefs, Playa Del Carmen might be the perfect spot to don your snorkel mask and flippers and explore beneath the surface. Keep your eyes peeled for rays, moray eels and turtles. If you’d rather leave the flippers behind and adventure on land, catch a local bus and travel south to Tulum, where white-sand beaches and Maya ruins are just an hour and a half away. In the evening, you could grab a few of your fellow travellers and find a good spot to watch the sunset – muy bien!
ChetumalAfter breakfast, enjoy your final morning in Playa del Carmen. Maybe take an early morning stroll to the beach and dip your toes in the sand or simply let the world pass you by with a coffee at a local cafe. Head to your next stop in Chetumal mid-morning and arrive after lunch – a quiet city close to the border of Belize, this place makes for the perfect stop before tomorrow’s adventure to Caye Caulker. You have a free afternoon in Chetumal so you might like to round up your group and head to a local restaurant for the evening.
Caye CaulkerBid adios to Mexico early this morning as you head south to Belize. After border formalities, arrive in Belize City then hop in a water taxi to the island of Caye Caulker. When you arrive, get acquainted with the island on a guided walk with your leader. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. Be aware that there may be crocodiles in the split area that separates the north and south of the island, so it’s best to take caution while swimming and exploring the beaches.
Caye CaulkerGood morning and welcome to heaven! Today is free for you to explore the island that surrounds you, or just to simply relax. If you feel like snorkelling, ask your leader about organising a trip to the colourful coral reef nearby, or maybe head further afield to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the world’s second-longest coral reef. Manatee spotting is perfect for nature lovers, or you could 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 on a beach day.
Caye CaulkerWhat’s better than one day in paradise? Two, of course! Wake up whenever you like, because you’ve got another free day. Like any good seaside paradise, 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 island's famous lobsters are available between 15 June and 15 February, and you can expect to pay far less than at home (though more than your average island meal). You could even grab some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with firewater from a roadside stall to really get into the island spirit.
San IgnacioFrom the islands to the highlands, you’ll bid farewell to Caye Caulker today and catch a ferry to Belize City, then a bus to San Ignacio. When you arrive, your leader will take you on a walking tour of San Ignacio and its twin sister Santa Elena, giving you a sense of how vibrant the local Garifuna and Maya communities are. Tonight, maybe head out in search of a classic Maya dish like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus).
San IgnacioToday is free for you to discover San Ignacio at your own pace. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the ideal base. If you’re a bit of a history buff, maybe take a day trip to Xunantunich – an impressive Maya ceremonial site on a hill overlooking 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 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.
Tikal National ParkRise 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. Here, 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 is 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).
Rio DulceThis morning you’ll depart for Flores, where your leader will take you on a walking tour of the island. Then, continue by private minivan to Rio Dulce before transferring to your hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also on the water – a journey that 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 led by your leader?
Rio DulceWith plenty of free time today, consider taking advantage of some optional activities. 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 maybe go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot local manatees or explore nearby San Felipe Fort.
AntiguaLeave the 'Sweet River' behind and travel by private minibus to the city of Antigua. 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 slow trucks – be armed with patience, music and a good book and the journey will be easier to handle. Though there's not much time in Antigua today, you owe it to yourself to reward your patience with a tamale (meat and dough steamed in a corn leaf). You could also give pepian a try (rich dark sauce served with vegetables and meat, usually chicken).
PanajachelToday, travel on the winding roads to Chichicastenango – home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country! Nicknamed Chichi market, locals come from surrounding villages on Thursdays and Sundays to sell their wares and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce. Visit a local Mayan Shaman and do a little shopping at the market, then continue to Panajachel. Located on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, great eateries and many water-based activities. Your leader will take you on a brief orientation walk of the town and then the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore. Why not go for a swim, wander the streets or kayak on the lake?
San Juan La LagunaThis morning after breakfast, take a boat to San Juan La Laguna – a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan and the first community to ban single-use plastic. Here, you’ll witness a textile weaving demonstration, seeing how they use local materials and traditional dyeing techniques. Try out some of your newly learnt Spanish to chat with the locals and take a tour of their medicinal garden, watching how they use ancient techniques to transform plants into medicine - knowledge passed from mothers to daughters for hundreds of years. Tonight, you’ll be staying with multiple families within the community in small groups. Enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family and spend the night here – a perfect opportunity to get to know them a little better and immerse yourself in local life.
AntiguaHit the road again this morning and make the journey back to Antigua – 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. On the way, stop at Santa Apolonia – one of the last communities in Guatemala to make pottery with traditional Maya techniques. The ancient Maya people could produce perfectly rounded pottery without a potter’s wheel! Here, the local women use their hands, as they move in a circular motion to produce amazingly perfect pieces of pottery. Watch a demonstration and then try it for yourself! Continue to Antigua, where your leader will take you on an orientation walk to the Cerro de la Cruz lookout. Tonight, maybe take part in a dancing lesson – many dancing schools offer hourly lessons, so you'll be able to perfect your moves.
AntiguaEnjoy a free day exploring photogenic Antigua today. Maybe check out the ChocoMuseo, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, which was first documented by the Guatemalan Maya, as well as its historical importance. Or maybe grab a coffee from one of the myriad shops in central park, sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's chilled-out vibes.
AntiguaEnjoy a free day exploring the city. You could grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's city vibe. Otherwise, today might be the day to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee. 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. Keep in mind that there is another group meeting planned at 6 pm at the hotel this evening, where you’ll get briefed of the next stage of your journey, plus meet some new travel pals joining you!
CopanRise and shine early this morning to beat the rush-hour traffic around Antigua. Departing at around 4 am, you’ll drive towards Copan. Along the way, your leader will run an informal Spanish lesson, providing you with 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 surroundings. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to a cafe, or maybe head to the nearby natural hot springs. This optional tour gives you hours of soaking in mud, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools in the lush jungle, with an included dinner.
CopanThis morning, join your leader and explore the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan – the southernmost of the great Maya sites. It's unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae (carved columns) still intact among temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. After your exploration (don’t forget your camera today!) the rest of the afternoon is free to choose your own adventure. Maybe check out some fine feathered friends at the Macaw Mountain Park or visit the Temple of Rosalila. If you didn’t get to the hot springs yesterday, this afternoon is the perfect opportunity to soak away your active morning.
SuchitotoYou’ll wave goodbye to Copan this morning and head across the border to El Salvador. It’s a long travel day, so make sure you’ve got a good book or your favourite road trip games handy. When you arrive in Suchitoto, you’ll head out on a leader-led orientation walk of the town – widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Admire the elaborate building facades, get your bearings and enjoy the surroundings. Then, get your chef’s hat on with a pupusa-making cooking class in a private home. Pupusa (cornmeal flatbreads) is a classic Salvadorian recipe from the Pipil culture and is usually stuffed with some delicious ingredients, like cheese or chicharron (fried pork).
SuchitotoToday is a free day in Suchitoto. Birders will want to crane their necks towards the sky as Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path! The town also overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande – also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe grab a historically minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the Civil War. Or just relax around town, in a local café or at your accommodation.
Pacific Coast, El SalvadorThis morning, head to a local designer’s home for an indigo-dying demonstration – Suchitoto is one of the best places in the world to produce indigo (used to dye clothing or other items blue). You’ll visit a local designer transforming colonial tradition into modern design and learn the history of the indigo trade. This small enterprise supports single mothers by providing them with an income for their children’s education, food and independence. Watch the demonstration, then get hands-on and try it for yourself! To decide who gets to take the creation home, the group will hold a raffle (are you feeling lucky?). After, you’ll drive to the Pacific Coast of El Salvador, home to some amazing dark-sand beaches and some of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to the beach for a swim or 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 crabs are some of the tastiest around.
Pacific Coast, El SalvadorToday, you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful Pacific Coast at your own pace. Surf culture is big here, so you might like to make like the locals and hit the waves with a surf lesson. Alternatively, simply sit back and relax in a hammock on the beach and soak up the sunshine with a drink – life’s good.
LeonRise nice and early for a full day of travel by private vehicle. Cross the border at El Amatillo and then head into Honduras, where you’ll stop for lunch. After, there’s another border crossing at Guasaule before you reach Leon – the second-largest city in Nicaragua. When you arrive, join your leader on an orientation walk through the charming city streets to get your bearings. Leon is surprisingly relatively free of tourists, which makes strolling the murals and contemporary architecture a real treat! Tonight, maybe head out to dinner with your group – as always, your leader will have the best recommendations.
LeonToday is a free day to make the most of Leon. Maybe visit the street food area behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral and try a Nica taco (made with maize, the taco is rolled, deep fried and then served with shredded cabbage smothered in cream). You could also take on a thrilling volcano sandboarding adventure on the black slopes of Cerro Negro Volcano. Maybe you’d just like to explore the city’s contemporary art or wander the Leon Cathedral.
GranadaThis morning, you’ll drive to the oldest city in the 'New World' – Granada. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture, Granada is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. You’ll be travelling by taxi from the hotel to the bus station, boarding a local bus bound for Managua and then hopping on a public bus to Granada. When you arrive, your leader will take you on an orientation walk through the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada' – a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants. The afternoon is yours to explore the city at your own pace. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat, or hire a kayak and find your own way around, waving at the fisherman who live in wooden huts along the way. Just remember not to swim, as freshwater sharks live in the water!
GranadaThis morning you’ll have breakfast with your group at Cafe de las Sonrisas – a café run entirely by deaf people. The owner is aiming to bridge the gap and inspire other business owners to employ local people living with disabilities. After, maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of Indigenous stone statues or take a boat tour of Monkey Island. Maybe hit the water again for a kayaking tour of Laguna Apoyo. Tonight, maybe book a special trip to Masaya Volcano National Park and see the lava lake at Santiago Crater at night (this is the best time to see the lava stir, bubble, spew and erupt)!
MonteverdeToday is another early start as you get ready for a full day of travel. Journey to Monteverde, where you can begin exploring this afternoon on an orientation walk 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 Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are like 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 Monteverde home. Keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal – one of the world’s most elusive birds.
MonteverdeEnjoy a free day to discover this lush reserve at your own pace. Maybe 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, as well as the different roles wildlife play in Mesoamerican mythology. For guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes, head to the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium.
La FortunaSpend a final morning in the thickets of the Monteverde jungle, maybe taking one last walk to search for wildlife, then depart in the early afternoon for La Fortuna. You’ll drive to the shores of Lake Arenal, where you’ll take a ferry across the lake to the little town of La Fortuna. On a clear day, you'll have fantastic views of the surrounding area. Watching the massive Arenal Volcano loom larger and larger as you approach is a spectacular sight. Once you reach La Fortuna, take another vehicle to the hotel, then freshen up and head out on a leader-led orientation walk. La Fortuna is a favourite among travel writers for a reason – words like picturesque and breathtaking spring to mind when trying to describe this town in the shadow of the volcano.
La FortunaWhy 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, or see the forest from a series of hanging bridges that offer a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. 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. Or maybe check out the 70-m-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of the rainforest and hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. A boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat, so if you’re craving more wildlife, this option is perfect.
San JoseWatch the volcano fade into the distance on a local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital – San Jose. When you arrive, head out on an orientation walk with your leader to see the main highlights. When you’ve got your bearings, you may like to visit the Gold Museum, which has a fantastic collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for some 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. Tonight, why not ask your leader for the best recommendations for dinner?
San JoseToday is all yours to choose your own adventure around San Jose. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous 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. There’s another group meeting at 6 pm tonight, where your group leader will fill you in on the details of the next stage of your adventure. Better yet, there’ll be some new travellers joining you, so come and say hi!
SarapiquiThis morning, hop on a public bus and make your way to Sarapiqui – a town known for its rich biodiversity and lush rainforest. When you arrive, enjoy some free time here to go birdwatching, spot some local wildlife or hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. Tonight, you’ll head out on a leader-led jungle walk. This is a great opportunity to see some Costa Rican wildlife, especially the elusive beasts who only venture out under the cover of darkness – look out for birds, sloths, snakes, macaws, howler monkeys and frogs.
Puerto Viejo de TalamancaToday, take a private transfer to Puerto Viejo. When you arrive, get to know this laid-back jungle town during an orientation walk with your local leader, then enjoy the rest of the day to explore at your leisure. A small and coastal city, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has a lively main street featuring dance halls, reggaeton bars and modern restaurants. If you’re looking for a little bit of relaxation, you'll also find great surf beaches and rainforest fruit farms to kick back on.
Puerto Viejo de TalamancaToday is free, so you can ease into the vibes of the Caribbean coast. You might like to take your time exploring Cahuita National Park, which is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo and home to sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. If the waves are calling (but your footing isn’t so sure), surf lessons are also on offer in town. Of course, you could also simply find a cool spot and relax with a beer in hand. To top today off, you'll prepare a traditional Caribbean dinner with a local family in their home. Enjoy a mixture of fruits, seafood, tubers and vegetables combined with coconut flavours, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, curry Panamian pepper and thyme.
Bocas del Toro / Isla ColonToday, take a local bus to the border, then walk across an old railway bridge into Panama. Continue by taxi or collective minivan to Almirante, where you'll take a short boat ride to Isla Colon in the Bocas del Toro archipelago – rapidly becoming a Caribbean favourite, this place has it all. Hit the palm-shaded beaches with crystal-clear waters, enjoy some spectacular snorkelling opportunities and look out for lots of wildlife. Culturally, Bocas is home to West Indians, Latinos and expats, resulting in diverse music, nightlife and food scenes. For the next three nights, you'll stay in Isla Colon – the main town of Bocas del Toro. It's a great spot to start your exploration of the archipelago, with most bars, restaurants and local activity operators just metres from your hotel.
Bocas del Toro / Isla ColonToday is the first of two free days to explore this tropical archipelago. Several beaches are within reach of town, between 8 and 14 km from your hotel. With azure waters, pristine coral reefs and a rollicking nightlife, it’s easy to see why these islands are a favourite for so many travellers. The safest beaches are Starfish, Sandfly and Big Creek – be aware that others may have strong riptides. When the sun goes down, why not head into town and check out the local bar and restaurant scene? Ask your leader about the best place to grab a drink.
Bocas del Toro / Isla ColonEnjoy another free day in the Caribbean sun. Maybe take the opportunity to do some surfing or snorkelling, rent a bike and explore the main island, or simply soak in the chilled-out vibe while enjoying a cold one on the beach.
BoqueteTravel by boat and local bus to Boquete – this is a bit of a lengthy journey, so be sure to have a book, podcast or daydream to keep you occupied. Boquete is a picturesque town located in the highlands of Panama, surrounded by mountains, crystal-clear creeks and rivers, forest reserves and colourful wildflowers, as well as coffee plantations and orange groves. Head out on an orientation walk with your leader and enjoy an informal Spanish lesson to get to grips with the local language. Tomorrow will be a free day, wide open for exploring – most optional activities can be organised directly from the hotel, though it’s a good idea to book them when you arrive tonight if you know what you want to do.
BoqueteThere are plenty of ways to experience Boquete today, so be sure to chat to your leader and the hotel front desk to get the best insider tips. You could discover the secret waterfalls only locals know about on a walking tour in the jungle. Or maybe you’d prefer to soak it up in the Caldera hot springs. If you’re a coffee lover, consider visiting a plantation or simply kicking back in town with a cup of the local brew – some of the best coffee in the world is grown and processed right here in Boquete!
Panama CityTrade in the beach for the city and travel to Panama City – Central America's glitziest capital. This is another long drive, so grab a window seat if you can. Along the way, you’ll visit Penonome – a small town well-known for its artisans specialising in the Sombrero Pintao (the iconic and original Panama hat). Maybe grab some lunch here and take a quick visit to one of the many vendors that specialise in this traditional hat and learn a bit about their trade. Arrive in Panama City in the late afternoon and head into the city for a leader-led orientation walk. Take in the great views of the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) and the Panama City skyline as you stroll past crowded waterfront soccer fields, running paths and food carts.
Panama CityToday, head to the city’s gorgeous waterfront promenade – the Cinta Costera (causeway) – for a walk with your leader. Stop at the nearby Fish Market and maybe grab some fresh ceviche. This afternoon is yours to explore, so if you like, maybe visit the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal or take a stroll through the rainforest in the Metropolitan Nature Park. Panama City is also famous for its shopping centres – the biggest being Albrook Mall. For more traditional souvenirs to bring home, head to the National Artisan's Market.
Panama CityWith no planned activities today, you can depart at any time. If you would like to spend some more time in Panama City, just speak to your booking agent.
- Mexico City - Leader-led Taco Crawl
- Mexico City - Leader-led orientation walk
- Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
- Puebla - Leader-led orientation walk
- Puebla - Visit to La Pasita Bar
- Tlahuac - Community Visit
- Oaxaca - Leader-led orientation walk
- San Cristobal de Las Casas - Leader-led Orientation Walk
- Zinacatan Church - Visit
- San Juan Chamula - Maya Church (entrance fee)
- Agua Azul - Waterfall Visit
- Palenque - Palenque Ruins (entrance fee)
- Merida - Leader-led orientation walk
- Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (entrance fee, no guide)
- Playa del Carmen - Leader-led Orientation Walk
- Caye Caulker - Leader-led orientation walk
- San Ignacio - Leader-led orientation walk
- Tikal National Park - Tikal archaeological site (entrance fee, no guide)
- Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
- Chichicastenango - Market Visit
- Chichicastenango - Shaman Visit
- Panajachel - Leader-led orientation walk
- San Juan La Laguna - Traditional Maya Homestay
- Antigua - Leader-led orientation walk
- Santa Apolonia - Traditional Pottery Demonstration
- Copan Ruins - Visit
- Suchitoto - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
- Suchitoto - Leader led orientation walk
- Suchitoto - Indigo Dyeing Demonstration
- Leon - Leader led orientation walk
- Granada - Breakfast at El Cafe de las Sonrisas
- Monteverde - Leader-led orientation walk
- La Fortuna - Leader led orientation walk
- San Jose - Orientation Walk
- Sarapiqui – Night Jungle Walk
- Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Leader-led orientation walk
- Puerto Viejo - Hands-on dinner in local home
- Boquete - Leader-led orientation walk
- Leader - led Informal Spanish Lesson
- Panama City - Leader-led walk in Casco Viejo
- Panama City - Leader-led walk along part of the Cinta Costera (Causeway) including a visit to the Fish Market
1 Breakfast(s) Included
2 Lunch(es) Included
3 Dinner(s) Included
Health and Safety Protocols for Intrepid Travel 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 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 standardized 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 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 regulations and advice on the need for physical distancing.
- Intrepid operates product that is based on twin share accommodation and allows single travellers the chance to share accommodation with a stranger.
- 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 than 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.
Question: How many suitcases can I take with me on my trip?
Question: Is Airfare Included in the Price?
Our tour guide was wonderful. She was knowledgeable, fun, energetic, and made our week run very smoothly. The trip itself was fantastic! We saw a lot and the islands are absolutely beautiful. Great food, great new friends made on the tour, and would absolutely book with Intrepid again.
Intrepid tour is great company. Will use this company again.
The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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