Heart of Central America

Heart of Central America

88 Views
15 Days
From

$2860

$2503

Heart of Central America

15 Days Starting in Granada and ending in Antigua

Visiting: Granada, Leon, Pacific Coast, El Salvador, Suchitoto, Copan, Antigua, San Andrés Itzapa, Quetzaltenango, Chichicastenango Market, Panajachel, Santiago Atitlán, Antigua Guatemala

Tour operator:

Intrepid Travel

Tour code:

QBSKC

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

1 - 16

Physical rating:

Low, Low

Age range:

15-99 years

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians

Tour operated in:
English
From:
$2860
$2503 (USD) Operator discount: -$286 The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$71 -12%
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Tour Overview

Take a wild ride through the heart of Central America – a place of diverse culture, bustling streets laden with delicious food and friendly locals, and a deep history of Maya civilisation and modern religion. Take a 15-day trip starting on Lake Nicaragua, surrounded by active volcanoes. Visit the first and largest national park in the country at Masaya Volcano, and then explore the city of Leon at your own pace. Hit the black coastal sands of El Tunco in Honduras, then enjoy a spot of bird watching in El Salvador. Learn to make some local favourites in a cooking class and then explore the Copan ruins – an impressive UNESCO World Heritage site. Hit the colourful markets of the Guatemalan Highlands and ride on a traditional chicken bus – the source of pride for many locals in Quetzaltenango. Learn about the history and pull of the deity San Simon and find all the hidden gems in Antigua before enjoying a scenic boat ride on Lake Atitlan.

Highlights

  • Take a scenic boat ride on Lake Atitlan to Santiago Atitlan, with 95% of the population of Mayan descent, and meet the shamanic keepers of Maximon and share a bottle of local spirits with them as they tell you stories of local life.

  • Visit Chichicastenango market – known as Chichi for short – and pick up your very own huipils (a traditional Mayan garment worn by women and girls) or some handmade jade jewellery.?

  • Take a guided tour of the Copan ruins and archaeological site – a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilisation.??

  • Visit an Indigenous artists’ village in Nicaragua to meet with a local artist who makes traditional masks – an important part of the history of the country's revolution.?

  • See the lava flow and crater at Masaya Volcano National Park – the first and largest national park in Nicaragua and a fascinating place to explore.?

Itinerary

Expand All
Day 1: Granada
Location: Granada
Accommodation: Hotel

Hola! Welcome to Nicaragua. Your adventure begins in the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, Granada is set on Lake Nicaragua’s banks and surrounded by active volcanoes. Your trip starts with a welcome meeting at 6 pm at your hotel today. If you arrive early, why not stroll around the largest lake in Central America? Lake Nicaragua is the only freshwater lake that has oceanic animal life. Tonight, enjoy an optional group dinner with your fellow travellers.

Day 2: Leon
Location: Leon
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: breaksfast, lunch

This morning, you’ll hop on a private minibus and start your journey towards Leon. Along the way, visit the Masaya Volcano National Park, famous for the lava flow in the Santiago Crater and the largest national park in Nicaragua. View the famed lava flow and, if you like, take a short walk on one of the trails. This crater is thought to be over 9000 years old! After, continue your journey, stopping at the Monimbo artist village. Meet with a local artisan who makes the traditional masks used during the revolution. Get to know the artist and learn about the significance of the masks, how they are created and the Indigenous perspective of the revolution. Then head to the local market that is at the center of daily life in Monimbo where you'll enjoy an included lunch of local specialties. When you arrive in Leon, 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 an absolute pleasure.

Included Activities:
-Leon - Leader-led orientation walk
-Monimbó - Indigenous artists village visit
-Masaya Volcano National Park - Entrance Fee

Day 3: Leon
Location: Leon
Accommodation: Hotel

Make the most of Leon in the morning by exploring the city at your leisure. 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. Maybe take a kayaking tour at Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve – float along the waterway between the mangrove forest and the island’s coast and watch out for wildlife that live here in abundance. Otherwise, a thrilling volcano sandboarding adventure could be just the thing for the adventure seekers out there.

Optional Activities:
-Leon - Volcano Sand Boarding
-Leon - Juan Venado Island Kayaking

Day 4: Pacific Coast, El Salvador
Location: Pacific Coast, El Salvador
Accommodation: Hotel

Prepare for a long driving day today as you cross into Honduras, then to El Salvador to get to your overnight stop. Along the way, your leader will engage you in an absorbing discussion about life and challenges for modern Central Americans.

Day 5: Suchitoto
Location: Suchitoto
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: dinner

You have a free morning to spend as you wish. This afternoon, you’ll head to Suchitoto. If you have ever been to El Salvador, you have most likely tried the national dish – pupusas – a thick cake or flatbread made with cornmeal or rice flour. Now you can learn how they’re made with an evening workshop with your group. The ingredients can be found worldwide, so if you want to make your own pupusas when you get home, you’ll enjoy this hands-on experience!

Included Activities:
-Suchitoto - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration

Day 6: Suchitoto
Location: Suchitoto
Accommodation: Hotel

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 as Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path, providing the perfect opportunity to spot your fine feathered friends. The rest of the day is yours to explore the optional activities. Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande, also known as Lago Suchitlan. This man-made freshwater reservoir is a haven for the migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe grab a historically minded group (of 3 or more) for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the civil war.

Included Activities:
-Suchitoto - Leader led orientation walk

Optional Activities:
-Suchitoto - Birdwatching Walk (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate)
-Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate)
-Suchitoto - Town tour (it requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate)

Day 7: Copan
Location: Copan
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: dinner

This morning drive to Copan in a private transfer. With breathtaking scenery, it's another excellent opportunity to grab a window seat. Arrive 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 café. Alternatively, head to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park – a bird rescue, rehabilitation and release centre, this nature reserve is on ten acres of forested land, surrounded by streams and very close to the ruins. Tonight, rejoin your group for a traditional Honduran dinner of Baleadas – these Honduran tacos are made with flour tortillas and stuffed with various ingredients, depending on the season, like refried beans, cheese, avocado and cream. 

Optional Activities:
-Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (entrance fee)

Day 8: Copan
Location: Copan
Accommodation: Hotel

Head out early on a guided visit to the Copan archaeological site. These magnificent Mayan ruins were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Discovered in 1570 by Diego García de Palacio, this continues to be one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilisation. Take your time and enjoy exploring the most important cultural destination in Honduras. The rest of your day is free, so you can visit the bird park if you didn't get to yesterday. Tonight, why not visit the nearby natural hot springs. This optional tour gives you hours of soak time in the mud, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools in the lush jungle, with an included dinner.

Included Activities:
-Copan - Guided visit to Archaeological site

Optional Activities:
-Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner

Day 9: Antigua
Location: Antigua
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: dinner

This morning, hop in a private transfer and cross into Guatemala, arriving in Antigua in the afternoon. Check into your hotel and relax, before meeting up with your group for a farewell dinner of shucos – a popular Guatemalan street food like a hot dog, but with toasted bread and guacamole.

Day 10: Antigua
Location: Antigua
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: breaksfast

Enjoy a free day to explore the city, with nothing scheduled until a meeting to welcome any new travellers joining you on your adventure. Maybe grab some roasted beans from a street vendor and munch them while you stroll around. If you’ve got a historical bent, perhaps check out the 18th-century ruins of the Monastery of Santa Clara. Why not get a taste of local tradition with a chocolate-making workshop in the ChocoMuseo, or strut your stuff with a salsa dance lesson?

Day 11: San Andres Itzapa / Quetzaltenango
Location: San Andrés Itzapa, Quetzaltenango
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: breaksfastlunch

This morning after breakfast, travel to San Andres Itzapa in Chimaltenango. The Guatemalan Highlands are the best place to see the result of Mayan culture and Catholic religion coming together. Witness the unique culture firsthand with a shamanic ceremony at the Temple of San Simon. San Simon, the chain-smoking saint also known as Maximon, is a somewhat morally ambiguous deity. As few Mayan gods survived Spanish colonialism, scholars now think that San Simon is a symbol of numerous lost deities. After leaving your rum or tobacco offering (which can be purchased at the on-site liquor store), you’ll stop for a group lunch, before heading to Las Fuentes Georginas – volcanically heated hot springs in Xela. Surrounded by ferns, these luxurious hot springs are also the entrance to the forest reserve, with trails to the Zunil volcano. When you start to prune, you’ll carry on Quetzaltenango, where you spend the night.

Included Activities:
-Xela - Las Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings
-San Andres Itzapa - San Simon shamanic ceremonies

Day 12: Quetzaltenango
Location: Quetzaltenango
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: breaksfast

Early this morning before breakfast, you’ll hop on a chicken bus – a truly local experience, chicken buses are a source of national and personal pride. This popular transport option unique to Guatemala has little to do with actual chickens – they are old American school busses passed down to new owners who decked them out in bright colours and decorations. Each bus is unique to the independent driver, many of whom have made this their sole business. The chicken bus will take you to a local market – Almolonga – famed for its giant vegetables, which some believe were blessed by God. Whether you believe the vegetables are a gift from above or due to the high amounts of fertiliser used by locals, this colourful market is a great place to rub shoulders with the locals and maybe pick up a giant carrot. Afterward, return to your hotel for breakfast.

Included Activities:
-Western Highlands - Almolonga vegetable market
-Quetzaltenango - Chicken Bus Experience

Optional Activities:
-Quetzaltenango - Chocolate Museum
-Quetzaltenango - Mayan Cooking Class

Day 13: Chichicastenango Market / Panajachel
Location: Chichicastenango Market, Panajachel
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: breaksfast

As Guatemala is home to many markets, today’s adventure is a great contrast to yesterday’s Almolonga. After breakfast, you’ll head to Chichicastenango market (nicknamed Chichi), home to textiles, wooden handicrafts and jade jewellery. This is one of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America and Guatemala’s most historic. Surrounded by mountains, you’ll explore the market with an expert local leader who knows all the best spots and walk among thousands of locals and tourists who hit these stalls weekly. Maybe grab some souvenirs or a huipils for yourself – a traditional garment worn by the Indigenous girls and women of the area. You can also pick up some handmade jewellery, pottery, incense, tablecloths, a ceremonial mask used in traditional Mayan dances or some leather goods. Tonight, spend the night in Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where you’ll have a free evening for dinner.

Included Activities:
-Chichicastenango market visit

Day 14: Santiago Atitlan / Antigua
Location: Santiago Atitlán, Antigua Guatemala
Accommodation: Hotel
Meals Included: breaksfast

This morning after breakfast, head for hop on a boat (called a lancha) on Lake Atitlan – surrounded by volcanoes, rolling hills and Mayan villages, this is definitely one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (as said by Aldous Huxley). Take the scenic ride to Santiago Atitlan, taking in the sweeping views from the water. Although this is the largest town on the lake, it sees far fewer tourists, making it the perfect spot to find authentic Guatemalan people, culture and activities. Here, you’ll visit the current shrine of Maximon (San Simon), where the local shamans keep watch. Your group will bring a gift of local spirits to share with the shamans, and while you drink, you’ll discuss the holy shrine, the perplexing deity and local life on the lake. Tonight, take a minibus back to Antigua.

Included Activities:
-Santiago Atitlan - Shamanic Keepers of the Shrine of Maximon
-Lake Atitlan - Boat to Santiago Atitlan

Day 15: Antigua
Location: Antigua
Meals Included: breaksfast

Your trip comes to an end today. If you’d like to stay in Antigua for longer, there are many volcano hikes on offer, just speak to your trip leader before you leave. If you need to book extra accommodation, just speak to your booking agent.

What's Included

  • Accommodation

    As detailed in the itinerary

  • Airport Transfers at Destination

    No

  • Fully Guided

  • Meals

    As detailed in the itinerary

  • Leon - Leader-led orientation walk

  • Monimbó - Indigenous artists village visit

  • Masaya Volcano National Park - Entrance Fee

  • Suchitoto - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration

  • Suchitoto - Leader led orientation walk

  • Xela - Las Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings

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What's Not Included

  • Insurance

  • International Travel

Accommodation

  • The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline only and may change. On some occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our preferred accommodation. In these cases, we will use a similar standard of accommodation.
  • Throughout the trip, we request that our properties prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However, this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination or on some trips, have use of shared day rooms until all rooms are available.

Transport

  • Private vehicle , Local bus , Taxi

Important Information

  • 1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1 in Granada. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
  • 2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
  • 3. Please be careful when booking flights to Granada; make sure you fly to Managua - Augusto C. Sandino International Airport [MGA]. Managua’s Airport is the closest airport to Granada. Please do not book flights to Granada Airport [GRX] as this is in Spain.
  • 4. Please be careful when booking flights from Antigua; make sure you fly from Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do not book flights from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
  • 5. As per updated Nicaragua entry requirements, customers are currently required to supply a copy of their passport front page to their booking agent no later than 15 days prior to departure.
  • 6. Should you have any questions or need assistance with the Honduras pre-registration, your leader will be able to assist on Day 1 of your tour. For more information, visit the ‘Passports, visas and entry requirements’ section of the ‘Essential Trip Information.’

Check out our Q&As

  • Is there any free time to explore places during the tour?

    As detailed in the itinerary

  • Is this trip right for you

    As this trip covers destinations across four countries, you’ll make several border crossings. While these are usually straightforward, please prepare to be patient while local authorities process papers.

    Central America is tropical, so expect a hot and humid climate. Protect yourself from the sun, wear comfortable, light clothing and stay hydrated – especially when out on walking tours. Air conditioning may not always be available in your rooms. Occasionally, properties may require an additional charge for air conditioning.

  • Are all the relevant entry visa’s included in the price of the tour?

    No

  • Will there be an escort accompanying this tour?

    Yes

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    No

  • What is the fitness level required to do this tour?

    LOW - Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.

  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?

    Yes, 15 years old or above

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Please contact us for latest COVID-19 policies

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Intrepid Travel has been taking travellers around the world for over 30 years

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Yes

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    Since 2002, The Intrepid Foundation has supported over 130 organisations across the world. We’re creating positive impact through the joy of travel, community and connection.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Over 50% of traveller travel solo with Intrepid. You can choose to share a room with another solo travelle of the same sex for no additional charge, or choose to pay a single supplement if you’d like your own room. Please request this when booking, and we will secure you a single supplement wherever possible. Please note, if you are booking a last-minute trip, it may be harder for us to secure a single room

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This was my first international solo trip, but I never felt “alone” - there was always someone to go shopping, hike, or grab a quick bite with. The itinerary was a great balance between organized activities, while still allowing free time for exploring. Each location was unique and charming in its own way. Spending the night in the holy city of Moulay Idriss and wandering the winding streets of Chefchaouen were especially memorable. Thank you Mustapha and Intrepid for an incredible adventure!

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$2860 $2503 (USD)

Operator discount: -$286 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$71 (USD)

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$2965 $2883 (USD)

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$2750 $2674 (USD)

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$2870 $2791 (USD)

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$2925 $2845 (USD)

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Book with Confidence

  • Free Date Changes

    Intrepid Travel allows you to make 10 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 56 days before the start of the tour.

  • Transfer as credit to Future Tours

    Intrepid Travel allows you to transfer existing payments to a future tour to avoid cancellation fees if you can't travel and inform intrepid travel, 56 days before departure.

  • Low Deposit

    Intrepid Travel requires a minimum deposit of 400 USD per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 56 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of intrepid travel charges.

    Up to 56 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 55 days before tour starts: Forfeit 30% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 60% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

  • COVID Protection

    Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
    From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

    However, we continue to strongly recommend that all travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and other Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

    This policy excludes all Polar trips and select adventure cruises, where testing and vaccination remains a requirement. Please refer to the Essential Trip Information of your chosen tour for more details.

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