Mexico City to Panama City
As far as ultimate Central American adventures go, this trip from Mexico to Panama ticks all the boxes. Starting in Mexico City, the tour ventures down through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and finally to Panama. Loaded with culture, history, architecture and bountiful nature, this incredible Central American adventure will leave you breathless. This exciting itinerary may be full of trekking up volcanoes, exploring vibrant cities, kayaking down emerald rivers, snorkelling over reefs and taking part in all manor of outdoor and cultural activities, but there is also a great balance of down time too, with beaches, forests and unspoilt nature to be enjoyed and relaxed in. So if youâre after a life-affirming, awe-inspiring and never-to-be-forgotten adventure, then this epic trip is it.
- View ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico
- Enjoy three nights in the colonial town of San Cristobal de Las Casas
- Be left awestruck by the ruined city of Palenque
- Learn the history of the clifftop Maya-Toltec ruins at Tulum
- Discover the stunning Belizean island of Caye Caulker
- Get adventurous in San Ignacio, Belizeâs adventure capital
- Stay with a Guatemalan family in Totonicapan
- Go on a spending spree at Chichicastenangoâs markets
- Explore the charming colonial city of Antigua
|Physical||Cultural||Max Group Size||22||Duration||55 days|
|Category||Bronze||Keep it simple, keeping inclusions to a minimum. These trips represent exceptional value and having a lot of free time to do what you wish.|
Day 1 - Mexico
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
Modern meets ancient in Mexico City, the world's fastest growing urban centre. Although crowded and smoggy, the former Aztec capital offers a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and architecture.
You may like to extend your time here and allow yourself a day or two more to take in some of the many palaces, churches and temples, or to sit and watch life go by in the Alameda Central. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be able to assist.
Day 2-3 - Oaxaca
A beautiful old colonial town, Oaxaca is full of graceful arcades and colourful markets largely populated by descendents of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, who come here to sell their colourful woven blankets and shawls. Oaxaca is also known for its well-respected arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Explore the markets and narrow, cobbled streets or simply sit in the square drinking the local mescal and watch life go by.
Day 4-6 - San Cristobal De Las Casas
With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots. The surrounding villages are populated with Tzotzil and Tzeltal Indians who maintain their tribal origins through their varied traditional costumes and customs. There is time here to explore the villages, perhaps by horseback or mountain bike.
Day 7 - Frontera Corozal
Day 8-9 - Palenque
The following day we will visit the incredible ruins of Palenque, rising high from the jungle. A guide will show us around the ruins and there will also be free time to see if you can visit all 200 buildings that make up the city.
Palenque is situated on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle and is home to possibly the most impressive series of Mayan ruins, which date back at AD600. Whilst walking amongst the ruins it is often possible to hear the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle, giving an added dimension to this magnificent site. The temples are superb relics of Mayan culture and there are many ruins here still un-excavated and hidden in the surrounding forest.
Day 10 - Merida
Founded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the twin-towered 16th century Cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th century glory go for a walk along the mansion lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets and you can stock up on hammocks and Maya replicas. It's a great place to try out the local food specialities, like cochinita pibil or the head-blowingly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce.
Day 11-12 - Tulum
The following morning we visit the Tulum ruins, one of the last cities built by the Maya and one of the best preserved coastal Maya sites. The afternoon is free time.
Sitting on a cliff with views of an azure ocean, Tulum not only has spectacular Maya ruins to discover but some of Mexico's finest beaches to frolic on.
Day 12-13 - Tulum
Day 13-15 - Caye Caulker
The Belize Cayes are a group of islands a short boat ride away from the coast. There are a number of these islands to choose from, but we base ourselves on Caye Caulker as this is one of the more popular islands with travellers. From here it is possible to arrange day trips to other Cayes, to the best reefs for diving, or simply to take a local boat out to the reef of Caulker itself. Each island has its own particular character, but all of them have the unmistakeable Caribbean pace and charm.
Day 14-17 - Caye Caulker
Day 16-18 - San Ignacio
A friendly place with a multicultural feel, San Ignacio is a wonderful base to explore the gorgeous countryside that surrounds the town.
Day 18-19 - San Ignacio
Day 19 - Tikal
Once a powerful Mayan city, Tikal was abandoned in the 10th century and sank into the surrounding jungle. It's now alive with jungle wildlife and awe-inspired visitors.
Day 20-21 - Poptun
Day 21 - Poptun
Day 22-23 - Rio Dulce
From Puerto Barrios we will take a boat trip along the Rio Dulce. The river flows through dense forests, with the jungle coming right down to the water's edge. Tropical birds nest in the trees and fly overhead. At one part of the river hot water bubbles from a natural spring in the bank, creating a localised hot pool. For those wanting a hot bath or a swim, you can simply jump over the edge of the boat.
The small town of Livingston is located at the mouth of the Rio Dulce. It has no roads connecting it to the rest of the country and as a result has developed its own rather unique character. The town has something of a Caribbean feel and is a great place to spend the night.
Day 23 - Panajachel
Day 24 - San Andres Itzapa
This centre is run by the Italian NGO 'Mani Amiche' in support of local women who have been abandoned and abused, and who 'hide away' in the centre with their kids.
Day 25-26 - Panajachel/Lake Atitlan/Chichicastenango
Panajachel, located on beautiful Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Go for a swim, hike or kayak on the lake. The surrounding area is dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan, In each village the local life has changed little over the last few hundred years. Each village has its own typical dress and make all the textiles themselves in designs passed down through generations.
If possible we will visit the Chichicastenango market during these days depending on the weekday. Please note that the market is only open on Thursdays and Saturdays so you may not be able to visit during your trip.
The town of Chichicastenango lies about 2,200 metres above sea level and features some of the best handicrafts from all over Guatemala. Home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country, on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce.
Day 27-28 - Antigua
The old colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua remains the cultural centre of the country. Its cobbled streets, local markets, colonial buildings, and indigenous marimba music emanating from the many bars and restaurants create a fantastic atmosphere.
Unfortunately, more than half the population of this beautiful Guatemala you have come to know so well lives under the poverty line, which may explain why Guatemala has also the lowest literacy rate in Central America. With this in mind, the Intrepid Foundation is proud supporter of CasaSito, an outstanding not for profit organization dedicated to assist youth to reach their academic, personal and professional potential.
If you have 2â to spare (2â41ââ to be exact!) take a look at this short video about CasaSito â itâs inspiring: https://youtu.be/v62Ou9czWyE
If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalanâs youth, you can donate through the Intrepid Foundation, which means that your donation will be match dollar for dollar by Intrepid too. No donation is too small. $5, $10, $50 it all goes a long way to help this fantastic organization. Simply visit our website: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/casasito/
Day 29-30 - Los Cobanos
Day 31 - Cerro Verde National Park
The highlight of Cerro Verde National Park is the Cerro Verde, an extinct volcano which last erupted around 2500 years ago. On the top of its crater there is one of the few cloud forests in the country, located at 2030 metres above sea level. The Cerro Verde, along with the volcanoes of Santa Ana and Izalco form one of the most impressive landscapes in El Salvador. These 2 other volcanoes can be viewed from lookout points inside Cerro Verde National Park. The park also offers some wonderful treks enabling fantastic views of northern El Salvador.
Day 32 - Suchitoto
Suchitoto is a reminder of El Salvador's past. A beautiful colonial town with painted houses and cobbled streets, it is a world away from modern El Salvador. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande, also known as Lago Suchitlan, which is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks.
Day 33-34 - Copan
The ancient ruins of Copan are the southernmost of the great Mayan sites for which Central America is famed. This particular site was listed as a World Heritage site in 1980 and is unique because of the 21 stelae or columns that have been found there. These are heavily carved with reliefs depicting the passage of time and the lives of the royal families. There are also a number of small pyramid-shaped temples and excavated vaults. Walk through the grassy plazas under the gaze of huge carved faces, staring out from ancient walls. As you walk past monuments, statues and staircases it's hard not to wonder at the mysterious disappearance of such a creative civilisation.
Day 35-37 - Roatan Island
Roatan Island is one of the famous Bay Islands; an archipelago of coral islands set in the Caribbean known for its laid back atmosphere. The scuba diving around the reefs is said to be some of the best in the world. During your stay on Roatan Island you can snorkel, go sea kayaking, hire jeeps or even get your PADI license.
Day 38 - Lake Yojoa
Please not there is a US$25 airport tax which is not covered by the kitty and will need to be paid separately.
Day 39-40 - Leon
The town of Leon is lined with derelict buildings and the walls are adorned with political murals and graffiti. Head to the market to find some of the friendliest people in the country.
Day 40 - Masaya National Park
Day 41-42 - Granada/Masaya National Park
At the Masaya National Park, the twin volcano craters of Masaya and Santiago are an incredible sight. At the bottom of a vast crater, a glowing red fire, like a furnace, fills the air with pungent sulphurous fumes and rocks and volcanic ashes still cover the area surrounding the volcanoes. The park is inhabited by many different kinds of animals including coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, deer, iguanas, and monkey. The park makes a wonderful place for trekking.
Oozing with colonial charm, Granada is the oldest city of the 'New World', having been founded in 1524. The city resides on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and its appearance is a mixture of Moorish and Andalusian. The surrounding countryside includes active volcanoes and lakes.
Day 42-43 - Ometepe Island
Day 43-44 - Ometepe Island
Beautifully located within Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanoes which rise from the lake. In fact 'Ometepe' literally means two volcanoes in the Nahuatl language. The island's hourglass shape is home to great beaches and a deep jungle. Wildlife abounds here and as well as monkeys and green parrots, and the lake itself is famous for the world's only species of freshwater shark. A great experience is sitting on the shore of the lake when the fishermen come back from their long day bringing in what they have caught.
Day 44-45 - Arenal Volcano National Park
Day 45-46 - La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano National Park
La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. The views here are spectacular as the volcano is reflected on the lake for postcard perfect photos. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70 metre high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and watersports on the lake.
Day 46-47 - Monteverde
Day 47-48 - Monteverde
Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. It is lush and full of wildlife. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Day 48 - San Jose
Day 49-50 - Manuel Antonio National Park
Spend your time here enjoying all the park has to offer. Head out for a hike along its many trails, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing, fishing or surfing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Day 51-52 - Boquete
Day 53 - Santa Clara
Day 54-55 - Panama City
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.