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Central American Explorer

25 days fr £2,627pp

Panama City • Bocas De Toro • Monteverde • Rincon De La Vieja • Ometepe Island • Granada • Leon • Roatan Island • Copan • Antigua

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TOUR DETAILS
Accommodation:
  • Standard fr £2,627pp
Validity:
  • 01/01/2019 - 30/04/2019
Also included:
  • 24 nights hotel accommodation
  • 10 breakfasts
  • All transport
  • Tour leader, drivers guides
Not included:
  • International Flights (unless otherwise stated)
  • optional excursions
  • other melas and all drinks
  • tips (allow approx $65usd pp)
  • border departure taxes (approx $40 usd pp)
Overview
On this exhilarating adventure we see the highlights of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala
Day 1
Join tour Panama City
Arrive Panama City and check-in to hotel. Panama City was built on the back of the trade and plunder from the Spanish colonies in South America, and was the start of the trans-isthmus trade route. Gold and silver were carried along the King’s Highway by mule across the rainforest to the Caribbean, which naturally led to unwanted attention, specifically from the Welsh buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan, who led a raid resulting in the ransack of the original city in the 17th century.
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Day 2
Canal visit; optional city tour
This morning we will visit the Miraflores Locks to see the famous Panama Canal and appreciate the scale of this engineering miracle. Running 50 miles, the canal was carved out of the rainforest and through hillsides, lakes were dammed and locks built. After a serious French attempt costing in excess of 20,000 lives, the US successfully completed this remarkable endeavour after 10 years of toil in 1914. This afternoon has been left free for you to indulge in a little exploring of your own. You may like to visit ‘Casco Viejo’, the heart of colonial Panama City. Its ramparts were built to fend off marauders and encircle the promontory, and a stroll along the top affords us views of the ‘Bridge of the Americas’ and far in the distance the skyscrapers of the modern town, a total contrast to the Spanish plazas & colonial buildings all around you.
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Day 3
Public bus to David; drive to Boquete
This morning we take a public bus to Panama’s beautiful southwest Chiriqui Province. This region is home to the Volcan Baru, a volcanic peak that at 3475m is the highest point in the country. The volcanic soil makes this a productive region, abundant in coffee and banana plantations, sugarcane crops and livestock. Heading for the provincial capital of David, we transfer into the cool fertile highlands to the town of Boquete. Located amidst a spectacular natural setting Boquete is a perfect base for walking into the surrounding hills, relaxing, or bird watching.
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Day 4
Drive/boat to Bocas del Toro
With a morning to enjoy time in Boquete before we depart in the afternoon for Almirante Port, from where we take a boat to the Isla Colon and the small town of Bocas de Toro, our base for exploring the stunning archipelago and the equally spectacular Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos. The archipelago itself is made up of a number of beautiful forested islands lying in the warm Caribbean waters just to the south of Costa Rica and the laid back beaches and dazzling reefs make this the ideal Caribbean paradise to relax or explore.
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Day 5
In Bocas de Toro
We have a full free day today to enjoy fully this lovely island. There are a number of optional activities that you might like to try. The island is ringed with stunning beaches and there are opportunities to snorkel or dive the rich waters off shore. You may like to take a boat trip around the archipelago, which will go dolphin spotting or visit one of the outlying islands, such as Isla Bastimentos with its lovely beaches and tropical forests. The marine park itself can also be visited and is an important nesting ground for sea turtles, as well as being an important reserve for an abundance of marine and land based life.
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Day 6
Boat/drive to Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui (Costa Rica)
Returning to the mainland by boat we turn north and head on a full days drive to the Costa Rican town of Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui. We cross the border at Guabito, into the Caribbean lowlands of Limon Province. Puerto Viejo lies at the confluence of the Puerto Viejo and the Sarapiqui rivers, an area of tropical rain forest that was once an important hub on the Caribbean trade routes. The area lies in the shadow of the Central Cordillera Mountains, sandwiched between the Braulio Carrillo N.P. to the west and the Tortguero N.P. and Barra del Colorado National Refuge to the east.
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Day 7
Drive to Arenal; optional hot springs
This morning we have a chance to explore a little more of Puerto Viejo and its environs. This area has been in the forefront of conservation for a number of years and La Selva biological station on the outskirts of town has done a great deal to involve the local community directly in the research and conservation of the area. You may like to take a walk along one of the many trails, or perhaps take a boat ride along the river, to see for yourself some of the beautiful forest that covers this fertile region. In the afternoon we drive, skirting the great central volcanic massif, past fertile farmlands, rich with a diversity of tropical crops, bringing us within sight of Arenal, Costa Rica’s most active volcanic cone. This classic cone, which rises to 1,633m and is covered by a tangled mass of vegetation on one side whilst the other is starkly barren and scarred by lava flows. We recommend an evening bathe in the nearby thermal baths this evening (optional).
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Day 8
Drive to Monteverde; visit Forest reserve & option
This morning we have the included to visit the still active Arenal Volcano, set in an area of national park covering some 9,884 acres. The volcano has been fairly constantly active since the late 1960s and that and the impressive manmade Lake Arenal, the largest in Cost Rica, has helped the area to regenerate through tourism. After our visit we continue to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the last remaining places in Central America where the famous, Resplendent Quetzal occasionally sighted here. The reserve covers an area of 10,522 hectares and contains within it a staggering diversity of flora and fauna; 2,000 species of plant, 400 species of birds and 100 different species of mammals.
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Day 9
Visit Reserve; free afternoon
An early start this morning; we will include a guided walk of the reserve, searching for a glimpse of the three-wattled bellbird or the Quetzal, whose feathers were traded as valuable items throughout pre-Columbian America. You can spend the rest of the day exploring further, you may wish to participate in the many amazing optionals around the Reserve such as; Canopy Tour, sliding down wires through the canopy, exploring the forest more sedately on suspension bridges strung at canopy height, or visiting the butterfly farm, orchid garden and ecological farm. Another option is the fascinating night walk.
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Day 10
Drive to Rincon de la Vieja & visit park
We continue our journey, to Rincon de la Vieja, located close to the Nicaraguan border in the Guanacaste Province. A still active volcano the area is lush and pristine region of lagoons and craters, punctuated with steaming vents and pools of boiling mud. The changing elevation ranges of the park have resulted in a variety of quite different habitats, that house a variety of vegetation and wildlife. On arrival we will have a short visit to the National Park as tomorrow the park is closed.
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Day 11
In Rincon de La Vieja
Today there will be plenty of time to enjoy some of the many optional activities on offer. These include walking, walk to mud and hot springs, or perhaps the Rio Blanco Canyon climb and swing or horseriding.
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Day 12
Drive/ferry to Ometepe (Nicaragua); optional activ
Crossing the border into Nicaragua this morning a short drive brings us to San Jorge, the departure point for ferries to Ometepe Island. Ometepe is made up of two volcanoes connected by an isthmus, indeed its name comes from the Nahuatl language and means ‘two hills’. The perfect cone of Concepción volcano soars from the depths of Lake Nicaragua to 1610m, only just dwarfing the neighbouring Maderas volcano at 1394m. We leave the time here free to explore at your own pace and there are many things to do during our time here. You can explore by local bus or truck, perhaps searching out pre-Colombian petroglyphs carved by the indigenous people, or taking in some of the highlights of the island and some short walks on the volcanic slopes (all optional). The forests echo with the sounds of howler monkeys and parrots and the canopy hides sloths and hawks amongst its lush foliage. Alternatively you could visit the San Ramon Falls. For the less energetic, some of the black sand beaches are the perfect spot to drink in the stunning views across the lake.
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Day 13
Free in Ometepe
Today is left free to further explore these amazing volcanic islands
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Day 14
Ferry/drive to Granada
We return by boat to San Jorge this morning and from there drive to Granada. Atmospheric Granada is a colonial gem, situated at the foot of Mombacho volcano on the northwest shore of Lake Nicaragua. It was the first colonial city in Nicaragua, founded in 1524 by the conquistador Hernandez de Cordoba and its magnificent setting, set off by baroque and renaissance buildings, is a pure visual delight. We plan a city tour this afternoon, which will include visits to the Parque Central, the Monument to the war of independence, the plaza and the convent of San Fransisco, which holds the largest collection of stone sculptures from the early Americans who lived in Granada before the Spaniards.
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Day 15
In Granada; free day
Granada is the perfect city to explore on foot, wandering the narrow lanes and alleyways, discovering hidden delights amongst the central Plaza and historic buildings. It is possible to visit Las Isletas by boat or sea kayak – a group of tiny islands dominated by the Volcano Mombacho, located just offshore. You can glide through the forest canopy on a zip line – a remarkable experience, or venture farther afield, into the surrounding area, a prosperous agricultural centre growing hemp and tobacco. There are also possibilities to arrange visits to the Mombacho Cloud Forest. Your tour leader will be more than happy to help arrange any excursions you may like to try.
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Day 16
Drive to Leon via Masaya market & Managua
We drive to the old colonial capital of Leon today, lying in the shadow of the Cordillera de los Maribios Mountains. Heading northwest from Granada we stop at the famous market town of Masaya to visit the Masaya volcano. From here we continue to the Nicaraguan capital of Managua. In comparison with colonial Leon and Granada, Managua is not the most attractive of Nicaragua’s cities but it does have its own curious, if somewhat unorthodox, charm. Badly damaged in the 1972 earthquake, the city is gradually being rebuilt. We plan a short tour to see some points of interest. We then drive to Leon. Still considered the intellectual centre of Nicaragua, Leon was founded in 1525 and was the capital for 200 years. The old buildings with wrought iron balconies, the massive cathedral (arguably the largest in Central America), the arched colonnades and narrow streets all add an elegant atmosphere to this quiet city, which seems almost lost in a time warp. On arrival we will enjoy a walking tour of the city, visiting the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral, the Sandinista Murals and Ruben Dario Park, named after one of Latin America’s most renowned poets.
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Day 17
Full day’s drive to Tegucigalpa: fly Roatan (Hondu
Early this morning we depart from Leon, before crossing the border into Honduras and continuing our journey to the capital, Tegucigaipa. Founded by the Spanish in 1578, the city was once a trading centre for the locally mined gold and silver for its colonial masters and its ideal location must have made it a pleasant respite from the oppressive heat of the coastal regions. From here we will fly to the beautiful Bay Islands, home to some of the best diving and snorkelling in the Caribbean. The 3 islands lying some 50km off the Honduran coast are a marine wonderland, with reefs that teem with life. For the next three nights we base ourselves on the island of Roatan, the largest of the islands and the perfect location from which to enjoy the spectacular beaches and rich waters of this underwater haven.
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Day 18
On Roatan
Here you are free to do as much or as little as you wish. The obvious activity for most people who come to these islands is to explore the offshore reefs, part of a chain that is only second in size to the Great Barrier Reef itself. There are a number of dive shops on the island for any qualified divers (don’t forget to bring your certification with you) and the snorkelling is second to none, with reefs that are alive with corals and sponges and colourful reef fish of every size, shape and hue. It is also possible to hire boats and kayaks to explore farther afield, or go fishing. Those who prefer to stick to dry land might like to stroll through the palm fringed lanes and wander the island in search of macaws, toucans and parrots, or perhaps just some peace and quiet at the nearby Sandy Bay’s resort or visit the nearby botanical gardens.
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Day 19
On Roatan
As day 18.
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Day 20
Ferry/drive to Copan
Leaving our island paradise early this morning, we head back to the mainland for a full days travel. Our destination today is the magnificent Mayan ruins of Copan. Travelling around the town of San Pedro Sula in the rich hot fertile lowlands of the Sula Valley, we arrive at Copan Ruinas, a lovely village of adobe buildings very close to the ruins themselves
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Day 21
Visit Copan
This morning we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site with a local guide. Everyone familiar with Catherwood’s incredible drawings (which first appeared in John Stephens’ 1841 narrative – ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America and Yucatan’) will recognise scenes and objects from this marvellous site. Stephens actually bought the entire site for US$50 from a local farmer! The Great Plaza is one of the most amazing achievements of the Classic Maya period (AD 750) and contains the greatest collection of Maya sculpture anywhere in Meso- America. The famous Hieroglyphic Stairway is composed of 2500 individual glyphs; its sides flanked by serpentine birds and snakes. We have the whole day to enjoy this special place, leaving you plenty of time to explore on your own. In the afternoon you may like to visit the museum dedicated to the site, or visit some nearby hot springs or to macaw Montain (optional).
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Day 22
Drive to Antigua (Guatemala)
We head into Guatemala this morning, to the stunning city of Antigua, set in a beautiful valley between the volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. An orientation tour of this graceful old colonial city, with its cobbled streets and lovely old buildings identifies it as one of the most charming in the country and shows how it can justly claim to be one of the most picturesque in Central America, despite the damage caused by a series of earthquakes and floods over the ages. This afternoon we intend to take a walking tour of the town. Much of Antigua has been repeatedly devastated by earthquakes, but still it retains a graceful charm and its buildings and ruins give it the air of a snapshot in time.
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Day 23
In Antigua; optional visits
The next two days are free to explore more of the city and its environs as you wish. Antigua itself deserves at least a days wandering, you may visit churches, colonial buildings, museums as well as spending time shopping at its many markets. You may like to venture farther afield and visit the magnificent Mayan ruins of Tikal, set within the lush jungle canopy of the Parque Nacional Tikal, in Guatemala’s northeast corner. Possibly the greatest of all the Mayan cities the ruins of Tikal can easily be compared with the masterpieces of Egypt and Greece. Alternatively there is a closer Mayan site; Iximche, once the capital of the Cakchiquel Maya, founded in the 15th century. Set within pine forests the ruined city was once believed to be home to some 10,000 people at its height, until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors resulted in its eventual destruction in 1526. The decidedly different venues of Chichicastenango and Panajachel are also options for your time here. Panajachel, on the shores of the spectacular Lago de Atitlan, is an old Spanish settlement that has attracted foreigners to its charming location for years and today it is one of the areas premier tourist attractions. The lake itself is an old caldera, its deep waters surrounded by the towering volcanic peaks of its neighbours. This is an ideal place to shop for those last minute presents, or just enjoy the ambience of its lakeside setting. Guatemala City, the bustling country capital, is situated on a high plateau (1495m) and possesses all the usual contradictions found in large Latin American cities: elegant tree-lined boulevards and high-rise architecture alongside crowded shanties. It also has a number of sites and museums that are worth visiting, including the Ixchel Museum, with its displays of Guatemalan textiles and arts, or the majestic Palacio National in the Plaza Major.
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Day 24
In Antigua; optional visits
As day 23
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Day 25
Tour ends Antigua
End of tour.
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Discover the magic of Mexican food

offer 0 nights from £958pp (including flights) 9 days from £958pp

These days there are good Mexican restaurants to be found all over the world but there is nothing quite like sampling the country's marvellous cuisine in the place where it originated. Beginning and ending in the vast capital Mexico City, you travel to Puebla, Oaxaca and Zipolite sampling lots of great food along the way. If you have the appetite for a holiday with a difference, you can make a meal of this great tour.

Valid from 25/05/2019 until 31/10/2019

0330·100·2220
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Colonial Charm

DialAFlight offer

Discover Mexico's colonial charm
0 nights from £722pp
9 days from £722pp
Discover Mexico's colonial charm

Discover Mexico's colonial charm

offer 0 nights from £722pp (including flights) 9 days from £722pp

On this nine day tour around Mexico, which begins and ends in the vast capital city, you will see so much of the country's colonial charm when visiting lots of places that are off the usual tourist track. As well as having time to see the sights in Mexico City, you will visit San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Patzuaro and Morelia.

Valid from 01/01/2019 until 30/11/2019

0330·100·2220
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Belize Jungle & Beach

DialAFlight offer

Beauty beyond belief on the beaches and jungles of Belize
0 nights from £2,318pp
8 days from £2,318pp
Beauty beyond belief on the beaches and jungles of Belize

Beauty beyond belief on the beaches and jungles of Belize

offer 0 nights from £2,318pp (including flights) 8 days from £2,318pp

With one foot planted in the Central American jungles and the other dipped in the Caribbean Sea, Belize combines the best of both worlds . . . and on this eight day jungle and beach holiday you will see it all. Inland, a vast network of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries offers a safe haven for wildlife of all kinds and birders can aim their binoculars at some 570 species, which roost along the rivers and lagoons. And if that’s not enough adventure, Belize is also home to one of the world’s most mysterious civilizations – the ancient Maya. The country is sprinkled with archaeological sites and the reefs and beaches are something special.

Valid from 01/01/2019 until 31/12/2019

0330·100·2220
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Mini Guatemala

DialAFlight offer

Mountains, markets and Maya in magical and memorable Guatemala
0 nights from £1,355pp
5 days from £1,355pp
Mountains, markets and Maya in magical and memorable Guatemala

Mountains, markets and Maya in magical and memorable Guatemala

offer 0 nights from £1,355pp (including flights) 5 days from £1,355pp

Guatemala is a magical place. If you’re into the Maya, the mountains, the markets or a million other things, you’re bound to be captivated on this five day tour of the country. Guatemala is a place where people come and they stay, or they leave and return. There's almost too much going on and even the shortest trip takes you to completely different places, with new challenges and surprises. Students of Spanish flock to Antigua, the first stop on your tour begins, which is a gorgeous town nestled between three volcanoes. And soon you will be up in the Highlands visiting magical Lago de Atitlán

Valid from 01/11/2018 until 31/12/2019

0330·100·2220
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Bocas Del Toro Getaway

DialAFlight offer

The best way to chill out in Panama
0 nights from £800pp
5 days from £800pp
The best way to chill out in Panama

The best way to chill out in Panama

offer 0 nights from £800pp (including flights) 5 days from £800pp

A holiday in the fascinating central American country of Panama is something special and on this five day tour you can combine the excitement of the big city with the chilled out lifestyle on one of the world's most impressive beach resorts. After arriving in the capital, Panama City, you will be whisked off to experience the pristine beaches and colourful marine life of Bosca del Toro. You spend two nights on this beautiful archipelago and if you opt for the deluxe version of the tour you can stay at the secluded Punta Caracol Aqua-Lodge on Colon Island, which is around 15 minutes from Bocas Town by boat. This lodge offers pure tranquility, relaxation and romance. You then return to Panama City to end the trip in style.

Valid from 01/01/2019 until 30/04/2019

0330·100·2220
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