Real Central America, 16 Days
What you get...
- 16 Day tour departing Playa Del Carmen.
- 11 Nights accommodation in a Hotel.
- 1 Night camping with facilities.
- 2 Nights accommodation in a Multishare lodge.
- 1 Night accommodation in a Homestay.
- 1 Breakfast & 1 Dinner.
- Services of a professional and experienced trip leader.
- Transport by Private vehicle, Local bus, Public bus, Taxi, Shared Boat, Ferry.
- Tulum - Orientation walk.
- Caye Caulker - Orientation walk.
- San Ignacio - Orientation walk.
- Tikal National Park - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport).
- Informal Spanish Lesson.
- Chichicastenango Market.
- San Jorge La Laguna - Traditional Maya Homestay.
- Panajachel - Orientation walk.
- Antigua - Leader-led walking tour.
Playa Del Carmen - Tulum - Caye Caulker - San Ignacio - Tikal National Park - Rio Dulce - Antigua - Chichicastenango - San Jorge La Laguna - Panajachel
Day 1 Playa Del Carmen.
Kick things off in Playa del Carmen, which is a pretty awesome place to begin a trip. In fact, it's so awesome that you might think the rest of the trip could be a disappointment. Luckily, our guys at Intrepid HQ strive to make every single trip equally awesome from start to finish. Kind of like a burrit. The only thing planned for today is your welcome meeting at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're 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 have all these details for your leader. Other than that you're free to arrive at any time and spend the day however you want. Maybe join some optional activities like snorkeling among mangroves and cycling, or just stroll along the beaches.
Day 2 Tulum.
Today you'll hop on a local bus along the Caribbean coast to Tulum (approx 1.5 hours), where it's all about laid-back life and the broad, white beach. Once you're settled, there's the chance to visit one of the best-looking Maya sites around. The impressive pre-Columbian walled city ruins are all crumbly and clinging to a cliff-top over a lovely beach, with spectacular views over the tropical shores below. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls. In the evening, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita.
Day 3 Tulum.
Today is free to relax, join some optional activities and generally do what you feel. Two wheels are a good way to start the day, so rent a bike, cruise around the area and cover a lot of ground in a short time. There's also the option of exploring Dos Ojos (Two eyes) of the most famous Cenotes (Fresh-water rock pool); an underwater world full of stalagmites and stalactites.
Day 4 Caye Caulker.
New day, new country. Adios Mexico, hello Belize. Much of today will be taken up with travel, driving by local bus to the border, then on to Belize City (approx 8 hours in total). Let the wind and spray wash the bus out of your face with a speedboat to Caye Caulker (approx 1 hour). If your idea of paradise is white sand, blue waters and palm trees then you're going to dig Caye Caulker.
Day 5 Caye Caulker.
Your time in Caye Caulker is all about talking it easy. The pace of life is so deliciously slow it's almost backwards. If being underwater is your thing then head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel among the colorful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You can also take day trips to other Cayes nearby - each island has its own particular character, but all of them have that unmistakable Caribbean pace and charm. Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.
Day 6 Caye Caulker.
Today is another free day to take up any other optional activities or to simply relax with a book. If you went snorkeling yesterday then maybe continue the marine exploration with a manatee tour. These huge, peaceful creatures are beautiful in their own way, and are quite curious to meet their visitors. Get more active with sea kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, or go the other way completely and just chill out. The island's also great for foodies, famed for its lobster and simple but super tasty meals cooked on the side of the road. How about some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Day 7 San Ignacio.
Today you'll leave the island behind and return to Belize City by boat (approx 1 hour), before taking a local bus to San Ignacio (approx 3 hours). The local buses in Belize are a little more basic than in Mexico but this is a great opportunity to mix with Belizeans and get a feel for local life. Get ready for stop and go on the journey, as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. San Ignacio is a lively town surrounded by fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the best base for exploring the region. After you arrive, the rest of the day is free.
Day 8 San Ignacio.
You can't do them all but there are a heap of optional activities to choose between around San Ignacio. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Maya relics, and you can wade through its waters until you reach a whole bunch of 1,400-year-old crystallised skeletons. Or take a day trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls and warm swimming holes, or you can also check out the butterfly garden and go down the river in canoes or tubes. If you prefer a slower pace, take a trip out to Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial centre with panoramic views. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked boat down the river. When you're feeling hungry, head to one of the little barbeque stalls that open on the streets. Get yourself one of the huge portions and join the locals for a chat while they sit next to the street and enjoy a juicy chicken leg.
Day 9 Tikal National Park.
Today you go jungle. Guatemala-style. Leave San Ignacio, cross the border, and get dropped at Tikal National Park by private vehicle (approx 4 hours). You'll set up camp on the grounds of a hotel near the National Park entrance before exploring the super-huge and crazy-cool Maya ruins of Tikal - it's a bit like the set of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto movie, minus all the violence. If you've got the energy then climb Temple IV for epic canopy views and a great selfie opportunity. While here, there's also the option to check out more of the area with a guided tour, or to fly through the canopies like a toucan with a zipline experience.
Day 10 Rio Dulce.
From the jungle to the lake this morning, as you drive (approx 1 hour) to the lakeside town of Flores. Here there's time to grab some lunch and have a quick explore around the town. Then it's back on the private vehicle to Rio Dulce (approx 5 hours) where you can pick up some Spanish phrases from your leader. On arrival in Rio Dulce, transfer to the hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also by boat, which can be organised through the hotel, or take a short walk through the jungle. Take some time to absorb the atmosphere of this laidback Caribbean town, which feels quite different from the inland communities. A highlight for many guests is the 'Casa Natural' - an open-air accommodation with screened-in rooms, shared bathrooms and a lounge looking out to the surrounding jungle.
Day 11 Rio Dulce.
There are a load of kick-ass activities to choose between today. Take a scenic boat trip down the river to Livingston, a laid-back town on the Caribbean coast that offers a unique experience of local Garifuna culture. Go boating on the lake, relax in the thermal hot springs or explore the nearby San Felipe fort.
Day 12 Antigua.
Travel by private vehicle to the city of Antigua (approx 8 hours). You'll spend the night here, before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. You won't spend too much time in Antigua today but you'll be coming back here at the end of the trip, so don't stress. Still, take some time for a stroll and try tasty tamales - a local dish served in a corn leaf - or Pepian, three meats (chicken, beef and pork) in a dark sauce. You'll find the best value food in the square next to the La Merced Church.
Day 13 Chichicastenango to San Jorge La Laguna.
Today you'll get a seriously authentic and up-close Guatemalan experience. Start the day by travelling by private vehicle to the famous market in Chichicastenango (approx 2.5 hours). This is the most colourful market in the country, where on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares, and the streets are lined with stalls where you can stock up on cool trinkets. After visiting Chichi head towards San Jorge La Laguna, a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan (approx 1.5 hours). Here you'll meet your host family, and it'll be time to bust out your best Spanish to break the ice with these friendly but shy locals. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on the group size. The mother of the family will cook you basic but filling dinner and breakfast, and soon enough you'll want them to adopt you.
Day 14 Panajachel.
Say bye to your host family this morning and push on to neighbouring Panajachel, a cool little town on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background. Pana has got a thriving market, loads of good places to eat and many water-based activities to enjoy. There are a whole host of optional activities here. Choose to go swimming, volcano hiking, kayaking or mountain biking. You can visit a local community cooperative, take a boat out to some of the nearby villages, watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan.
Day 15 Antigua.
Hit the road back to Antigua by private vehicle today (approx 3 hours). With three nearby volcanoes dominating the horizon, you won't have been to many places quite like Antigua. The World Heritage-listed city is a cobblestoned maze of colonial buildings, leafy town squares and ornate churches. There are hushed museums and lively indigenous markets to explore, or countryside to be cycled with amazing views of mountain peaks and deep valleys. 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 skills. This is also a city that knows how to party, so bring your best dance moves, shout a round of mojitos and get down with the locals.
Day 16 Antigua.
Your adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day.
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