Discover the ultimate Central America on an overland adventure.

Enjoy a Central American odyssey on this adventure from Mexico’s capital to the home of the Panama Canal. Travel through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama on a tour through remote villages and ruins. Get acquainted with the local cultures, spectacular landscapes and fascinating histories of Central America as you explore the wealth of ancient ruins, spot the range of unusual wildlife, dive into unique underwater worlds and relax on idyllic Caribbean beaches. Get to know the friendly locals and discover why Central America is an adventurer's delight on this epic overland adventure from Mexico to Panama City.

Start
Mexico City, Mexico
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Countries
Belize,
Costa Rica,
Guatemala,
Honduras,
Mexico,
Nicaragua,
Panama
Themes
Overland
Code
QVRRC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16
Carbon offset
718kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Dance to a mariachi beat in Mexico City
  • Chill out by the sparkling Caribbean
  • Try traditional Mezcal in Oaxaca
  • Travel to the Yucatan Peninsula and visit Merida
  • Swim within the walls of the beachside Mayan ruins of Tulum
  • Eat tamales in Antigua
  • Learn the lingo during a San Jorge La Laguna homestay
  • Bag a bargain at Chichicastenango's vibrant markets
  • Discover the bizarre landscapes of Ometepe Island
  • Enjoy the urban buzz of San Jose
  • Be awed by the Panama Canal

Itinerary

The fastest growing urban centres in the world, Mexico City presents an intoxicating mix of mariachi music, lively night scenes, fascinating museums and intriguing markets. Get to know what makes this buzzing metropolis tick on an orientation walk, then head out to the sprawling Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan.
Jump aboard one of Mexico's colourful buses bound for Puebla. Spend some time exploring the city's handicraft staffs, tuck into mole poblano, the region's specialty, or set out for an optional hike in the city's volcanic hinterlands.
Well-known for its colourful art and handicrafts scene, Oaxaca is a delight to get to know. Stock up on some unique souvenirs, zip out to the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, sink the teeth into some peculiar local delicacies or simply pick a plaza bench to sit on and watch the local scene unfold.
Venture into the cool climes of San Cristobal de las Casas, a charming colonial-era town oft regarded as one of the country's gems. Boasting spectacular natural surrounds, this is the perfect place to get active; either by mountain biking out to some of the traditional villages, saddling up for a ride in the mountains or jumping on a day tour out to the Sumidero Canyon.
One of the most impressive Mayan sites in Mexico, if not all Central America, the temples of Palenque are a superb relic of Mayan culture and architectural enterprise. Climb the temples for breathtaking views across the Chiapas Jungle, watch for monkeys swinging through the canopy and take a cooling dip in the nearby Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls.
Journey on to the colonial city of Merida for some time spent soaking up the vibe of this charming colonial-era Spanish town. Chill out in the Plaza Grande, try some local delicacies like cochinita pibil (a slow-roasted pork dish) or join an optional tour out to the incredible Uxmal ruins.
Stop by the amazing ruins of Chichen Itza en route to the Caribbean beachside haven of Playa Del Carmen. There's no shortage of activities on offer here; strap on a mask and snorkel and get exploring the underwater world of the nearby reefs and islands, travel out to Cenote Ikil or join the heaving local nightlife.
White powdery beaches lapped by warm blue waters and overlooked by crumbling Mayan ruins - welcome to Tulum. Choose to set out for some snorkelling in the Cenotes offshore or simply sit back beachside and take in the view, margarita in hand.
Cross the border into Belize and cruise out to Caye Caulker - an idyllic tropical island getaway where exceptional scuba-diving outings or simply swinging the day away in a hammock are equally appealing options. Alternatively, head out on a manatee spotting excursion to learn about these curious creatures that call the lagoons of Caulker home.
Trade the blues of the Caribbean for the lush verdancy of San Ignacio in the Belize hinterlands. Perhaps venture out to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, embark on an tubing adventure through the jungle or a caving adventure underground and then finish up the day sharing barbecued street-side snacks with the town's friendly locals.
Leave Belize behind and travel by local bus to the laidback Guatemalan island town of Flores. While the nearby jungle-shrouded temples of Tikal are the town's true claim to fame, Flores' winding cobbled streets and small-town vibe make it a very pleasant place to explore by foot.
Continue on through dense jungle to Rio Dulce, by the banks of Lake Izabal. In spare time perhaps set out upriver to the coastal enclave of Livingstone for a final taste of Creole Caribbean culture or head out for a hike through Chocon-Machacas Natural Reserve.
Explore the cobblestone charms and quaint colonial architecture of Antigua, one of Central America's most captivating and cultivated cities.
Visit the picturesque mountain town of Chichicastenango and take a wander through its bustling market. Then continue on to San Jorge La Laguna and get an insight into local life on an overnight family homestay.
Panajachel, a lovely little town on the banks of Lake Atitlan, serves as the main base for exploring the various traditional villages dotted around the lake. With a serene ambience and superb mountain panoramas, it's the perfect place to sit back with a good book or embark on any number of optional activities.
Return to the colourful handicraft stalls and leafy plazas of Antigua, Guatemala's atmospheric one-time capital. With an entire day here to spend however you see fit, perhaps book on an optional excursion to Pacaya Volcano or sign up for a salsa lesson, then gather the group for a final dinner and relive the highlights of this memorable adventure through the Mayan heartlands.
Travel across the wild Guatemalan countryside and cross the border into Copan. Tour the World Heritage-listed Mayan ruins, with intricately carved structures dating back to 500 AD, or sample some unusual Honduran cuisine.
The reward for a bus and ferry journey today is the pristine shores of Honduras' Roatan Islands. Spend two blissful days diving into the crystal waters of the Caribbean or simply melting into the white, powdery beaches under the shade of a coconut palm.
Pack up the bucket and spade; it's time to travel south to Comayagua. Mingle with locals in the lush central gardens or visit some of Honduras’s most impressive cathedrals.
Cross the border and arrive at Nicaragua's oldest town. Granada city is a charming and surprising place, brimming with bubbly inhabitants and character. Sightseeing in Granada is plentiful; perhaps hop on a boat ride around Lake Nicaragua or for the adventurous, an excursion to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park is a hot option. In the evenings, walk along narrow streets where locals chat to each other from their open-front living rooms.
Spot the world's only freshwater sharks in Lake Nicaragua en route to the lush Ometepe Island. Take an optional hike to one of two towering volcanoes on the island or choose a slower pace at one of the beaches or jungle swimming holes.
Costa Rica beckons across the border. Arrive in the eco-lovers paradise of Monteverde, and choose to explore the expansive Monteverde cloud forest on foot, mountain bike or on horse - or even go zip lining over the tree canopy.
From La Fortuna, discover the Arenal Volcano and perhaps enjoy a relaxing rendezvous at the La Fortuna hot springs or waterfalls.
Complete the Way to San Jose tour and farewell new friends in this spirited city. Join locals milling around Mercado Central for some super-cheap Costa Rican food and colourful souvenirs.
Hop aboard a local bus to the mellow coastal town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. With plenty of leisure time here, why not head out on a wildlife-spotting excursion to Cahuita National Park or sign up for some surfing lessons.
Drive on into Panama and catch a ferry out to the tropical archipelago of Bocas del Toro. With azure blue waters, pristine coral reefs and a rollicking nightlife, it's easy to see why Isla Bastimentos is a favourite haunt for so many of our travellers.
Soak up the tranquil mountains scenery and crisp mountain air of Boquete, a small town by the Caldera river in the Panamanian highlands. Head out to a local coffee plantation for an insight into coffee production or get active hiking up Baru Volcano or along the Quetzal's Path.
Travel on to the remote fishing village of Santa Catalina. Choose to spend your time here surfing, fishing, snorkelling or diving, or simply chill out by the beach.
Arrive in Panama City, Central America's glitziest capital. Get a taste of old Panama on a wander through the crumbling architecture of historical Casco Viejo, join an optional tour of the Panama Canal or explore the plentiful dining and drinking hotspots. As this memorable adventure comes to a close, perhaps mark the occasion with a night on the tiles at a samba club.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
1 breakfast1 dinner
Transport
Boat, Bus, Ferry, Metro, Overnight bus, Taxi
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 night), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (53 nights), Overnight bus (2 nights)

Dates

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Important notes

A Single Supplement is available on this trip, except on the nights when we travel by overnight bus and Days 55-56 in Santa Catalina.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Ultimate Central America trips score an average of 4.75 out of 5 based on 8 reviews in the last year.

Ultimate Central America , February 2015

Ultimate Central America , February 2015