From El Salvador to Mexico, explore stunning Central America

From emerald jungles to sapphire seas, Central America’s natural beauty shines like a jewel. Starting in largely undiscovered El Salvador, journey through Honduras, Guatemala and Belize before winding up (and thoroughly unwinding) under the Caribbean sun in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Along the way, explore colonial towns along the Ruta de las Flores in El Salvador and discover the ancient history of the Mayans among the ruins of Copan, Tikal and Tulum. Just be warned: as you feast on fresh lobster and chat to friendly locals on the beautiful island of Caye Caulker in Belize, you may decide never to leave.


Start
El Tunco, El Salvador
Finish
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Countries
Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
QVSOC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Step back in time in colonial Suchitoto

  • Travel through tiny towns along El Salvador’s Ruta de las Flores

  • Explore the ancient Mayan temples of Copan

  • Indulge in culture and cuisine in Antigua

  • Explore the archaeological wonders of Tikal National Park

  • Snorkel and swim in the idyllic Belize Cayes

  • Soak up the Caribbean sun in Playa del Carmen

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel 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 please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

The laidback village of El Tunco has become well known for its surf and is the perfect spot to grab a drink, lie back in a hammock and watch the sunset over the black-sand beach.

While this town remains relatively unknown to international travellers, it's a preferred holiday destination for Salvadorians - particularly on weekends.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take the day to enjoy this relaxed piece of paradise. Hire a board and tackle the waves, sip on a smoothie or visit the beach caves at low tide. In the evening, munch on the local specialty of pupusa and join the locals for a cocktail at the bar.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we travel to the town of Ahuachapan.

A mid-sized town near the Guatemalan border, Ahuachapan is known for its geothermal activity, which it uses to produce electricity for the rest of the country. It is also a handy jumping off point for some of the highlights of western El Salvador.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The following day we'll explore the Ruta de las Flores - a 36km-long winding trip through brightly-colored colonial towns famed for lazy weekends of gastronomy and gallery-hopping, as well as more adventurous pursuits like hiking to waterfalls scattered throughout the glorious Cordillera Apaneca. Home to the country’s first coffee plantations, some of its finest indigenous artisans and a world-famous weekend food festival. We'll travel by local bus to explore some of the towns.

In the evening we'll have the option to visit the nearby hot springs for a relaxing dip.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Day trip along Ruta de las Flores
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we head to the town of Suchitoto in northern El Salvador.

Along the way we'll make several stops to visit the Tazumal Ruins, enjoy spectacular views over Lake Coatepeque and explore the fascinating preserved ruins of Joya de Ceren - known as the Pompeii of the Americas.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tazumal Ruins
  • Joya de Ceren archaeological site
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Use this free day however you wish. Those looking to kick things up a gear may fancy a hike in the Cinquera Forest or kayaking on Lago Suchitlan, or perhaps tour the Guazapa Volcano and the Cihuatan Ruins in the valley below.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Lake Suchitlan boat tour - USD20
  • Suchitoto - Cinquera Forest hike - USD35
  • Suchitoto - Guazapa Volcano tour - USD60
  • Suchitoto - Cihuatan Ruins - USD3
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we travel north to Copan, Honduras (approx. 6 hrs), crossing the border into Honduras is expected to be smooth and without complications, your leader will explain the process.

Located close to the Guatemalan border, the town of Copan Ruinas is a major gateway for tourists visiting the Pre-Columbian ruins of Copan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a guided tour of the ancient ruins of Copan - the southernmost of the great Maya 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 civilization.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel across the border into Guatemala and on to 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.
Go out for a stroll and try tamales, a local dish usually prepared traditionally on weekends and served in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork). The best value food you find is next to the artesian market close to the bus station.
In your free time, perhaps check out the CHOCOMUSEO, located two blocks away from the central plaza. Here you will learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise just grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back relax and enjoy the beauty of this incredible city and the amazing people you will find. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take back home.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.

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 2’ to spare (2’41’’ to be exact!) take a look at this short video about CasaSito – it’s inspiring: https://youtu.be/v62Ou9czWyE

If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s 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/
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD24
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Santiago Zamora village tour - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy carved-wood entrances. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful.

Perhaps check out the CHOCOMUSEO located on two blocks away from central park. Here you will learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise just grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back relax and enjoy the beauty of this incredible city and the amazing people you will find. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take back home.

Go out for a stroll and try tamales, a local dish usually prepared traditionally on weekends and served in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork). The best value food you find is next to the artisan market close to the bus station.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we make an early start and travel by private minibus to Rio Dulce (approx 8 hrs).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take an included boat trip down the river to visit Livingston, a fascinating Garifuna town on the coast.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We continue on to Flores today (approx 4 hours), our jumping off point for exploring the ruins at Tikal. The afternoon is free to explore Flores.
Flores was officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, but had existed in various forms well before. It has long remained isolated with locals relying on subsistence farming of corn and beans and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees to produce gum. Many of the locals still get about in the traditional way, by dug out canoe. Take time to stroll through the cobblestone streets past pastel-coloured buildings, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we rise early and take a guided tour of the ruins of Tikal National Park.
Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds.
Following our visit it's time to say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to San Ignacio (approx 3 hrs). The journey to the border is on a dirt road, so you really feel like an explorer crossing from one country to another.
Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. The Belizeans are known for their relaxed and easy going way of live. You will be amazed how many different cultures coexist harmoniously here.
We have limited time in San Ignacio but you can choose to join one of the optional activities, including the ATM Cave, en route to Belize City on Day 7.
The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach the Mayan ceremonial site. Here you will find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1,400 years.
One of the optional activities here is a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre located with panoramic views over the countryside. The east side of one of the temples has a unique stucco frieze and the central plaza has three carved stelae. Getting to the site is half the fun as you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river.
In the late afternoon and at night, many little street barbecue stalls open, and serve huge portions. Give it a try, sit down next to the road, chat with the locals and enjoy a juicy chicken leg.
All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD20 per night if they choose to use the air conditioner in their room. Electricity in Belize is incredibly expensive so most hotels charge an extra rate to use the air conditioning - and USD20 per night is pretty standard. We could include this extra charge in the trip price but then all of our travellers would have to pay whether they want to use it or not. We believe giving our travellers the option is a fairer way to manage this situation.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Guided tour of Tikal ruins
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Xunantunich Ruins - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project - USD9
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we leave San Ignacio in the early morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (approx 3 hrs). Get ready for stop and go as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. Use this to make conversation with the person next to you on the bus; Belizeans love to talk about their country!
Once in Belize City we take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (approx 1 hr).
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 snorkelling, 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave - inc. transport to Belize City, guide and lunch) - USD120
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (full day) - USD70
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (half day) - USD35
  • Caye Caulker - Sunset sail - USD37
  • Caye Caulker - Manatee tour - USD60
  • Caye Caulker - Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Stand up paddle board rental (per hour) - USD22
  • Caye Caulker - Bike rental (per day) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Relax on the beach or 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 could also choose to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are quite curious to meet their visitors.
If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you'll ever buy, but so good. Always make sure that you respect the season: the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th. Some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Very early this morning (about 6.30am) we head back to Belize City by water taxi, and travel by bus to the border with Mexico (approx. 4 hours). After crossing the border we head to the Mexican town of Chetumal where we swap buses and head to our final destination: Tulum (approx. 3 hrs).
Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast. Spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For a taste of Mayan architecture take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Archaeological site visit - USD10
  • Tulum - Snorkel rental (per day) - USD12
  • Tulum - Bike rental (per day) - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast. Spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For a taste of Mayan architecture take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The last leg of our journey is a short one after all this travelling. We hop on a local Mexican bus that will take us to Playa del Carmen (approx. 1.5 hours), our departure destination.
With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Playa del Carmen - Dos Ojos Cenote snorkelling tour - USD80
  • Playa del Carmen - Bike rental (per day) - USD10
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel - USD28
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
In order to make the most of what Playa has to offer, we strongly recommend that you extend your stay in Playa del Carmen for one or two extra days. Please contact us if you need us to assist you with additional accommodation. If you can afford a few extra days in Playa, you may want to spend time snorkelling among the mangroves or strolling along the white sands. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private minibus, local bus, boat

Accommodation

Hotel (21 nights)

Included Activities

  • Day trip along Ruta de las Flores
  • Tazumal Ruins
  • Joya de Ceren archaeological site
  • Guided tour of Tikal ruins

Dates & availability

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Important notes

The itinerary of this trip was updated on 11 April, 2016. The current itinerary is different to what is advertised in the 2016 brochure.

A single supplement is available on this trip.

Essential Trip Information

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