Hit the hotspots in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua

Stroll along striking black-sand beaches and through steamy tropical rainforests as you mosey your way around Central America. This is a trip full of outdoors adventure and local know-how. Whether you're shopping in colonial Antigua, exploring the intricately carved structures at Copan or relaxing by the sea in El Salvador, get local insight with likeminded travellers during this incredible nine-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. It’s colourful, it’s local and it’s unforgettable – get ready for a Central American fiesta.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
Granada, Nicaragua
Destinations
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
QVRK
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Cover four different countries on this epic Latin adventure. With a local leader helping you out with an informal Spanish lesson, you’ll be ordering your own ‘cerveza’ and chatting with locals in no time.

  • Discover Central America – a land of mysterious Maya ruins, active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles – with plenty of independence and the freedom to choose your own adventure.

  • Experience an El Salvador of the past in the colonial town of Suchitoto, before hitting the waves and savouring the present on the black-sand beaches of El Cuco.

  • Absorb the nonstop buzz of Leon – a Nicaraguan centre of vibrant mural-lined streets, fiery debate in the plazas, eclectic art galleries and a pulsating nightlife.

  • Dive into the heart of Granada – possibly the most laidback and accessible city in Central America – full of colour and culture, and an ideal spot to consider extending your adventure.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long travel days, especially on Day 7 from El Cuco to Leon with a 9-hour overland journey. Although this can be tiresome, it's a great opportunity to sit back, enjoy the passing scenery and to bond with your fellow travellers. This is a real Central American adventure, after all.

  • As this trip covers destinations across four countries, you'll need to make several border crossings. While these are usually straightforward, please prepare to be patient while local authorities process papers.

  • Central America is tropical, so expect a hot and humid climate. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun, wear comfortable, light clothing and stay hydrated – especially when out on walking tours.

  • There are many opportunities to get active on this adventure. Some of the optional activities, especially the volcano hikes, require a moderate level of fitness and sturdy walking shoes. If you'd prefer to take it easy, however, there are plenty of other things you can do instead. Your local leader will be able to recommend activities to suit your fitness level.

Itinerary

Welcome to Antigua, Guatemala. With crumbling churches, vibrant markets and bohemian cafes set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes, Antigua is the perfect place to ease into your Central American adventure. Speaking of adventure, yours officially kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today at the hotel. If you do decide to arrive in the city a little early (smart move!), there's plenty to do. Maybe satisfy your cravings and learn the art of old-world chocolate production at the ChocoMuseo, or sit by the fountain and people watch in Central Park. After the welcome meeting, the night is yours, so perhaps head out with some of your fellow travellers for a tamale: a classic staple of Mesoamerica that sees dough, meat and sauces steamed and served in a corn husk.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop at ChocoMuseo - GTQ130
  • Antigua - Coffee & Macadamia Nut Plantation Tour (entrance fee, transport and guide included) - GTQ240
  • Antigua - Salsa-dance Lesson (per hour) - GTQ35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Please note that this trip can be partnered with other adventures into a ‘combo’, which means that some of your fellow travellers may have begun their journey before today, and some may carry on to further destinations at the end of this tour. If you’d like to spend more time in Central America, have a look at the combos that include this trip’s itinerary: Central American Adventure (QVRXC) or Best of Central America (QVRQC)
Rise and shine for a day of travel, leaving at around 4 am to beat the rush-hour traffic around Antigua. All up you'll be spending around 8 hours driving to Copan by private vehicle, and while the scenery is breathtaking in sections, it's a good idea to pack a book or have some snacks ready to make the journey more comfortable. During the drive, your group leader will run an informal Spanish lesson, providing you some useful phrases to break the ice with the locals. Head into Honduras through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala, arriving in the charming town of Copan in the early afternoon. While most people use Copan as a base to explore the nearby ruins, there are plenty of other points of interest, both along the cobblestone streets and set into the lush surrounds. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to cafe, or perhaps head to the nearby natural hot springs. This optional tour gives you hours of soak time in mud, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools in the lush jungle, with an included dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, take a visit with your group to the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan, the remnants of the southernmost of the great Maya sites for which Central America is famous. Unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae – carved columns – still intact on site, there are also temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. Otherwise, nature lovers may wish to travel 2 kilometres out of town to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve. Dedicated to the conservation of the Central American macaw, the reserve also houses toucans, motmots, parrots, kingfishers and orioles. Wave goodbye to Copan early in the afternoon and head across the border to El Salvador by private vehicle. There's another substantial amount of time spent on the road this afternoon (approximately 7 hours). Depending on traffic and conditions, you are expected to reach the colonial town of Suchitoto in the evening, just in time for a late dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Copan - Archeological site (Transport & Entrance fee)
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (Entrance fee) - HNL230
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Begin the day with a guided orientation walk of Suchitoto – widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Stroll past gorgeous colonial facades and get your bearings. Birders will want to crane their necks; Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path. The rest of the day is all yours to get among the optional activities on offer. Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande. Also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for the aforementioned migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe hustle a crew of 4 or more together and take a boat trip to Bird Island, or perhaps grab a historically-minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the civil war.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Boat trip to Bird Island in Lake Suchitlan (it requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD25
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD40
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to run) - USD40
  • Suchitoto - Town tour (it requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD30
  • Suchitoto - Birdwatching Walk (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, get your chef’s hat on with a pupusa making session in a private home. These thick cornmeal flatbreads are a classic Salvadorian recipe from the Pipil culture, and are stuffed with some delicious ingredients, like cheese or chicharron (fried pork). Later on, head to coastal El Cuco (approximately 5 hours). There are some great dark-sand beaches close to town, including the beautiful Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores – one of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to a beach for a swim or a relax under the palms with a beer while you wait for sunset. As night falls, you could enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crab are some of the tastiest in the country.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful coast around El Cuco at your own pace. If you and a few others feel like getting active, you could take a trip to see nearby Conchagua Volcano. The views from the lookout are stunning, but you'll need a minimum of 5 people to take part. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a boat out on the ocean, find some inner peace during a free yoga class at the resort or simply relax in a hammock on the beach. Life’s good.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • El Cuco - Volcan de Conchagua lookout (it requires a minimum of 5 travellers to operate) - USD35
  • El Cuco - Yoga Class (Subject to teacher availability) - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Rise early for a full day of travel by private vehicle. Leave El Cuco at around 8 am and drive to El Amatillo border crossing (approximately 1.5 hours) before a 2.5 drive by of Honduras (including a stop for lunch) to the next border crossing Guasaule, and finally reaching Leon after another 2.5 hours. Upon arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of this charming city. Though it's the second largest in the country, Leon is relatively free of tourists, making strolling the mural-lined streets a real pleasure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leon - Leader-led orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The Nicaraguan border crossing can be confusing disorderly. Please pay close attention to your leader instructions. At this border crossing you will need to pay USD12 fee payble in cash.
Make the most of Leon in the morning. The street food behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral is some of the best in town, so why not grab a 'Nica taco'. Made with maize, rolled and then deep fried, these beauties are usually served with shredded cabbage and smothered in cream. Otherwise a thrilling volcano sand boarding adventure could be on the cards! In the afternoon, get ready for the 5-6-hour journey to the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, the city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. First, take a taxi from the hotel to the bus station, next board a local bus bound for Managua that will depart when it's full and takes around 2-3 hours depending on the amount of stops it needs to make and the complexity of onloading and offloading the passenger’s luggage. There will be about a 30-45-minute transit in Managua before taking the next public bus to Granada with a duration of approximately 1.5 hrs, and finally taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the hotel. Upon arrival, your leader will take you through the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada': a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Leon - Volcano Sand Boarding - NIO1260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This Central American adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day. If you'd like to stay in Granada, our travel specialists can help arrange additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Granada - Monkey Island boat tour - NIO455
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - NIO910
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano at night (Viewpoint for the Lava Lake at Santiago Crater) - NIO1140
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - NIO1025
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

1 lunch

Transport

Private vehicle, local bus, Taxi

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights)

Included activities

  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Copan - Archeological site (Transport & Entrance fee)
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
  • San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
  • Leon - Leader-led orientation walk

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Guatemala & Beyond trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to Antigua; make sure you fly into Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do not book flights to Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
4. Please be careful when booking flights from Granada; make sure you fly into Managua – Augusto C. Sandino International Airport [MGA]. Managua’s Airport is the closest airport to Granada. Please do not book flights to Granada Airport [GRX] as this is in Spain.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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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