Days
15
Price from
$5,850CAD

Take a Central American journey through El Salvador and Guatemala

Journey into the very heart of the Americas and discover a rich local culture that fascinatingly mixes the modern world, influences of Spanish colonialism, and traditions that stretch right back to the ancient Maya. Begin in El Salvador, the region’s best-kept secret, and travel from black sand beaches to colonial towns that are home to people that are bold but unassuming, feisty yet open-armed. Speculate about the disappearance of a great civilisation with the Copan ruins on the Honduran border, then experience the Caribbean touch that makes Amatique Bay unique. Man-made and natural wonders lie ahead in Guatemala – towering pyramids hidden in dense jungle, sparkling lakes ringed by memorable volcanic peaks; even a local market becomes a cause for wonder. The memories of this Central American adventure will live as long the Maya temples have stood.


Start
El Tunco, El Salvador
Finish
Antigua, Guatemala
Countries
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras
Style
Peregrine
Code
PSEG
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Step back into El Salvador’s past in the charming lakeside town of Suchitoto. Be subjected to a culinary experience like no other! Try an endless variety of local specialties including vegetable stuffed corn dough pastries, loroco flowers, cheese pastries, pork chicharron, fried kassava and the list goes on and on and on...

  • The history of the fascinating local culture of Lake Atitlan can be traced in the movements of the brush that paints the mystical Maya nahual. Pick up a brush in a local artist’s studio and with it discover your life energy, soul companions, and your destiny

  • The brightly painted houses of Flores are a reflection of the radiant colours that stretch across the town at sunset. Enjoy memorable lakeside drinks while the sun sinks below the horizon

  • Journey into the jungles of Guatemala and uncover the magnificent remains of the lost Maya civilisation in Tikal

  • Overlooked by the majestic Volcan de Agua, Antigua is a cobblestoned maze of colourful buildings, leafy town squares and ornate churches, and the undisputed urban jewel in Guatemala's crown

Is this trip right for you?

  • Some included activities, such as guided tours of archaeological sites, can be quite strenuous. Be sure to bring suitably sturdy footwear.

  • There are a few long days of travel, as you'll be covering a lot of ground. So be prepared for some driving. You will, however, make stops at interesting locations along your way to break things up.

  • The tropical climate of Central America means conditions can be hot and humid. Always carry plenty of water with you and stay hydrated, especially on walking tours.

  • It's a good idea to learn as many Spanish words as you can. Locals are very friendly, but can be shy, so you'll need to make an effort to break the ice. It's also a great way to show your respect and involve yourself in their culture.

Itinerary

Begin this journey through El Salvador and Guatemala with a transfer from the international airport in San Salvador to your accommodation in the laid back village of El Tunco (approximately 1 hour). Your arrival transfer must be pre-booked. Please ensure you provide your arrival flight details at least 15 days before the start of the trip.

There will be a welcome meeting at 6pm this evening. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.

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).

While El Tunco remains relatively unknown to international travellers, it's a preferred holiday destination for Salvadorians (particularly on weekends), and has gathered quite the following in surfer circles for its waves and beaches.

After the meeting, this town is ideal for some time in a hammock and a sunset drink over a black sand beach.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Boca Olas or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today starts with a visit to the Joya de Ceren Museum, a UNESCO world heritage site that features pre-Columbian Maya farming village preserved remarkably well under layers of volcanic ash.

After, drive along a section of the famous Ruta de las Flores (Flower's route) to Suchitoto. Ruta de las Flores is one of the country’s foremost attractions. Named for the wildflowers that grow along it, the route is scattered with quaint, artsy, brightly-coloured colonial towns, idyllic coffee farms and other natural wonders.

This 36km-long winding trip is famed for lazy weekends of gastronomy and gallery-hopping, as well as more adventurous pursuits like hiking and exploring waterfalls littered throughout the Cordillera Apaneca. You will drive to Juayua (approximately 2 hours) where you’ll enjoy lunch – choose from the many Sunday food stalls that offer some of the country’s finest produce.

Arrive to Suchitoto (approximately 3 hours). Not much happens in this delightful lakeside town of pastel-painted houses and cobbled streets – which is precisely its charm. This really is a place suited to just pulling up a stool at a pupusa stand and watching life meander by.
Accommodation
  • Hotel El Tejado or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Ruta de las flores (flower's route)
  • Suchitoto - Museum Joya de Ceren visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
With its shaded plazas and lack of traffic, Suchitoto serves as a reminder of El Salvador's past. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande (also known as Lago Suchitlan), which is a haven for migrating birds – particularly falcons and hawks.

In the morning you will take a boat tour of the lake, sailing out to some of its islands in search for the avian life that thrives here.

In the afternoon, learn more about local history on a tour of the city. During the civil war, Suchitoto became virtually a ghost town, the battles at nearby Guazapa compelling most of its inhabitants to flee for safety. Grim times that they were, this abandonment actually helped to preserve the city's colonial architecture that you'll be admiring today.

Later in the evening you will learn about the traditional art of indigo dyeing. Indigo supported the city's economic and population growth up until the 19th century when synthetic dyes collapsed in the local market. However the art of indigo dyeing is still well alive in Suchitoto.

You will meet Irma Guadron, a recognised local indigo artist for a demonstration of this art. While the demonstration takes place, you will also be subjected to a culinary experience like no other! Try an endless variety of local specialties including vegetable stuffed corn dough pastries, loroco flowers, cheese pastries, pork chicharron, fried kassava and the list goes on and on and on...
Accommodation
  • Hotel El Tejado or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Lake Suchitlan Boat trip
  • Suchitoto -Town tour
  • Suchitoto - Salvadorean culinary experience
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Leaving El Salvador, travel across the border into Honduras (approximately 6 hours). Immigration procedures typically run quite smoothly here, but your trip leader will be on hand to guide you through the process. Your destination is the town of Copan Ruinas, which lies not far from the Guatemalan border.

Copan Ruinas is a major gateway for tourists visiting the Pre-Columbian ruins of Copan, which was once one of the great centres of Maya civilisation. Today it’s a charming town set amid lush, hilly surrounds. On arrival, perhaps take a stroll through the town's cobbled streets, colourful houses and quaint central plaza.

Finish a long travel day at the soothing and relaxing waters of Copan natural hot springs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Marina Copan or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Today you'll be taken on a guided tour of the ancient ruins of Copan, the southernmost of Central America's great Maya sites. This particular region, which acquired World Heritage-listing in 1980, is full of impressive pre-Colombian art. Its major differentiator from other Maya sites is its 21 stelae (columns), which are intricately carved with reliefs and hieroglyphics depicting the passage of time and lives of the royal families. Spread around the site are also a number of small pyramid-shaped temples and excavated vaults. Walking through the grassy plazas, past the site's magnificent monuments, statues and staircases, you'll feel the gaze of huge carved faces peering down on you from ancient walls. It's hard not to wonder at the mysterious disappearance of such a creative civilization.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Marina Copan or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Copan - Museum visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
From Honduras, cross the border into Guatemala and drive north to Puerto Barrios (approximately 5 hours). Your destination is Livingston, a fascinating Garifuna town perched on the Caribbean coast. No roads reach here, so you’ll have to take a boat across Amatique Bay. This port town is an interesting mix of Guatemalan and Caribbean influences, a relaxed place that feels more reminiscent of Jamaica than it does the rest of Guatemala.

Explore Livingston's ramshackle town of colourful wooden houses built on stilts, browse its shops for handicrafts, slurp up a bowl of tapado (a seafood soup that's the local delicacy) or sip on a Coco Loco (coconut water and rum) to the mellow beats of reggae drifting by.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Caribe or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Explore Livingston and learn more about the town's fascinating fusion of cultures and traditions. Garifuna culture, which is unique to Central America's eastern coast, is said to have resulted from the intermingling of African slaves and Caribbean indigenous people following a shipwreck that occurred during the 17th century. Try some hearty, local Carib food and tune into the local beats of punta, a rhythmic pattering of soft drums and ritual chanting.

Later today, you’ll take a cruise through the spectacular, thickly-forested gorges of Rio Dulce, many of which are more than 100 metres high and overflowing with birdlife. The Spaniards built forts along this stretch of river; you'll likely spot locals sitting in their shadow and casting fishing nets into the water. If you're very lucky, you might also even spot a manatee or crocodile during the journey. Lunch will be included while on this boat tour.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Caribe or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Livingston - Rio Dulce boat tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Travel by boat from Livingston back to Puerto Barrios and continue on to Flores, your base for exploring the ruins of Tikal (approximately 5 hours).

Though officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, Flores had in fact existed in various forms long before. As an island, it has long remained isolated, with locals relying on the subsistence farming of corn and beans, and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees for the production of gum. Many of the locals here still get about in the traditional way of dugout canoe.

After settling in, you will visit Yaxha, an archaeological site scenically situated on the shores of Yaxha Lagoon in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Surrounded by dense jungle, Yaxha is home to more than 500 buildings, including the impressive Twin Pyramids. Perhaps climb temple 216 for views across the lagoons, forest and other temples.

Afterwards, let your tour leader treat you to a memorable sunset. Sit back at a picture perfect spot by the lake and farewell that same sun the Mayas worshiped hundreds of years ago. Pop open a wine or two and cheer to another wonderful day in Central America.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Maya or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Flores - Yaxha tour & sunset drinks
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you’ll take a guided tour of Tikal. Home to some of the world's most magnificent Maya ruins, Tikal's five major temples rise above the jungle canopy while an array of smaller structures remain hidden in the undergrowth. More than 3,000 structures make up the site, which, before being abandoned a millennia ago, once housed over 100,000 people. You’ll explore the highlights of the area, including Temple I, which is perhaps the iconic image of Guatemala. This area is a repository of Maya wisdom, containing traditional insights into medicine, astrology, agronomy and architecture.

The jungles thrum with life, with toucans and macaws swooping between trees and monkeys crashing through the canopy. For those interested, climbing to the top of the ruins offers unsurpassed vistas over the forest.

In the afternoon we return to Flores, where you'll have time to stroll the cobblestone streets, shop for locally-made souvenirs or enjoy a dip in Lake Peten Itza.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Maya or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Flores - Tour of Tikal archaeological site
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
From Flores board a short early morning flight to Guatemala City (approximately 1 hour). Upon arrival, drive west along the Interamerican highway to Lake Atitlán (approximately 4 hours).

Encircled by emerald mountains and misty volcanoes, Lake Atitlán has often been ranked one of the world's most beautiful lakes.

In arriving here you’ll be transferred by boat to our night's accommodation, a hotel that boasts spectacular views across Atitlán's reflective waters and surrounding peaks.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Atitlan or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Spend a day exploring Lake Atitlán and its picturesque surrounds. Life in many of the villages around the lake has changed very little over the past few centuries. In some you'll see locals still getting around in traditional garb that incorporate designs passed down through generations and the atmosphere is peaceful and unpretentious.

Cruising around the lake by boat, stop in at local villages – San Juan La Laguna included – and visit local artist workshops.

Meet local artists Antonio and Angelina Coche and learn from them about your Maya "Nahual", a local equivalent of the zodiac that assigns animal spirits based on birth date. You might even want to try painting your own symbol.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Atitlan or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Atitlan - Naif painting workshop
  • Lake Atitlan - San Juan Village tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you'll make a visit to Santiago Atitlán, a peaceful town located on the southern shores of the lake between the volcanoes Tolimán and San Pedro. This is the largest town on the lake, but, more importantly, home of the Maya god, Maximon. As a town with a strong indigenous identity, Santiago Atitlán hosts a Holy Week each year in sees Maximon's effigy moved from one house to another. While in Santiago Atitlán you’ll visit a local church to learn about the local customs and history of this traditional town, also stopping in at a local market to watch the day's business being carried out.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Atitlan or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Atitlan - Santiago Village tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Start the day travelling by private minibus to the famous market in Chichicastenango (approximately 1.5 hours). Locally known as 'Chichi', this sedate mountain town transforms each Thursday and Sunday into the country's most colourful market with rural-living Guatemalans arriving en masse to sell their wares and produce. If you're in the market for brightly-coloured textiles and handicrafts, this is the place to be. After some time in Chichi, continue to your final destination, Antigua (approximately 2.5 hours). At one time the most important city in all Central America, Antigua was decimated by an earthquake in 1773, though many of its colonial buildings have since been carefully restored. Today, its cobbled streets, lovely architecture, cosy bars and ubiquitous marimba music makes Antigua a favourite for many travellers to Guatemala.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Colonial or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Atitlan region - Chichicastenango market visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
As you'll today come to appreciate, Guatemala’s volcanic soils and altitudinous valleys offer just the right conditions for coffee cultivation. In visiting a local farming cooperative, you'll get to know this all-important export better during a plantation tour led by a local farmer. Dig into the history of the plant with a hands-on coffee culture experience, then learn all about the crop-to-cup process back at the farmer's house where you'll see how the bright red berries are processed, dried, roasted and ground by hand into the perfect blend. This is your chance to try coffee straight from the source!

How you spend the rest of your time in Antigua is up to you. Due to its historical relics, pleasant ambience and friendly locals, the town is a popular one among travellers. There are a number of interesting markets to peruse, plus no shortage of restaurants and cafes to check out – be sure to sample the country's other important bean: chocolate! If you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps finish off this journey to the tune of some salsa at one of the local dance spots.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Colonial or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Antigua - Coffee tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This trip through El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala comes to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Boat, Plane

Accommodation

Hotel (14 nights)

Included Activities

  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Suchitoto - Ruta de las flores (flower's route)
  • Suchitoto - Museum Joya de Ceren visit
  • Suchitoto - Lake Suchitlan Boat trip
  • Suchitoto -Town tour
  • Suchitoto - Salvadorean culinary experience
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner
  • Copan - Museum visit
  • Livingston - Rio Dulce boat tour
  • Flores - Yaxha tour & sunset drinks
  • Flores - Tour of Tikal archaeological site
  • Lake Atitlan - Naif painting workshop
  • Lake Atitlan - San Juan Village tour
  • Lake Atitlan - Santiago Village tour
  • Lake Atitlan region - Chichicastenango market visit
  • Antigua - Coffee tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip.

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.