Days
15
Price from
$5,830USD

Journey into the very heart of the Americas

Wander off the beaten track and discover a different side of Central America. Peregrine welcomes Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and San Ignacio, Belize, to its already stunning array of destinations on this journey – Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, Guatemala’s gorgeous Antigua and volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan, and El Salvador’s Route of the Flowers and colourful Suchitoto. Swim in crystal clear seas and swimming holes, explore tiny villages bursting with Latin American verve, and venture into dense jungle where Maya temples have stood for centuries.


Start
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Finish
Antigua, Guatemala
Countries
Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico
Style
Peregrine
Code
PSBG
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Blaze the trail in Belize and enjoy a superb array of nature-based activities. Cruise across a lagoon on a guided birdwatching excursion, and hike through the forest to a hidden Maya burial ground

  • The brightly painted houses of Flores are a reflection of the radiant colours that stretch across the town at sunset. Enjoy 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. An ‘crop-to-cup’ tour of a local coffee farming co-op completes the experience

  • Step back in time in Suchitoto, learning the history of El Salvador from those who have lived through it. Learn cigar rolling from 98-year-old Nina Victoria, and hike through Cinquera Rain Forest Park to meet a former FMLN guerrilla fighter

  • Sit down to lunch in the delightful garden setting of El Jardin de Celeste. This restaurant on the famous ‘Flowers Route’ of El Salvador is arguably the country’s best

  • Immerse yourself in the unique cultures surrounding Lake Atitlan, attending artist workshops and visiting a local church and market

  • Your 2-night Feature stay at Hotel Atitlan in Panajachel has lake-facing balconies with a rustic Spanish colonial style as well as a manicured botanical garden and volcano views

Is this trip right for you?

  • There are a few long days of travel, as you'll be covering a lot of ground. Be prepared for some driving. You will, however, make stops at interesting locations along the 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.

  • The Crooked Tree Lodge in Belize (Day 2) is slightly below Peregrine standard, but was chosen for its sensational location and its vast array of excellent outdoor activities on offer.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 November 2017 - 31 December 2017

Arrive in Cancun and transfer to your hotel in Playa del Carmen. The day is free until a welcome meeting at around 6 pm. Check with the hotel reception for details. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a delightful resort city close to Cancun. If you arrive early, spend your time snorkelling crystal clear waters, diving in underground caverns or strolling along white sands. In the evening, 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 Hacienda Paradise or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Some departures of this trip are part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have started their trip 15 days ago in Mexico City on Mexico, Guatemala & Beyond (PSMZC) or Complete Central Americar (PSPCC). Please contact our sales team if you wish to book or know more information on these longer combination trips.
Make the journey from Playa del Carmen across the border to Belize (approximately 4 hours). Settle into your accommodation – the small, family-run Crooked Tree Lodge. It is located approximately 2 hours' drive past the border. Nestled among coconut palms and bullet trees in the heart of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (and on the edge of Crooked Tree Lagoon), this lodge is ideally located for wildlife viewing. Spot squirrels, iguanas or perhaps even crocodiles.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Wake early and embark on a birdwatching excursion, travelling by boat on the lagoon. Some 250 resident or migratory neotropical birds inhabit this reserve, among them the Jabiru stork (the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere). Afterwards, drive to the San Ignacio area (approximately 2.5 hours). Here the afternoon is yours to spend as you please. Relax and unwind at the excellent Pooks Hill Lodge, situated on 300 acres of lush Belizean forest in the foothills of the Maya Mountains.
Accommodation
  • Pooks Hill Lodge or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Crooked Tree - Lagoon birding boat tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a day of free time. Perhaps go birdwatching, swimming, hiking or walking. A highly recommended option is a day trip to the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave. This begins with a hike (approximately 45 minutes) up the Roaring River Valley and through the rainforest of the Tapir Mountain Preserve. After reaching the cave entrance, you are taken on a tour of the ‘Xibalba,’ the fascinating Maya underworld. This includes a ‘Cathedral’ chamber which used to be a Maya ceremonial and burial ground.
Accommodation
  • Pooks Hill Lodge or similar (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave - inc. transport, guide and lunch) - USD95
  • San Ignacio - Canoe rental - USD20
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The optional excursion to the ATM Cave requires a decent level of fitness, and involves river crossings. Closed-toe shoes that can withstand water are essential.
Bid farewell to Belize and head to the Guatemalan border (approximately 1 hour). Once you have crossed into Guatemala, continue to Flores (approximately 2 hours). After settling in, visit Yaxha, an archaeological site 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 beautiful views across the lagoons, forest and other temples. Afterwards, sit back at a picture-perfect spot by the lake and, over a glass of wine, farewell that same sun the Mayas worshiped hundreds of years ago.
Accommodation
  • Pooks Hill Lodge or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Flores - Yaxha tour & sunset drinks
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Embrace an early start (about 7 am) for a leader-led 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. 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 insights into traditional medicine, astrology, agronomy and architecture. The jungles thrum with life, with toucans and macaws swooping between trees and monkeys crashing through the canopy. Those interested can climb to the top of the ruins for unsurpassed vistas over the forest. Return to Flores early in the afternoon (approximately 2 pm) and enjoy free time to stroll the cobblestone streets, shop for locally-made souvenirs or swim in Lake Peten Itza.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Villa Maya or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Flores - Tour of Tikal archaeological site
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take an early morning transfer to Flores Airport for an 8 am flight to Guatemala City (approximately 1 hour). From here, make the journey Suchitoto via the El Salvadorean border (approximately 6 hours). It's a long travel day, but the destination is well worth it. With its festive atmosphere, stately colonial-era architecture, shaded plazas and lack of traffic, Suchitoto is a dream to explore on foot. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande (also known as Lago Suchitlan) which is a haven for migrating birds – particularly falcons and hawks.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a guided city tour which involves a mix of walking a transport (approximately 3 hours). Learn some of the city's history along the way. 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. You also make a visit to Los Tercios waterfalls and rock formation, attend a cigar rolling demonstration with the 98-year-old Nina Victoria, and enjoy lunch at a local pupusa's restaurant. Enjoy some free time in afternoon.
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Town tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
In the morning, hike through the nearby Cinquera Rain Forest Park with a local guide (approximately 2 hours). The trail you hike is somewhat steep but takes you to a former guerilla camp. The park was created by the former FMLN guerillas and their families to protect the forest from loggers. When the hike is over, you can cool off by taking a dip in a nearby swimming hole. Meet with one of the original guerilla fighters to learn his story and ask questions about the civil war in El Salvador. Afterwards, enjoy some free time. You might like to spend the afternoon boating, kayaking or attending a local indigo dying workshop.
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Boat trip to Bird Island in Lake Suchitlan (it requires a minimum of 6 travellers to operate) - USD20
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to run) - USD35
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive to the renowned 'Ruta de las Flores' (Flowers Route) (approximately 2.5 hours). This is one of the country's premier attractions, full of verdant coffee plantations, tiny towns bursting with colour, and of course the wildflowers from which the area takes its name. For lunch, stop in at what may well be El Salvador's best restaurant, El Jardin de Celeste. After a leisurely repast in this idyllic garden setting, head off to the border and cross back into Guatemala (approximately 4 hours). Arrive in Antigua in the early evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
As you'll come to appreciate, Guatemala’s volcanic soils and altitudinous valleys offer just the right conditions for coffee cultivation, and today you'll visit a coffee farm to see just how its's done. From a bean plant nursery to the plantation itself to a cupping lab where you will be offered a freshly brewed sample, this is a rare chance to sip 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 Posada de Don Rodrigo or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Antigua - Coffee tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
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://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w

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 Peregrine 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/
Encircled by emerald mountains and misty volcanoes, Lake Atitlan has often been ranked one of the world's most beautiful lakes. Here your accommodation boasts incredible views across Atitlan's reflective waters and surrounding peaks. Spend the day cruising around by boat and stopping 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. Along the way you will see that 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.
Included Activities
  • Lake Atitlan - Santiago Village tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit Santiago Atitlan, a peaceful town located on the southern shores of the lake between the volcanoes Toliman and San Pedro. This is the largest town on the lake; more importantly it's the home of the Maya god, Maximon. As a town with a strong indigenous identity, Santiago Atitlan hosts a Holy Week each year which sees Maximon's effigy moved from one house to another. While in Santiago Atitlan 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. Arrive back at your hotel at approximately 3 pm.
Included Activities
  • Lake Atitlan - Naif painting workshop
  • Lake Atitlan - San Juan Village tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy free time in the morning, then travel back to Antigua (approximately 3 hours). The afternoon is free to spend as you wish. Perhaps enjoy a final (optional) dinner with your fellow travellers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your comes to an end today after breakfast.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Boat, Plane

Accommodation

Hotel Feature stay (2 nights), Comfortable Hotel (12 nights)

Included Activities

  • Crooked Tree - Lagoon birding boat tour
  • Flores - Yaxha tour & sunset drinks
  • Flores - Tour of Tikal archaeological site
  • Suchitoto - Town tour
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest
  • Antigua - Coffee tour
  • Lake Atitlan - Santiago Village tour
  • Lake Atitlan - Naif painting workshop
  • Lake Atitlan - San Juan Village tour

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Essence of Central America trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

START AND END TIME:
On Day 1 there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at approximately 6pm. There are no activities planned for the final day.

COMPLIMENTARY ARRIVAL TRANSFER:
To book your complimentary arrival transfer you must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.

GUATEMALA
Please be careful when booking flights from Antigua making sure you fly out of Guatemala City Airport (GUA). Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to/from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A Single Supplement to have your own room is available for purchase 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.