Know your Mayans from your Aztecs:
- Baby Aztec boys were presented with bows, arrows and a miniture chest shield. Girsl got a spindle, washing stone and a pot.
- The Mayans had a ball game where members of the losing team were tied up and decapitated before having their heads rolled down the steps to the plaza floor below.
- Mayans dangled objects in front of their babies to make them permanently cross-eyed.
- When the Aztecs ran out of food they would eat their dead enemies.
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1-3: Mexico City - Teotihuacan
Forget your Mexican restaurants at home and embrace the real deal. Chilaquiles, esquites, pozole and tamales - Google them and drool.
- Pre-departure meeting in the evening
- Optional visit to the Teotihuacan ruins - the site of the massive ‘Piramides del Sol y de la Luna’(Pyramids of the Sun and Moon)
- Discover the site's remaining buildings with the help of a local guide
- Spend free time discovering the city's museums, galleries, plazas and public buildings
Day 4-5: Puebla
There's over 70 churches and a thousand colonial buildings in Puebla. We don't expect you to see them all, but you do have to try the mole poblano because it was invented here.
- Catch a morning bus bound for Puebla
- This afternoon and tomorrow are at your leisure to discover Puebla.
- Perhaps explore Puebla's 70 churches or thousand or so colonial buildings
Day 6-7: Oaxaca - Overnight Bus
As the home of mescal, Mexico's famous alcholic beverage made from the maguey plant, Oaxaca is a good place to indulge in a spot of wining and dining (or fooding and boozing, as we prefer to call it).
- Get lost among Oaxaca's renowned handicraft markets
- Perhaps relax in a local cafe after a haggling frenzy
- Optional visit to the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban
- Board an overnight bus to San Cristobal de Las Casas
Day 8-9: San Cristobal de las Casas
Call it Jovel for short. Outdoorsy types will love horse riding, mountain walks and exploring nearby Mayan villages. The rest of you will continue the hunt for Mexico's best taco.
- Visit San Cristobal's beautiful churches or grab some bargains at the weekly market
Day 10-12: Palenque - Overnight Bus
The Palenque ruins were absorbed by the jungle after its decline in 1123AD and it wasn't rediscovered until the late 18th century. That's a lot of landscaping.
- Today we travel on a windy road by local bus to Palenque
- The afternoon is free, take part in optional activities in town
- Explore the Palenque ruins with a local guide
- Cool off at Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls nearby
- On the last evening, transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Merida
Day 13: Merida
The White City' of Merida is a good place for fun. You can go to markets, go for walks, sample the local food (el yucateco will blow your head off), visit the Maya ruins of Uxmal, or, if visiting on a Sunday, have a dance in the street with the locals. We told you it was fun. And we don't lie.
- Early morning arrival into Merida
- Utilise your tour leader to make the most of free time exploring 'White City'
- Hang out at Plaza Grande, with a 16th century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others.
- Visit the outdoor markets (morning is recommended) and stock up on hammocks and Maya replicas, perhaps try cochinita pibil or the head-blowingly spicy el yucateco
- You will have the opportunity to visit the Maya ruins of Uxmal
Day 14-15: Chichen Itza - Playa del Carmen
Chichen Itza is a great big pyramid with 365 steps (one for each day of the year) and a shadow that looks like a serpent. You're off the leash in Playa del Carmen, with no activities planned. Pina coladas, seafood and beach will probably feature.
- Set off for the Caribbean Coast
- Swing by one of Mexico's most famous Mayan sites, Chichen Itza
- Explore the temples, pyramids and ruins
- Enjoy free time in Playa del Carmen to relax on the beach, drink in the bars, eat in the restaurants or explore the local surroundings
Day 16-17: Tulum
Bound to be a few sore heads today, so take a bit of "me time" as you wander the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Our favourite building is the Temple of the Frescoes.
- Take a bus along the Caribbean coast to Tulum
- Perhaps visit the pre-Columbian walled city ruins and enjoy spectacular views
- Spend time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sandy shore
- In the evenings, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita
Day 18-19: Caye Caulker
Home to the world's second largest barrier reef, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is worth a look, if that kind of thing impresses you. If it doesn't, you can just chill on the beach and go swimming with tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. Still a pretty badass way to spend a day.
- Take a speedboat to the palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker
- Enjoy this idyllic island and the nearby reefs during free time
- Perhaps explore the coral reefs and their abundance of fish, or just relax on the beach
Day 20-21: San Ignacio
Head to San Ignacio and perhaps stop off at a cave full of crystalised, 1,400(ish)-year-old skeletons. You don't need us to tell you how cool that is. All the skeletons are victims of blunt trauma to the head, mind you, so you shouldn't be too keen. Just pretend you don't really want to see them, then go anyway.
- Travel by local bus to San Ignacio
- Go on an optional day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre. Take a hand cranked ferry to cross the river
- Perhaps go to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls, warm swimming holes as well as a huge system of caves
- The cave of Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relic
- Take opportunities to go tubing or canoeing through the region
- Perhaps visit San Ignacio's butterfly garden.
- In the late afternoon and at night visit the little barbecue street stalls, sit down and enjoy a juicy chicken leg
Day 22-23: Flores - Tikal
Looks like everyone in Flores got the red-roof memo. Then it's a jungle trek through the ruins of Tikal to the sounds of parrots, toucans, macaws, tree frogs and howler monkeys.
- Head into Guatemala and visit the town of Flores
- Stroll through the cobblestone streets, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza
- Perhaps visit the ancient city of Tikal - deserted Mayan ruins in the heart of the Guatemala jungle
- If you're feeling energetic, perhaps climb to the peak of Temple IV
Day 24-25: Rio Dulce
There is a trend in Flores that involves taking a boat out onto the lake and cruising around. We are all for this trend, and we reckon you will be too. If you're not a trendy-type, you can go out to spot manatees or head up to thermal hot springs. There's loads of other stuff you can do, but we've only just so much space here. OK?
- Head to Rio Dulce, the sweet river, by local bus (approx. 5 hours)
- Take time to explore this laid back Caribbean town, quite different from the inland communities.
- Enjoy some optional activities on your free day, go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot the protected manatees or travel up the river on a lancha to the thermal hot springs
- Perhaps hike through the jungle-strewn trails of the Chocon-Machacas Natural Reserve, ride a horse through a nearby rubber plantation or travel to Livingston to explore the San Felipe fort
Day 26: Antigua
It's not very often you see a volcano puffing away as it looms overhead, but after a few days you won't even bat an eyelid.
- Travel to Antigua by local bus (approx. 7 hours) were you'll spend the night
- You won't be in Antiguam long today, but you should try Tamales while you're here, a local dish served in a corn leaf, or perhaps try Pepian, a combination of three meats (chicken, beef and pork) with a dark sauce
Day 27: Chichicastenango - San Jorge La Laguna
Meals included: 1 dinner
"Lo siento, no hablo mucho español, pero me gustaría que," means "Sorry, I don't speak much Spanish, but I like you". You need to learn phrases like this to break down the barriers on your homestay in San Jorge La Laguna. Be creative and kind and you can't go wrong.
- Travel by local bus to famous market in Chichicastenango
- Head to San Pedro La Laguna (approx. 1.5 hours)
- Be introduced to your host family for tonight's homestay
- Houses in San Jorge La Laguna are very basic, your room may only consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, the bathroom will be outside the room and is shared with the rest of the family
- The mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you, meals are basic but filling
Day 28: Panajachel
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Guatemala is actually a Spanish word, meaning "the great outdoors". OK, that's not true. But it could be. Mountains, volcanoes and a picturesque lake are the backdrop for swimming, wind surfing, hiking, kayaing horse riding or paragliding in Panajachel.
- Head to Panajachel
- Perhaps visit the smaller, neighbouring villages by boat
- There are a number of community cooperatives that can visit, the proceeds from these will return directly to the community
Day 29-30: Antigua
Nothing says, "Heck yeah we're back in Antigua!" quite like having a big night out then taking a trip up the Pacaya Volcano.
- Stop by Antigua, a World Heritage-listed town
- Perhaps journey to the summit of one of the nearby volcanoes and take in the vistas of the surrounding hills
- Perhaps take a scenic horse ride, a bike ride or go white-water rafting on one of the highland rivers
- Opportunity to explore the city’s cobblestone streets at your leisure
Day 31-32: Copan
Here at Geckos, we have a phrase that goes, "If you can't handle the heat, get out of the Copan." Actually, we just made that up. But it sounds pretty good. There's a long bus ride to get here, but the optional visit to the Mayan ruins make it worth it. If you're a fan of Mayan ruins.
- Get up early and travel by local bus to Copan, Honduras
- Go on an optional trip to the Mayan ruins of Copan, a World Heritage site since 1980
Day 33-35: Roatan Island
Roatan is an island, which means it's surrounded by water, which means there are loads of water-based adventures to be had here. Don't forget this is the Caribbean, so the water is clear and there are tonnes of multi-coloured fish and heaps of white sand beaches around. Google 'Roatan Island' and see for yourself.
- Head to San Pedro Sula by local bus (approx. 3 hours), then continue to La Cieba (approx. 3 hours) before taking a ferry to Roatan (approx. 2 hours)
- Spend the following two days relaxing and taking part in the many water based optional activities
- Dive, swim or snorkel through the Caribbean waters
- For more active adventures, tear yourself away from the beach and venture into the hilly interior by bicycle or scooter
- Spot 'Jesus Lizards' in the botanical gardens or visit the nearby Institute for Marine Science
In the evenings chat with locals in any of the lively bars and enjoy a cold light house beer
Day 36: Comayagua
Say goodbye to Roatan and hello to Comayagua, which is, according to some travel sources, "a great place to witness colonial architecture meeting modern day life". Which basically means it's a really good-looking old town that people still live in. That's kind of it. Grab a beer and take it all in.
- Leave early (approx 5:30 am) and travel by ferry back to the mainland (approx. 2 hours), then travel on to Comayagua by local bus (approx. 4.5 hours)
- Witness colonial architecture meeting modern day life
Day 37-38: Granada
Spend one whole day travelling across the border into Nicaragua, then one whole day in Granada exploring as you please. Grabbing a boat and heading out to Lake Nicaragua is a great shout - as is visiting the Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Parks.
- Travel across the border to Granada, Nicaragua, you'll take a local bus, Tica Bus, taxis and another local bus (it's a full day of travel)
- Enjoy a full free day to bargain hard in the markets, hike, cruise and explore the neighbouring landscapes
- Explore the cobblestone streets surrounded by colourful buildings or tour the 'islets' on Lake Nicaragua by boat
- Perhaps partake in the optional day trip to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Parks
- Perhaps enjoy a night on the town
Day 39-40: Ometepe Island
Travel by bus and boat to the island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua. There's another volcano to hike, which is no walk in the park (because it's a freaking volcano). There are some fishermen to watch too, which is much more interesting than it sounds.
- From Granada travel by local bus and boat (approx 6-7 hours) to the island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua
- Lake Nicaragua is the largest in Central America and the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world
- Ometepe is a mainly agricultural island with rural villages and watermelon, coffee, banana and citrus plantations, wildlife abounds including the world's only species of freshwater shark
- Sit on the shore of the lake and watch the fishermen come back from their long day
- You have a free day here, perhaps take an optional hike to Volcano Maderas, or check out the petroglyphs or chill out on the beach
Day 41-42: Monteverde
Constant mist in the cloud forest makes it feel a bit like a nightclub, but with less Katy Perry and more fresh air. Take the giant Sky Walk - a series of suspension bridges dangling 40m above the jungle.
- Climb up the mountains to the village of Monteverde
- Experience the mystical and fragile environment here - a highlight of Costa Rica
- Enjoy incredible bird-watching opportunities
- Perhaps embark on the giant 'Sky Walk'
Day 43-44: La Fortuna - Arenal
Horse riding, whitewater rafting, riding the sky tram, zip-lining, mountain biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, bungee jumping and swimming. If you get home and say you sat on your bum in La Fortuna you should be very ashamed.
- Stop by La Fortuna, whose main attraction is the spectacular Arenal Volcano
- Enjoy a hike around the volcano and absorb the surrounding scenery
- Perhaps go white-water rafting and horse riding
- Take a dip at the waterfalls of La Catarata de Fortuna
Day 45-46: San Jose
- People watching is good, but you know what's even better? People talking. As in, conversing with people. If you can't do that, maybe just compliment one. "Yo no hablo mucho español, pero maldito que busca volar hoy," means "I don't speak much Spanish, but goddamn you're looking fly today." And you should definitely never say that.
- A local bus ride takes us to San Jose
- A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, get comfy and do some people watching, artisan booths are common here there could be a spontaneous art fair
- Perhaps visit the Gold Museum, home to an amazing collection of indigenous gold art.
- Maybe head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood
Day 47-49: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Get to know the names Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra and Punta Uva - they are your new favourite beaches. Creole food, reggae music, toucans and the chances of more sloths make it a favourite.
- Today we travel by local bus to Puerto Viejo
- The following two days are free to explore Puerto Viejo
- Perhaps visit Cahuita National Park and see sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds (park entry is free but you'll be asked for a donation)
- Learn or improve your surfing skills
- Enjoy a range of optional activities including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, diving, and snorkelling
- Soak up the local culture, discover the local reggae or sample the indigenous handicrafts on offer
Day 50-52: Bocas del Toro
Bastimentos: calypso music, freshly squeezed juices, beachside bars, dolphin spotting and junles. Sound good? Of course it does.
- Cross into Panama by walking over an old train bridge
- Head to the harbour town of Almirante
- Board a boat to the island of Bastimentos
- Explore this Caribbean island during free time, or relax in one of the bars above the water
Day 53-54: Boquete
"Ascending the cone" might sound like something from the kama sutra, but it's actually just another way of saying "walking up a volcano", which is what you'll get to do here. If you want. Nobody's going to make you ascend a cone against your will.
- Jump on a yellow school bus to Boquete
- Perhaps visit the The Paradise Gardens Wildlife Rescue Center
- Why not climb to the rim of Baru Volcano and follow that up with a visit to the Caldera Hot Springs
- A coffee tour will teach everything you need to know about the popular drink
Day 55-56: Santa Catalina
If you surf, you're going to love Santa Catalina. Hell, you're going to love it even if you don't surf. Remote and undeveloped, you can go fishing, diving, swimming and visit Coiba National Park. We know. Wow.
- Travel by local bus to Santa Catalina, on the Pacific side of Panama (approx 8 hrs)
- Santa Catalina is still a very remote, undeveloped destination and one of the best sites for surfing in Central America
- The next day is free, some of the optional activities include surfing, fishing, diving and visiting Coiba National Park
Day 57-58: Panama City
Hot tip: the bus drivers love their aircon so pack a jumper. When you get to our last destination, we'll take you to San Jose Church and go for a walk around the French Quarter. Afterwards, jump on a chiva (party bus) to Calle Uruguay and shout your group a round of Balboa beers.
- Set off on the long journey to Panama City on the Pan-American Highway
- Cross the Bridge of the Americas (finished in 1962) before arriving in Panama City
- Visit the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks and perhaps see a big container ship passing through
- Stop by a museum before continuing to the old quarter - San Felipe
- Take a trip to San Jose Church
- Walk around the French Quarter
- See the Kuna Indians sell their ‘molas’ (part of their traditional costume)
- Pay a visit to Plaza Bolivar and the Presidential Palace
- Perhaps hop on a ‘chiva’ (party bus) in the evening, or make your way down to Calle Uruguay for its plentiful bars
- Your trip will come to an end on Day 58
Nuts and Bolts
The services of local tour guides plus the services of local site guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, and sightseeing as indicated.
Summary of accommodation, transport & meals
- Overnight bus
- 1 night Overnight bus
- 55 nights Budget/tourist class hotels
- 1 night Homestay
Departure taxes, visas, insurance, meals, drinks, entrance fees, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature, the flight from Antigua Guatemala to San Jose Costa Rica.
- Antigua - Salsa class (per hour)
- Caye Caulker - Manatee watching & snorkelling tour
- Caye Caulker - Snorkelling half day
- Copan - Copan Ruins Museum
- Granada - Lake kayaking
- Granada - Masaya Market tour
- Granada - Masaya Volcano
- La Fortuna/Arenal - Baldi Hot Springs
- La Fortuna/Arenal - Volcano hike
- Merida - Entrance to Anthropology and History Museum (Open Tues-Sat 0900-2000)
- Mexico City - Entrance to Museo Frida Kahlo "Blue House"
- Mexico City - Entrance to Templo Mayor Museum & ruins (Closed Mon, Open Tues-Sun 0900-1750)
- Mexico City - Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling - Tuesday evening)
- Monteverde - Butterfly garden
- Monteverde - Coffee Plantation tour
- Oaxaca - Entrance to Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (1000-2000 with last entry 1815)
- Oaxaca - Folkloric Ballet
US$10 (minimum 10 people)
- Ometepe - Laguna Maderas trek
US$35 (approx 10 hrs)
- Ometepe - Petroglyphs hike
- Ometepe - San Ramon Waterfall
- Ometepe - Volcan Concepcion hike (Approx 11 hrs)
- Playa del Carmen - Ferryboat to Cozumel
- Playa del Carmen - Snorkel hire
- Puebla - Entrance to Museo de Revolución
- Puerto Viejo - Dolphin watching
- Puerto Viejo - Introductory surf lessons
- Puerto Viejo - Snorkel hire
- San Cristobel - Sumidero Canyon tour
- San Jose - Butterfly Farm
- San Jose - City tour
- San Jose - Poas Volcano
The operator for this Geckos Adventures trip is our experienced sister company Intrepid Travel. Your group will therefore be a mixture of Geckos booked passengers and other international like-minded travellers.
Important - A Word on Central America
Central America is different and that’s what makes it such an fascinating destination. You will find that things don’t always go according to plan or work the way they do back home. Buses and planes often run late and sometimes the water in your bathroom can run cold and the electricity fail. The locals live with these issues everyday. In order to get the most out of your holiday, a degree of patience, good humour and understanding is a definite advantage. If you approach your holiday with an open and enquiring mind, the warm welcome you receive from Central Americans will ensure you a rich and rewarding holiday experience.
Public Holiday Inconveniences
Please be prepared for the inconvenience of sights such as museums and churches being closed to tourists on public holidays (ie. Christmas Day and New Years Day). Throughout Latin America, most museums also tend to be closed on Mondays.
<p> <strong>Local Emergency Contacts </strong><br />
24 Hour Emergency:+502 5778 4052 or + 502 5207 4914
About this Information
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
24 January 2014
General Contact Details
Web: Visit Geckos