The Central Thing

1200-year-old cliff-top ruins of Tulum
See the Panama Canal at Miraflores Lock
The palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker
The Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán and Spanish city of Oaxaca
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mayan ruins of Palenque
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mayan city of Tikal
Panama's massive freight ships
Oaxaca's street stalls
Arenal - Costa Rica's most active volcano
Boquete
Cancun and Playa del Carmen
Chili lime grasshoppers at Oaxaca Market
Mexico City
  • Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. You’re welcome.

    (Was Mexico & Central America)

    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.

    Day 1

    • Pre-departure meeting in the evening

    Day 2

    • Visit 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

    Day 3

    • Take a morning walking tour through Mexico City's historic heart
    • Spend free time discovering the city's museums, galleries, plazas and public buildings

    Day 4-6 - Puebla - Oaxaca - Monte Alban

    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. The ruins at Monte Alban have 360-degree views over Oaxaca Valley.

    Day 4

    • Catch a morning bus bound for Puebla
    • Enjoy a day at your leisure to explore the charming city
    • Perhaps visit to explore some of Puebla's 70 churches or thousand or so colonial buildings

    Day 5

    • Get lost among Oaxaca's renowned handicraft markets
      Perhaps relax in a local cafe after a haggling frenzy

    Day 6

    • Drive from Oaxaca to the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban
    • Trawl over the remains of plazas, tombs, palaces and temples with help from a local site guide
    • Board an overnight bus to San Cristobal de Las Casas

    Day 7-8 - San Cristóbal

    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, grab some bargains at the weekly market and continue the search for the best taco in Mexico

    Day 9-10 - Palenque

    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.

    • Stop by the blue waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Ha en route to Palenque
    • Learn the history of the Palenque ruins and Mayan people while exploring with a local guide

    Day 11-15 - Mérida - Cancun

    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 Cancun, with no activities planned. Pina coladas, seafood and Playa del Carmen will probably feature.

    • Travel by bus to Merida
    • Utilise your tour guide to make the most of free time exploring this 'White City'
    • Set off for the Caribbean Coast
    • Swing by one of Mexico's most famous Mayan sites, Chichen Itza
    • Spend plenty of getting learning about and exploring the temples, pyramids and ruins 
    • Enjoy free time in Cancun to relax on the beach, drink in the bars, eat in the restaurants or explore the local surroundings

    Day 16-18 - Tulum - Caye Caulker

    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. 

    Day 16

    • Take a bus along the Caribbean coast to Tulum
    • Visit the pre-Columbian walled city ruins
    • Gain spectacular views over the tropical shores below
    • Discover the Temple of the Frescoes
    • Explore the the ruins with the help of our local site guide
    • Spend the night in Chetumal.

    Days 17-18

    • 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 19-20 - Flores - Tikal

    Looks like everyone in Flores got the red-roof memo. Then it's a jungle trek to 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
    • Visit the ancient city of Tikal - deserted Mayan ruins in the heart of the Guatemala jungle
    • Journey to the temples of the monumental ceremonial centre in the midst of Tikal National Park
    • Pass through rich rainforest and dense jungle vegetation
    • If you're feeling energetic, perhaps climb to the peak of Temple IV and take in the spectacular views
    • Board an overnight bus bound for Antigua

    Day 21-22 - 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.

    • Stop by Antigua, a World Heritage-listed town
    • See the local highlights with a tour guide
    • Journey to the summit of one of the nearby volcanoes and take in the vistas of the surrounding verdant 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 23-26 - Antigua - San Jose

    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. 

    Day 23-24

    • Fly to the Costa Rican capital of San Jose (Flight not included)
    • Spend time exploring the local sights and markets

    25-26

    • 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 27-28 - 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, or set off on an optional night trek to the volcano
    • Take a dip at the waterfalls of La Catarata de Fortuna

    Day 29-31 - Puerto Viejo

    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.

    • Spend three nights in the beautiful beach town of Puerto Viejo, located on the Caribbean Sea
    • Enjoy a range of optional activities including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, diving, and snorkelling
    • Soak up some of the local culture, discover the local reggae or sample the indigenous handicrafts on offer
    • Take a day trip to Cahuita
    • Visit Cahuita National Park, where wildlife abounds

    Day 32-36 - Bocas del Toro

    Colon Island. It may not sound very appealing, but when you take into account the calypso music, freshly squeezed juices, beachside bars, dolphin spotting and junles the name is easy to forget (sort of). 

    Days 32-34

    • Cross into Panama by walking over an old train bridge
    • Head to the harbour town of Almirante
    • Board a boat to the island of Colon, the main island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago
    • Explore this Caribbean island during free time, or relax in one of the bars above the water 
    • Why not wander across to Red Frog Beach, rent a bike and cycle to Bluff Beach or go dolphin-spotting

    Days 35-36

    • Mingle with some friendly Panamanians people on a bus ride
    • 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 37-39 - 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.

    Day 37

    • 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

    Days 38-39

    • Visit the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks and perhaps see a big container ship passing through
    • Watch a short film about the history of the canal and the construction of a new section
    • 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
  • What's Included

    • The services of local tour guides plus the services of local site guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, and sightseeing as indicated.

    Not Included

    • The flight from Antigua Guatemala to San Jose Costa Rica is not included in this tour. Please book any flight on the Tuesday, Day 23 of this trip.

    Safety Information

    Active Volcanoes
    This tour passes through volcanic areas.  In the instance, a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Gecko’s will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Gecko’s.

  • Map Itinerary

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Nuts+Bolts

#GSMS
- 16
Aircon bus, Boat, Canoe, Local bus, Plane, Taxi
2 nights Overnight bus, 33 nights Budget/tourist class hotels, 3 nights Hostel
Mexico City
Panama City

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