Seven small countries lie between the vast breadth of North America and the natural diversity of South America, but they are not just a bridge of passage. Each one of them hides true natural and artistic wonders that tell us about a common history and an immense biodiversity. Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama invite you to travel in a surprising route full of an adventurous touch to complement its great natural treasures.
It is a magical country with a bit of everything: history, great cultural and ethnographic diversity, natural beauties – from mountains to quiet beaches – as well as beautiful colonial landscapes. Mayan culture is present everywhere.
Gigantic volcanic summits and slopes covered with coffee plantations are the backdrop to the scattered vestiges of Spanish occupation. The ancient capital of Guatemala possesses a singular beauty, historical load and an interesting cultural wealth. It is an essential tourist destination for its well-preserved Baroque architecture and for the numerous ruins of Catholic churches (or at least what remains after the numerous earthquakes of the last centuries). An attractive framework where many Anglo-Saxon travelers choose to learn Spanish in their prestigious institutes.
The restored temples that rise in this corner of the Guatemalan jungle. We’re amazed by its monumental size and architectural brilliance. The Great Square of Tikal, one of the great Mayan sites of Mesoamerica. Active for 16 centuries, they form an astonishing testimony of the cultural and artistic milestones achieved by this civilization. Especially noteworthy is the aerial viewpoint above Temple IV, at the west end of the site. Equally striking is the large number of fauna and flora visible in the ancient passages between ceremonial centers; Walking cautiously it will be easier to see monkeys, spiders, agoutis, foxes and ocelated turkeys.
Lake Atitlán, cosmic connection
Of volcanic origin, this lake is one of the most interesting destinations of Guatemala. Serene and turbulent at the same time, it is surrounded by volcanoes and villages like Santiago Atitlán, with a prosperous indigenous culture, or San Marcos, refuge for those who wish to connect with their cosmic energy. In addition, the offer of outdoor activities – paragliding in Santa Catalina Palopó, kayaking in Santa Cruz La Laguna or hiking around the lake – invites one for a longer stay.
More than a place to buy, this market that is assembled twice a week is a lively window to the indigenous tradition; An ancient meeting point among the inhabitants of the region, who speak Quiche Maya, as well as a place of great spiritual charge. In the central church of Santo Tomás and in the hill of Pascual Abaj, located in the southern end, the shamans fuse the Christian iconography with Mayan rituals. In addition, Chichicastenango is a good place to buy interesting fabrics.
With one foot in the jungles of Central America and another in the Caribbean, Belize combines the best of both worlds like no other country. It is one of the most expensive destinations in Central America, but it is worth it for its enormous cultural diversity and unique landscapes.
Like a pearl necklace, this dazzling island is made up of half a dozen islets bathed in blue waters. Its extraordinary location, perched on a mountain range submerged on the edge of the continental shelf, makes it a fantastic place to kayak, both between the islands and the shallow waters of the central lagoon. You’ll observe mottled streaks, thorn stripes, turtles and a myriad of tropical fish.
Scuba diving in the blue hole
The vertical walls of the Blue Hole Natural Monument descend more than 120 meters to the bottom of the ocean. Despite being covered by sediment and debris, it is so deep that it manages to create a perfect circumference of spectacular and intense blue, visible from the sky. Its interior houses a dense forest of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as groups of reef sharks – along with a multitude of sponges and invertebrates – that accompany divers. An amazing place.
It is the largest Mayan site in Belize. An ancient city that once rivaled Tikal in importance and in whose central area – with temples, palaces, workshops and markets – it is still possible to feel the strength and splendor of yesteryear. At 4.3 meters high, Caana (“heavenly palace”) remains the tallest building in the country. In addition to its archaeological value, Caracol stands out for its abundant jungle fauna.
3. El Salvador
Surfing, a booming sport around the world, has rescued this small Central American nation as an international tourist destination. Beyond the waves, the country is a true tropical paradise with colonial towns, national parks and volcanic lakes.
El Salvador has some of the best areas in Central America, such as Punta Roca, on the Balsam Coast, where scenes of the classic surf film El gran miércoles, as well as the beaches of El Sunzal and El Tunco were filmed.
El Imposible National Park
In the Apaneca llamatepec mountain range, El Imposible forest – or what is left of a threatened ecosystem – hosts a wide variety of animals and plants, such as pumas, tigers, wild boars, ferruginous hawks and black-crested eagles. Its steep roads may be muddy but provide majestic views of peaks and the glittering Pacific Ocean.
Diving in the Bay Islands, Mayan ruins, colonial cities, Caribbean beaches and humid mountain forests. Do you need to travel to Honduras?
Scuba diving attracts visitors from all over the world to these three islets (Roatan, Utila and Guanaja) located 50 kilometers off the north coast of Honduras. Its reefs are part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, behind Australia.
One of the main Mayan nuclei lived, grew and eventually mysteriously crumbled around the archaeological site of Copan. Declared a world heritage, it’s only a short walk from the beautiful town of Copán Ruinas. It is wonderful to contemplate the complex carvings of stone and the colossal constructions whose origins go back to the mysterious Mayan empire.
Nicaragua welcomes travelers with volcanic landscapes, colonial architecture and virgin forests. It is a perfect destination for adventure, from the transparent Caribbean to the bustling Pacific.
Granada has immense magnetism. The charm of the city lies in its cobbled streets, its polychrome houses and colonial churches and its candid life rhythm. Here, almost all tours are done on foot and the mere observation of an art gallery, colonial church, or a restaurant, can occupy most of the day. You can also go to countless wild areas, islands, volcanoes and artisan villages, located in the vicinity.
The most treasured gem of Lake Nicaragua has everything: twin volcanoes, exuberant hillsides lined with walkways, archaeological remains, zip lines, monkeys, exotic birds, waterfalls, and a relaxing island air that keeps travelers calm while they travel through this recovered paradise. Much of the charm of the island lies in its accommodations: from luxury lodges to campsites and cabins with a cheerful hippie atmosphere.
6. Costa Rica
It is the great destination of ecological and adventure tourism in Central America, with incredible infrastructure, sustainability projects, and a considerable level of security in the absence of an army. More than a third of the country has environmental protection and brings together more biodiversity than the United States and Europe combined.Add volcanoes, waterfalls, intense colors and deserted beaches for surfing and well….there is little more to say.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
With an area of 105 square kilometers, the Monteverde Cloud Forest owes much of its natural beauty to the Quakers who left the United States in the 1950s in protest of the Korean War, instilling conservation principles for the people of the region. But as fascinating as history is, Monteverde’s true magic lies in its own nature: a mysterious Neverland Country with dripping mists, mossy creepers, ferns and bromeliads, gushing streams and a life that is constantly evolving.
Although lava rivers no longer illuminate the night and the volcano remains dormant, this powerful conical giant still deserves a pilgrimage (there are several beautiful trails that allow exploring the area, especially the one that climbs to Mount Chato). And although for the scientists the Arenal volcano is still active, one couldnt tell judging by the peaceful views and the blanket of mist that covers it. Even when the clouds gather and the cold cuts the air, we can relax in ts many hot springs.
The country is marked by the famous channel that runs through it, especially now, due to its recent extension. But this narrow territory between the Pacific and the Atlantic has a bit of everything: a sophisticated and dynamic capital, a beautiful coastline, indigenous territories and relaxed beaches.
The Panamanian capital is a dense urban horizon. With almost one million inhabitants, the transformation is in the air: from a new coastal green area, to the expected museum on biodiversity and underground. It is true that the traffic is intense, but the spell persists: the population is authentic and nature is never far away, nor are its fiery sunsets.
One of the best shortcuts on the planet, it crosses the continental divide connecting two oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific. As dazzling as the colossal steel freighters that traverse their closures are the legions of creatures that watch it from the margins of the jungle. Two visitor centers have observation platforms and museums where their construction and enlargement process is shown.
Bocas del Toro Archipelago
It is logical that this rosary of Caribbean islands is the main resort of the country. According to the locals, everything here is good: take a beach bike ride, hum an improvised calypso on Isla Bastimentos or enjoy a relaxed dinner in a thatched cottage on the seafront. You can surf, snorkel among beautiful corals and large starfish, or participate in volunteer programs that help sea turtles nest.
Have you been to any of these magical destination? Let us know in the comments