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Guatemala and Honduras uncovered

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This holiday to culture-rich Guatemala and the less well-known republic of Honduras takes you to some remote but extremely beautiful regions dotted with vestiges of a fascinating history. You start off in Antigua, one of the Spanish Empire’s most beautiful cities crammed with colonial mansions and flowery squares. Travel on to two of the Mayan civilisation’s most impressive archaeological sites, Tikal in Guatemala’s jungle lowlands and Copán over the border in Honduras.

Between these two visits you’ll head down the Rio Dulce in eastern Guatemala through mangroves and tropical forest, visiting a 16th century colonial fortress en route to the quirky town of Livingston, with its English-Caribbean-influenced Garifuna culture. Later you have a wildlife experience based at the extremely well-regarded, first-class Pico Bonito Lodge set in intact rainforest. Finally, head out to Roatán, one of the Bay Islands, for some beach-time and maybe a bit of snorkelling or scuba diving on the rich coral reef.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Guatemala City and transfer to hotel in Antigua.

Day 2

Optional excursion to Pacaya volcano.

Day 3

Fly to Flores, guided tour of the Mayan ruins at Tikal.

Day 4

By road to Livingston via San Felipe fortress.

Day 5

At leisure among the Garifuna on the Caribbean coast.

Day 6

Drive over the border to Copán in Honduras via Quiriguá ruins.

Day 7

Guided tour of the ruined Mayan city Copán.

Day 8

By road to Pico Bonito via Lancetilla National Park.

Day 9

Excursion to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve.

Day 10

Guided excursion to Cayos Cochinos.

Day 11

Transfer to La Ceiba, fly to Roatán island.

Days 12-13

At leisure on the Caribbean coral island.

Day 14

Fly to San Pedro Sula connect with international flight.

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What our experts say

If scuba diving in the Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras, spotting manatee at a dedicated reserve in Guatemala or travelling on a hand-powered railroad car, propelled along the tracks of an old banana plantation train isn’t uncovering these two countries, then I don’t know what is! I’ve designed this trip so you can really get under the skin of these two easily accessible countries, which nonetheless both retain a sense of adventure.

Annerys Hockley

Annerys Hockley

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Guatemala and Honduras uncovered

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Antigua and the highlands
Antigua

Antigua was once one of Spanish America’s greatest cities, its prosperity and importance interrupted by earthquakes. Nowadays it is a peaceful, multi-national place retaining the best aspects of its Guatemalan heritage. Lovely to look at, it hosts lanes and shady plazas where flowering plants spill over crumbly walls, and pastel-painted colonial façades are punctuated with heavy wooden doors.

Boutiques, galleries, arty cafés and restaurants thrive here. The city is encircled by three volcanic peaks, along the fertile skirts of which flourish orchards and kitchen gardens. Beyond in the western highlands are traditional villages with flourishing markets. Chichicastenango, 1,965m, is the best known but others such as Zunil are also a riot of colour.

When to go
The best weather conditions in the upland areas are during the dry season Dec - May. It can be cold in the highlands in winter. Culture lovers may opt to spend Easter in Antigua. The busiest time for tourists is Dec - Mar. 
Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Notes can be withdrawn using a UK credit or debit card from ATMs in Antigua and Chichicastenango. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and each transaction is limited to about £100.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with

Lake Atitlán, 52 km from Antigua by road; Flores, for a visit to Tikal ruins, 1hr by air from Guatemala City (1 hour by road from Antigua).

Getting there

There are flights to Guatemala City via US and European hubs, the journey from London to Guatemala City takes around taking around 13 hours. It’s an hour’s drive from the airport to Antigua.

Key events
Semana Santa, Easter. Celebrations throughout the country; especially impressive in Antigua – justifiably considered the best in Latin America.
Santo Tomás, Chichicastenango, 13 -22 Dec. Processions, traditional dancing, marimba music.

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Tikal

The Petén of northern Gualtemala is a vast lowland blanketed in dense tropical rainforest. Nowadays it’s sparsely inhabited but this was not the case in the past: the Mayan city of Tikal, which began its development before 250AD, grew to be a vast cultural, religious and commercial centre. Following its collapse (c. 900AD) its jungle remoteness kept it isolated until roads and airstrips brought it within reach in the late 20th century. With its surviving temple pyramids piercing the canopy, vast plazas, its wealth of carvings and inscriptions and its location in the midst of a wild-life rich national park it is now one of the continent’s most impressive cultural monuments.

When to go

Mar - Apr are the hottest but also the driest months, while in Dec - Feb it can be chilly at the beginning and end of the day. Most rain falls between May - Oct when there are plenty of mosquitoes and other insects.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Quetzal. Dollars can be exchanged in banks, hotels and travel agencies in Flores, and there are a couple of ATMs where notes may be withdrawn using a UK credit or debit card. (Best not to rely on these and use this method in a larger town before travelling to the Petén). You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and each transaction is limited to about £100.  
Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

Belize: Belize City is a 4-5 hours drive east from Flores (220 km) crossing the land border into western Belize.

Getting there

There are daily flights from Guatemala City (1 hour) to Flores. From here it’s a 1 hour 15mins drive to Tikal.

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Caribbean coast: Rio Dulce and Livingston
Lying to the east of Guatemala City and connecting with the Caribbean coast is the Motagua Valley, which broadens into a steamy tropical floodplain carpeted with banana plantations. This less-visited region of Guatemala provides a very different aspect: an Afro-Caribbean culture focused on the genial garifuna settlement of Livingston, the cool clear waters of the country’s biggest lake, Izabal, and the tropical river Rio Dulce, which ploughs a furrow through an unbroken wall of dense rainforest. Rising from the lake’s mouth is the castle-like fort Castillo de San Felipe which protected this major transport artery from pirates in colonial times.
When to go

The lowlands of the Caribbean coast are hot and sultry, with temperatures over 30°C from May - Oct. This is the period of most rainfall too, though it is copious throughout the year. There’s plenty of sunshine all year though - Mar - Aug are the sunniest months.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Quetzal. Notes can be withdrawn using a UK credit or debit card, although there are few ATMs. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave leave UK and each transaction is limited to about £100. US dollar notes can be exchanged at banks in Puerto Barrios, Rio Dulce and Livingston.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with
The Mayan ruined city of Copán, just over the border in Honduras, accessible by road; Flores (for visit to Tikal ruins), 4.5 hours by road from Rio Dulce.
Getting there
The Atlantic Highway runs from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios (3.5 hours) but Livingston is only accessible by boat from Rio Dulce or Puerto Barrios. 
Key events
Virgen del Rosario: Livingston, 24 - 31 Dec. Traditional dancing.
Garifuna Day: Livingston, 26 Nov.

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Copan
Copán is one of the most impressive Mayan ruins in Mesoamerica and lies at the eastern limit of the empire.  It is not as immense as the sites of Tikal (Guatemala) or Chichén Itzá (Mexico) but here, beneath the tentacles of greedy jungle vegetation, the craftsmanship has survived the vagaries of time - most impressively the intricate carvings of 21 stone columns, or stelae. distributed among the temples and ball courts. The renowned hieroglyphic stairway has 1,250 blocks carved with glyphs - the longest inscribed text in the New World.  Copán fell into decline soon after its apogée in the 8th century.
When to go
The low rolling hills where Copán is set have a hot tropical climate all year round with temperatures ranging from 25-30oC. The rainiest months are Jun - Sep. Sep - Nov is the principal period when hurricanes are possible.
Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Lempira. You are advised to acquire local currency (in small denominations if possible) in advance of a visit to Copán. Poor rates of exchange are offered at the frontier with Guatemala. You can change US dollar cash or travellers cheques in Honduran banks and may be able to obtain cash advances via the few ATMs in larger towns and cities. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited. However these ATMs do not always accept foreign cards, which are also not usable in many smaller hotels and commerce.
Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with

The Mayan city of Tikal, Guatemala, easily accessed by land via the site at Quiriguá (2 hours: a further 3-4 hours to Flores for Tikal); a beach wind down at Tela (276 km), diving and snorkelling from the island of Roatán, 156 km.

Getting there

It’s a 3 hour drive from San Pedro Sula. Copán Ruinas is 12 km (30mins) from the border with Guatemala.

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Bay Islands and beaches
The Bay Islands and the Beaches
Astride the giant coral reef which extends into Belize lie the Bay Islands of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja. Fringed with palm-shaded beaches and lapped by warm, glass-clear Caribbean waters they attract divers, snorkellers and barefoot holiday-makers in large numbers. The islands have a vivid history. Once the base for European pirate attacks on shipping, they were colonised by Carib Indians, former African slaves, and Garifuna communities, creating today’s cultural melting pot to which Honduran Latino immigrants are now adding their influence. It’s a laid-back ambience, beloved of budget travellers and sun-worshippers alike.   On the mainland opposite are a few agreeable resorts: Tela, within reach of glorious beaches, is the most significant.
When to go

The coastal lowlands have a hot tropical climate all year round with temperatures peaking over 30oC. On the islands, Oct - Feb is the season when rainfall may be heavy and hurricanes are possible. The best time to visit the islands is Mar - Sep when the water is clear and untroubled and there is plenty of sunshine during the day.

Language
Spanish, English, smatterings of French and Garifuna. Many people on the islands speak a version of Caribbean creole.
Getting local currency
Lempira. You can change US dollar cash or travellers cheques locally in banks and may be able to obtain cash advances at one or other of the banks on Roatán. You are, however, advised to acquire lempiras before heading to the islands, though US dollars cash are accepted in some places.
Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A few days at the eco-lodge in Pico Bonito National Park; further diving experiences across the border in neighbouring Belize.
Getting there

There are domestic flights (less than 25mins) to all the islands from La Ceiba and daily flights from the capital Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula to Roatán. Tela is accessible by road (93 km) from San Pedro Sula (1 hour 20mins).

Key events

Semana Santa, Easter. Celebrated from Thursday through to Easter Sunday.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Our specialists have been expertly crafting award-winning tailor-made holidays to Latin America for over 37 years.
We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

97% of our clients rated their experience with us as Excellent or Good.

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Guatemala and Honduras uncovered

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