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Alcion: Central America Discovery

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Jumping off from the Panama Canal, this really is a journey of discovery, revealing the highlights of 6 countries crammed into the isthmus linking Mexico with South America. Crowned by a chain of volcanoes, dotted with twinkling lakes, defined with coral beaches, blessed with a balmy mix of tropical and temperate climate, and punctuated with lively indigenous villages, Mayan ruins and impressive colonial towns, these lands offer a breathtaking experience for visitors.

The area is especially rich in its biodiversity, and extensive national parks have been established in the sultry rainforests, along the sparkling coastline and across the rocky mountain slopes, where profuse wildlife can be observed in its natural habitat. Explore some delightful towns, hike, ride, raft, shop, snorkel; there is something here to indulge every enthusiasm.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart, arriving Panama City the same evening.

Day 1

Overnight in the capital.

Day 2

Explore Panama City and the Canal.

Day 3

Head west to the highland town of Boquete.

Day 4

Travel to Colón Island.

Day 5

Bocas del Toro

Day 6

Cross into Costa Rica and continue to Sarapiqui.

Day 7

Explore National Parks, bird watch, white-water raft or just relax.

Days 8-9

Visit the Monteverde cloud forest.

Day 10

Cross into Nicaragua.

Days 11-12

Explore Ometepe Island

Day 13

By boat and road to colonial Granada.

Day 14

Visit Masaya National Park

Day 15

Travel to the former political hothouse of León.

Days 16-17

Bus through Honduras and into El Salvador to historic Suchitoto.

Days 18-19

Visit the Mayan ruins of Copán.

Days 20-21

Cross into Guatemala and continue to colonial Antigua.

Day 22

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

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What our experts say

Our popular Alción tour of Central America is an overland journey of discovery, transporting you from Panama to Guatemala in three weeks while taking in all of the varied natural and cultural highlights of a staggering six contrasting countries along the way. A long-time favourite among our clients, this trip offers a different highlight every day.

Alex Walker

Alexandra Walker

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Alcion: Central America Discovery

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Panama City
Panama City

Panama City is more cosmopolitan than Latin, and enjoys a strategic position which has led to an eventful history, with immigrants arriving from all over the world. On the Pacific coast Panama la Vieja, the first Spanish colonial site of the city and a conduit for plundered gold and oriental silks and spices was sacked by pirates and abandoned. The city moved to what is now known as Casco Viejo where vestiges of colonial streets and buildings have been restored, cocktail bars and trendy restaurants have opened and a lively cultural hub has been established. The sky-scraper filled modern city, hub of commerce and international trade linked to the Panama Canal is an energetic quarter buzzing with shopping malls, sophisticated restaurants and entertainment. Away from the bustle along the Pacific coast, you’ll find relaxed resort hotels with a multitude of activities.

When to go

Situated well within the tropics, Panama City has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures (over 30°C) all year round. May-Nov is rainy season. The city lies outside the main hurricane belt.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Balboa. The national currency is at parity with the US dollar, and only US banknotes are used. (There are some local coins equivalent to US cents). There are a few ATMs in the city where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, amounts may be limited, and vary from bank to bank. Notes can be obtained from exchange houses and also from banks which will supply advances on a debit or credit card. Panamanians are sometimes reluctant to accept US dollar notes of higher denominations. 

Time difference

GMT -5 hrs.

Combines with

 A couple of days staying in Soberanía National Park, where residents include a large variety of mammals, amphibians and reptiles, as well as a profusion of bird species.

Getting there

There are flights via US and European hubs, the journey from London takes around taking around 13 hours.

Key events
Carnival, Feb-Mar. is celebrated with much gusto in Panama City: costumed revelry, music and dancing culminate in a big Shrove Tuesday parade.
Semana Santa, Easter. Celebrated with religious processions. 
Independence Day, 4 Nov. A huge parade through the old city. 

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Boquete and the Chiriquí Highlands
Coffee Plantation in Boquete Panama

Inland from David on the sultry coast, the highlands of Chiriquí province provide a welcome relief from the humidity. The cool mountain air, rugged mist-shrouded hills, Alpine forests and boulder-strewn rivers come together to create a delightful landscape, while the fertile volcanic soils produce an abundance of coffee and citrus fruits. Visitors flock to the attractive town of Boquete, a centre for outdoor adventures. The volcano Barú (3,475m) looms above the town and River Caldera runs through a steep gorge, while the La Amistad National Park straddles the border with Costa Rica with hiking trails, bathing pools and waterfalls.

When to go

Temperatures in the highlands (1,000m) are uniformly high at 25°C all year round but at altitude the air is much fresher than on the coast. The rainy season is Apr-Nov while Jan-Mar is fairly dry. The region lies outside the main hurricane belt.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Balboa. The national currency is at parity with the US dollar, and only US banknotes are used. (There are some local coins equivalent to US cents). There are  ATMs in main towns and cities (including one in Boquete) where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the  UK and amounts may be limited. You are best advised to acquire dollar bills before travelling to the province. Panamanians are sometimes reluctant to accept US dollar notes of higher denominations.

Time difference

GMT -5 hrs.

Combines with

A beach wind-down on the Caribbean Bocas del Toro archipelago, with 6 large tropical forested islands and scores of smaller ones. The islands have pristine beaches, coral reefs, and excellent snorkelling and diving.

Getting there

It’s a 1 hour flight from Panama City to David, from where it is a 1 hour drive up to Boquete (38 km) on a paved road.

Key Events
Feria de las Flores y del Café: Boquete, Jan. A festival to celebrate flowers and coffee takes place over a two week period starting the second week of the month, during the coffee harvest. It attracts vendors and visitors from well beyond the region.
Independence from Spain Day, Boquete, 28 Nov. A day-long parade of marching bands from all over the country.

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Bocas del Toro and The Caribbean
Bocas Del Toro

From the desolate beaches that pepper the coast near the Costa Rican border to the impenetrably wild forests on the fringes of the Darien Gap, the majority of Panama’s Caribbean coast has remained unspoiled since well before Captain Morgan arrived to plunder Portobello in 1668.Vestiges of this period are evident in the now tranquil fortresses that look out majestically over the stunning bay of Portobello.

Far removed from the glittering sophistication of Panama City is the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro, near the border with Costa Rica. Long isolated from the rest of the country the forested coral islands and adjoining mangrove-stifled mainland it still has a remote, pristine ambience. Banana plantations brought the region into the embrace of the country’s economy and now developers have their eye on the virgin real estate for future condominiums. However, much of the province is protected: the Bastimentos Marine Park is an important conservation area offering superb diving and snorkelling. With a laid back Afro-Caribbean culture alongside friendly indigenous villages, it’s a lovely place to relax.

A short distance off the Caribbean Coast lies The San Blas Archipelago, which is described in more detail on the San Blas Islands page.

 


When to go

Situated within the tropics, Bocas del Toro has a balmy climate with high temperatures (over 30°C) all year round. Although there is plenty of sun, the province receives copious rainfall throughout the year; the drier months tend to be Feb-Mar and Sep-Oct. The region lies outside the main hurricane belt.

Language

Spanish, English and native tongues.

Getting local currency

Balboa. The national currency is at parity with the US dollar, and only US banknotes are used. (There are some local coins equivalent to US cents). There’s an ATM in Bocas del Toro town where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited. You are best advised to acquire dollar bills before travelling to the province. Panamanians are sometimes reluctant to accept US dollar notes of higher denominations.

Time difference

GMT -5 hrs.

Combines with

The Chiriquí highland region of temperate cloud forest (70km by road), with mountain villages and prolific wildlife, is ideal for hiking: quetzals and jaguars may be spotted in La Amistad International Park; a few days at a rural retreat in Boquete (3hr scenic drive) with a visit to a coffee finca.

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San Jose, central highlands and central valleys
Central San José
Costa Rica’s busy capital, San José, is a city on the move, where the choking traffic and crowds are mitigated by the eager friendliness of the people. There are some good museums and excellent restaurants but no colonial core: it’s a modern place, full of offices, North American style bars and malls - many US citizens visit or are resident in the country and their cultural influence is strong. The landscapes around however are delicious, both in the rolling coffee country of the highlands and in the fertile central valley, watched over by the smouldering Poás and Irazú volcanoes.
When's the best time to go to San Jose and central highlands?

If good weather is your priority, choose the dry season Dec - Apr when there is plenty of sun. The green (i.e. rainy) season is quieter in terms of number of visitors. San José, at 1,150m, has a pleasant climate with temperatures averaging 15-25°C.

What's the official language of San Jose and central highlands?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in San Jose and central highlands?

Colón. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited to amounts lower than in the UK. US dollars cash can be exchanged in banks too.

What's the time difference between San Jose and central highlands?

GMT -5 hours.

What places combine well with San Jose and central highlands?

A visit to the Caribbean or Pacific coasts for a beach wind down; Arenal, in the north, the most spectacular volcano; Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, for excellent bird watching. There are light aircraft flights from San José airport to many destinations. Costa Rica is a tiny country so road journeys, even winding ones through the highlands, are relatively short. Some roads are in good condition while others are poor and  require 4WD vehicles

How do I get to San Jose and central highlands?

There is a direct flight from London Gatwick to San José (11 hrs) as well as non-direct flights via US and European hubs.

What are the cultural events in San Jose and central highlands?
International Arts Festival: San José, Mar. Music, dance, film art exhibitions.
Independence Day: San José, 15 Sep. music and dancing in the streets starting the evening before.
El Tope: San José, 26 Dec. A horse parade through the city is followed by fairs, fireworks and bull-running south of the city.

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Monteverde and the cloud forest
Monteverde and the Cloud Forest
Native cloud forest has mostly been removed from the rolling Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range in Costa Rica’s northwest. Happily the protected Monteverde Reserve conserves a lush environment of humid vegetation so rich in wildlife that it has become a base for naturalists from all over the world.


The magical forest is frequently swathed in mist, which encourages the growth of mosses and ferns which add to the fairyland feel. The many indigenous mammals and birds can thrive undisturbed, and observation of many of these is more or less guaranteed. The park is the habitat of the Resplendent quetzal, and has the largest number of orchid varieties in the world.

When's the best time to visit Monteverde?

At 1,400m and frequently swathed in mist, Monteverde has cooler temperatures than the lowlands. It can rain at any time but most precipitation falls between May - Nov. This “green” season is quieter in terms of visitor numbers. The best months for bird-watching are Feb - Apr.

What's the official language of Monteverde?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Monteverde?

Colón. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in San José and other major towns a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited to amounts lower than in the UK. US dollars cash can be exchanged in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) too. Obtain your local currency before heading off to Monteverde.

What's the time difference between Monteverde and UK?

GMT -5 hours.  

What places combine well with Monteverde?

A visit to the Pacific coast for a beach wind down; Arenal, in the north, the most spectacular volcano in Costa Rica (2-3 hours by road). Costa Rica is a tiny country so road journeys, even winding ones through the highlands, are relatively short. Some roads are in good condition while others require 4WD vehicles.

How do I get to Monteverde?
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is reached by a 3hr drive from San José along the main paved Panamerican Highway, followed by a 1.5 hour uphill drive along a bumpy and winding all weather road. 
What are the cultural events in Monteverde?

Monteverde Music Festival: Monteverde Institute, Jan - Apr. Informal sessions by jazz and classical artists.

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Ometepe Island
Ometepe Island
Relaxed, tranquil Ometepe  - the largest freshwater island in the world, rising from Lake Nicaragua, is dominated by the twin volcanoes of Concepción and Maderas. There’s a timeless feel to the place, where legends and jaguar cults are still in circulation, and the people lead a traditional rural lifestyle avoiding the boisterous political events of the country.  The volcanic landscapes are partially blanketed with luxuriant jungle vegetation populated by monkeys and a plethora of bird species. Thanks to the rich, fertile soil, the slopes and flatter parts of the island are peppered with citrus, banana, watermelon, avocado and cacao plantations.
When to go

The island has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures all year round at low altitude. May - Nov is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. It can be windy Nov - Feb. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Córdoba. There’s a bank with an ATM close to the pier where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A visit to colonial Granada on the lakeshore; a boat adventure down the tropical San Juan river to the west of the lake. 
Getting there

There are boat connections from Granada and San Carlos, or a 1 hour public ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa.

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Granada
The gorgeous colonial city of Granada is a paradox: now the country’s principal emblem of restoration and beautification, it has a history of piracy and pillage. The oldest city in Central America is nowadays quiet, peaceful and easily explored on foot, but increasingly seen by foreigners as an attractive place to buy a home, as is the case in Antigua, Guatemala or San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.  Squatting on the lakeshore and at the foot of Mombacho volcano it has a romantic setting almost unequalled on the continent.
When to go

Granada has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures all year round May-Nov is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. It can be windy Nov - Feb. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Córdoba. There are several banks with ATMs where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and amounts may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A visit to Granada’s historical rival, colonial León (114 km); Ometepe Island, reached by road and ferry (50 km).
Getting there

An hour’s drive from Managua.

Key events

La Hípica, Granada, 2nd week Sep. Horse riding events preceded by bull running through the town’s streets.

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León Map
Like Granada, the core of Nicaragua’s second city and intellectual capital is brimful with red-tiled colonial-style buildings but, unlike its peaceful rival, effervesces with artistic and political energy.

Founded in Nicaragua’s plantation-covered northwest corner, León Viejo (now being excavated) was the capital of the country until destroyed by an earthquake in 1609. A city with a strong religious tradition, it hosts a dozen crumbly churches juxtaposed with murals depicting events from Nicaragua’s revolutionary story. There’s a university and its students enliven the nightlife scene.
When to go

León has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures (30°C upwards) all year round. May - Oct is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Córdoba. There are several banks with ATMs where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and withdrawal amounts may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A visit to León’s historical rival, colonial Granada (114 km); Matagalpa, a northern mountain town in coffee country close to the Selva Negra Nature cloud forest reserve. (115 km).
Getting there

From Managua (75 km) it’s a 1 hour drive to León, from Granada (114 km), 2 hours.

Key events

Semana Santa, Easter.  Religious ceremonies and processions with a street carpet of designs created in sawdust, not unlike Antigua’s (Guatemala) carpet of flowers.

Día de la Concepción, León, 7 Dec. Fiesta with dancing, music and fireworks.

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Suchitoto

The enchanting colonial town of Suchitoto (‘place of birds and flowers’) just a short drive north from the capital, is one of the country’s most popular attractions. It has emerged from its pivotal role in the civil war to blossom as a centre for arts and culture. Visitors flock to explore the cobbled lanes flanked by squat, red-roofed adobe houses, its exquisite chalk-white baroque church and viewpoints over the surrounding countryside. But it is not just a tourist destination; much of its appeal lies in the fact that it is still a working town, with boutique hotels sitting alongside thriving markets.

When to go

Suchitoto has a tropical climate all year round with temperatures hovering around 30°C. The dry season is Nov-Apr. The rainy season, May-Oct, is characterised by mostly evening and nocturnal showers. Weekends in the town are lively, with artistic performances taking place on many Saturdays. The February arts festival is a big attraction and well attended.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

US dollar. The former local currency( colon) was phased out in 2003. You can obtain US dollar cash or exchange travellers cheques locally in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) and may be able to obtain cash advances from a couple of ATMs in Suchitoto among other large towns and cities. You should authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs

Combines with

A visit to the lovely colonial town of Antigua in Guatemala, similarly a centre for the arts (6-7hrs by road crossing the land border at La Hechadura); the Ruta del las Flores (112km by road to Juayúa, 1hr 45mins).

Getting there

The town is a 1.5hr drive from San Salvador via the Panamerican Highway.

Key events
Festival Permanente de Arte y Cultura, Suchitoto, Feb annually. An important festival with many events attracting international performers: opera, concerts, theatre and film are all represented.  
Semana Santa, Easter.  Among other religious celebrations, a victorious figure of Christ parades through town on an ass on Palm Sunday. There are also street mosaics blanketing a selection of roads.
Día de la Cruz, Suchitoto, 3 May. Processions with fruit and flowers and sweets offered to Santa Cruz. 
Fiesta del Aniversario el 15 de Julio, Suchitoto, 15 Jul. Colourful folklore presentations throughout the town. 
Fiestas Patronales Virgen de Santa Lucia, Suchitoto, 12-13 Dec. Many cultural activities including masked performances and processions in honour of the town’s patron saint.

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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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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.

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

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We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

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Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Alcion: Central America Discovery

  • Lake Atitlán 4 days from £553pp

    Travel by road from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, where clear azure-to-silver waters reflect emerald forests cloaking the surrounding volcanoes.  Explore this traditional highland region of Guatemala, embracing one of the world's most picturesque lakes.

    Day 1: You will be escorted by road to the small village of Santa Catarina Palopó on the lake-shore outside the main town, Panajachel. “Pana” is a pleasant tourist centre with dozens of market stalls selling traditional textiles and artisan craftwork. International visitors’ gastronomic tastes are well catered for: there’s a plethora of crêperies and cool bars.

    Day 2: Your colonial-style hotel, Villa Santa Catalina is in a peaceful setting. You can relax on the terrace overlooking the lake, by the swimming pool or in the pretty gardens. Alternatively you can organise excursions to some of the nearby villages: most of them have their own market, distinctive costume and personality.

    Day 3: Return to Antigua and the hotel Casa de las Fuentes, a former colonial mansion 10mins’ walk from the main square.

    Day 4: Continue your holiday or return to Guatemala airport for your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily.

  • Tikal 4 days from £740pp

    Widely considered the most impressive of all Mayan sites (and we agree), Tikal is shrouded in remote rainforest. Carved stelae are ubiquitous in this pre-Columbian skyscraper city. Three steeply-stepped pyramids poke through the rainforest canopy, allowing climbers panoramic jungle views. Stay at the Jungle Lodge, basic cottages close to the ruins.

    Day 1: Fly from Guatemala City to Flores and continue by lonely road to the lodge within the national park, its grounds often swarming with exotic mammals and bird life. You will be escorted on a tour of the archaeological ruins.

    Day 2: Since you are staying close to the entrance, you may revisit the park in the morning, before all the day trippers arrive. As dawn breaks you can see and hear the wildlife as it awakens: toucans, parrots and spider monkeys are rampant.

    Day 3: Transfer back to the airport and fly back to Guatemala City. Stay at Hotel Barceló near the fashionable Zona Viva with its museums, art galleries, cafés and boutiques.

    Day 4: Continue your holiday or return to the airport for your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily, lunch day 1.

  • Contadora beach 4 days from £387pp

    Contadora is the most notable of the Pearl Islands with a current population of around 250 inhabitants. This was where the Spanish counted the pearls which were harvested from the other islands in the archipelago; hence the name of the island, which means 'counter' or 'book-keeper' in Spanish.

    The islands produced pearls of many colours and sizes, and during the many years when pearls were harvested from the waters around the islands, the indigenous population would converge on Contadora to count their pearls and sell them to the Spaniards.

    Today, Contadora is home to several small hotels, a clutch of restaurants, eight beautiful beaches and many luxurious holiday homes. The island´s roads area paved and most visitors and inhabitants travel around in golf carts (if not walking) and private planes. You will be met at the ferry terminal by a representative of your guesthouse and escorted to the accommodation.

    Gerald´s Bed & Breakfast has just eight well-appointed guest rooms.  The restaurant is one of the best on the island (there are currently 5) with a varied menu including German specialties – the proprietor is German. The roof top terrace has a small swimming pool and offers views of the Pacific Ocean. Playa Larga, one of the island´s most beautiful beaches is just 3 minutes' walk away and it is also within walking distance of the ferry´s usual landing place.

    Day 1: Your ferry ride to Contadora island takes about two hours.

    Days 2,3: Enjoy days at leisure on the island's white sand beaches or book optional tours such as trips round the island, snorkelling, dolphin and humpback whale-watching (July – Oct), deep sea fishing, diving, and early morning nature walks. The island is indented with pretty sandy bays, while inland you'll find verdant woodland. The island's tiny airstrip runs down across spine.

    Day 4: Continue your holiday or transfer to the airport for your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily.

  • Panama's Cultural Heartland - The Azuero Peninsula 4 days from £1,031pp

    Panama’s cultural heartland, the Azuero Peninsula, has a heady mix of indigenous heritage, contemporary Spanish-inspired culture and cattle-raising. The region certainly sits slap bang in the centre of the country, on the Pacific side. The Azuero Peninsula has a rich history dating back to pre-Columbian indigenous groups, with many artefacts and ceremonial sites uncovered by archaeologists. The indians did not survive the Spanish invasion though, and nowadays there is a distinctly Hispanic tradition, best observed in the region’s festivals and colonial architecture.

    Day 1: It’s a 4hr shared road transfer from Panama City to Chitre, capital of the Herrera province.

    Day 2: On today’s guided excursion you will be introduced to the cultural traditions of the Azuero Peninsula. Visit a family house where grotesque devil masks are made; a local drum maker who uses razor sharp chisels to hollow out cylindrical cuts of wood and call in on a potter who has been spinning his wheel manually for decades. At the home of a maker of pollera dresses - introduced by the colonial Spanish - sometimes it is a man who was does the sewing. In each place you have the chance at trying your hand at the craft yourself.

    Day 3: Urracá, 'the Lord of the Wind, Rain and Thunder', was a chieftain who resisted the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, defeating them on several occasions. Exploring  Urracá's territory you visit his statue before continuing towards San Francisco de la Montaña where you visit the church, a 1727 jewel of baroque art with hundreds of hand-carved altar pieces demonstrating a fusion between Spanish Catholicism and indigenous culture. Continue to the San Juan river canyon and La Yeguada lagoon for a short hike through the forest and a swim in the waterfall.

    Day 4: Return to Panama City to continue your holiday or to the city’s airport for your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily.

  • San Blas and the Kuna Indians 3 days from £670pp

    Spend a few days combining relaxing beach-time with an insight into one of Panama’s most distinctive cultures, that of the semi-autonomous Kuna (also known nowadays as Guna) indians.

    San Blas is a necklet of hundreds of coral islands lying off the Caribbean coast and stretching 200km to the border with Colombia, ranging from tiny islets with a cluster of palms to larger, inhabited islands. The Kuna, farmers, fishermen and traders, are notably spiritual and maintain a deeply traditional lifestyle here. The Kuna, famous for their  are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form used in the blouses of the Kuna women's national dress, which is worn daily by many Kuna women. It’s a fascinating lifestyle with which you will have the privilege of getting acquainted.

    Day 1: Take an early morning 50min flight by light aircraft to Playón Chico airstrip. You’ll be staying at Yandup Lodge, with simple, understated but comfortable bamboo-constructed beds with bright fabrics, a ceiling fan, private bathrooms (no hot water - this is the tropics) ,and a hammock on the veranda. The dining room overlooks the Caribbean, as almost everything does, and all meals are served en famille.

    Day 2: Spend time alongside the Kuna and enjoy relaxing on the pearly white beaches, where the glass-clear water invites you to snorkel out to the coral reef.

    Day 3: Return by canoe to the airstrip and fly back to Panama City to connect with your flight home or continue your holiday.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Lunch and dinner day 1, full board day 2, breakfast day 3.

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Start Date

14 Dec 2019

End Date

4 Jan 2020

Price pp

£2,817

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£703

Start Date

4 Jan 2020

End Date

25 Jan 2020

Price pp

£2,938

Single
Supplement

£728

Start Date

15 Feb 2020

End Date

7 Mar 2020

Price pp

£2,938

Single
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£728

Start Date

21 Mar 2020

End Date

11 Apr 2020

Price pp

£3,109

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£921

Start Date

25 Apr 2020

End Date

16 May 2020

Price pp

£2,938

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£728

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1 Aug 2020

End Date

22 Aug 2020

Price pp

£2,938

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£728

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17 Oct 2020

End Date

7 Nov 2020

Price pp

£2,938

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£728

Start Date

14 Nov 2020

End Date

5 Dec 2020

Price pp

£2,938

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£728

Start Date

12 Dec 2020

End Date

2 Jan 2021

Price pp

£2,938

Single
Supplement

£728

 
Please note

March departure coincides with Semana Santa (Easter) celebrations in Antigua and is one day longer to make the most of this.

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