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Where to go in Central America

Added 09 Jul 2013
Where to go in Central America

Central America has it all: ancient cultures, exotic wildlife, tropical beaches, verdant rainforest and imposing volcanoes. Read more about the wonderful and varied nations that make up this often overlooked region.



The wonderful blend of tropical forests, magnificent Mayan history, beautiful islands and laid-back Caribbean culture means that Belize has something for everyone. Nature lovers can enjoy spotting the exotic colourful local birds, canoe along jungle rivers, and snorkel amongst the nurse sharks, rays and brightly coloured fish. History enthusiasts can admire the many impressive Mayan pyramids and sites scattered throughout the country, often concealed by jungle – while everyone will enjoy the sights and sounds of the rich cultural diversity of this small country (which includes Creole, Garifuna and contemporary Maya), and the relaxed atmosphere of the Caribbean islands.

  Belize is visited on: Discover Belize (BL)

Costa Rica

A haven for nature enthusiasts - the lush forests of Costa Rica support over 800 species of birds (including toucans, humming birds and scarlet macaws), and 5% of the world’s total biodiversity. Costa Rican land mammals include four species of monkey (howler, spider, squirrel and white-headed capuchin), armadillos, sloths, anteaters, capybara, ocelots, racoons, tapir and bats. There are also over 100 species of frogs, over 1,000 species of butterflies and 8,000 species of orchid. The beautiful coastlines of Costa Rica are also important breeding grounds for turtles and whales in season. Almost everywhere you turn in Costa Rica there is wildlife, (although often small or shy), and much of it is endemic.


Costa Rica is visited on:
Quetzals of the Cloudforest (CC)
Costa Rica: Coast to Coast (DCC)
Captivating Costa Rica (QCC)



With its dramatic scenery and vibrant culture, a trip to Guatemala is truly memorable. Guatemala has wonderfully diverse landscapes: mountains and volcanoes, lowland rainforests and colonial towns. And, as well as the famed ancient Mayan sites such as the stunning jungle-covered metropolis of Tikal, Guatemala also has a fascinating and colourful contemporary Mayan culture. The villages around the beautiful Lake Atitlan, overlooked by three volcanoes, produce many of the textiles for which Guatemala is famous. Time spent here offers an insight into these Mayan communities, as do visits to highland villages and local markets. By contrast, the beautiful, bustling colonial city of Antigua, also overlooked by three volcanoes, offers a view of cosmopolitan modern Guatemalan life.

  Guatemala is visited on: Ancient Lands of the Maya (GM)


Nicaragua has a surprisingly laid-back and off-the-beaten track feel. Tourism is in its infancy here, and from the mountainous coffee growing regions of the north, to the lowland jungles of the south and east, there is much to discover and explore. Everything feels like an adventure. The charming colonial cities of Leon and Granada are vibrant places to spend a few days, the San Juan River is a great base for wildlife spotting, and the volcanic Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean Corn Islands are great for relaxing. Local handicrafts are also interesting, including the ceramics produced in villages near to Granada.

  Nicaragua is visited on: Beneath the Volcanoes (NI)

If you can’t make up your mind which to visit first, why not do one of our multi-country tours?

Central American Highlights (CAQ) & Central American Explorer (CAE)

As well as including a selection of the countries above, these trips are the one of the few ways you'll get to see some other great Central American destinations:


El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and one of the least visited. Its dramatic volcanic landscapes, lakes and golden beaches are the backdrop to this genuine off-the-beaten track experience. The interesting colonial town of Suchitoto on the shores of Lago de Suchitlan has become the cultural centre of the country, supporting artists, sculptors and arts festivals, while La Palma in the north-west is famous for its local handicrafts, including wood carvings.

  See our trips to El Salvador


Honduras is the second largest country in Central America after Nicaragua, and many areas remain unvisited, partly due to the mountainous terrain. The most popular attractions are the Mayan metropolis of Copan, a magnificent site of temples and fine examples of Mayan art, and The Bay of Islands. These Caribbean islands off the north coast, including Roatan, offer relaxing golden sand beaches and clear Caribbean waters for snorkelling and scuba diving.

  See our trips to Honduras


There is so much more to Panama than the massive engineering feat, the Panama Canal, for which it is rightly famous. It also boasts tropical forests, national parks and abundant wildlife - including over 900 species of birds. For nature lovers the cool highlands around Boquete are great for hiking and bird watching, while the Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro offer interesting snorkelling and diving. Panama also has a hugely diverse and interesting population, including unique indigenous communities, Spanish descendants, descendants of the original canal builders and those more recently attracted to the vibrant modern Panama City.

  See our trips to Panama

See our full range of tours in South America