Trip reference number: ITN-MEX002
Trip Operator: Rainbow Tours
This exciting itinerary highlights the best of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala all in one trip. Take in stunning landscapes of volcanoes and shimmering lakes, wildlife rich waterways and cloud forest, history and culture and the marvellous feat of engineering that is the Panama Canal.
Day 1 Arrive to Panama City and you will be met and taken to your hotel for the next three nights.
Day 2 After breakfast, your tour starts at the Panama Canal, a magnificent feat of engineering, the one Balboa had dreamt about since 1513. Stop at the Visitor Centre of Miraflores Locks and watch the operation of the canal and the ships passing through. The tour continues to the Old Quarter of Panama City, declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, thanks to its eclectic fusion of colonial, neoclassic and French architecture. Visit the emblematic colonial buildings, churches and palaces.
Day 3 Today enjoy a half day partial canal transit. Enjoy a panoramic view of the city, the Bridge of the Americas and the spectacular gulf dotted with many boats waiting to pass through the canal. Experience the workings of the canal first hand as your boat passes through. The tour ends in Gamboa before you will be then driven back to the city.
Day 4 This morning fly to San Jose, in Costa Rica. Upon arrival you will be driven to Monteverde, a journey of approximately 4 hours. This evening, perhaps opt to explore the cloud forest under the cover of darkness.
Day 5 Today visit the Selvatura Walkways and obtain a bird's eye view of the jungle as you traverse the canopy via a network of suspended bridges. The reserve is mainly primary cloudforest and is shrouded in mist for most of the year. The area is home to more than 400 species of bird, including the famous resplendent quetzal which is best seen in the dry months of January to May. Spot hummingbirds and iridescent morphos butterflies at the butterfly garden.
Day 6 Depart Monteverde today and cross over Lake Arenal by boat for wonderful views of the Arenal Volcano. The lake is the largest and the most important lake in Costa Rica and was man made in 1974 to provide hydroelectric energy for the country. Spend the next 2 nights in Costa Rica’s adventure capital.
Day 7 Explore one of Central America’s most famous volcanoes; Arenal, on a hike today. Discover the fascinating flora and fauna in the area along the way. Learn about the history of this volcano and how its eruptions have affected the region and those living in the area. After the two-and-a-half-hour walk, relax those muscles in the Tabacon hot springs. Thanks to the volcanic geothermal activity beneath Arenal, the area is home to many hot springs.
Day 8 Today you will be driven to the Nicaraguan border. Cross the border and you will be taken to El Castillo on a journey by land and by boat. On the San Juan River, the little village of El Castillo is made up of colourful wooden buildings sat upon stilts. There is an impressive 17th century Spanish fortress dominating the town. Enjoy a guided tour of the village and fortress and in the evening go searching for caiman by moonlight, spot their eyes reflecting the light along the water’s edge.
Day 9 Visit the Indio Maiz Reserve today, dedicated to the preservation and research of its biological diversity. Expect to see howler monkeys, a wide range of birds and brightly coloured frogs as well as endless flora. Then depart to Granada by road, approximately 5 hours, along the shores of Lake Ometepe. Spend the next 2 nights in Granada. Situated on the shores of Central America’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua, Granada is a charming city essential in any visit. A picture postcard at every turn, the city oozes Spanish colonial charm with colourful cobblestoned streets and ornate churches as the imposing Mombacho volcano looms in the background.
Day 10 Explore Nicaragua's beautiful city of Granada, a city home to many colonial churches, narrow streets and large homes with beautiful indoor patios, tiled roofs and pretty colonial colours. Discover the highlights and history of the city and end the day with a relaxing boat ride around some of the islands formed by the impressive Mombacho volcano. See the volcanic evidence and influence of the area. Enjoy panoramic views along the way.
Day 11 Transfer to Managua today to fly to Guatemala City. Upon arrival you will be met and driven to the colonial city of Antigua. The former capital of Guatemala was founded in 1543 and is one of the finest cities in Central America. This pretty town boasts a delightful setting, in the shadow of three volcanoes and surrounded by coffee plantations.
Day 12 Enjoy a walking tour of the beautiful colonial town of Antigua surrounded by its three volcanoes - Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. Explore the main square, the Palace and cathedral, La Merced church, San Francisco Church and the famous Arco de Santa Catalina, while strolling through Antigua’s charming cobbled streets. In the afternoon visit the fabulous Azotea coffee farm and the Maya Traditions Museum to learn about traditional music, costume and traditions.
Day 13 Depart Antigua to Lake Atitlan, truly one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Overlooked by volcanoes, its shores are dotted with Mayan villages. Hotel Atitlan is located close to the lake shore, and there are excellent views of the lake and volcanoes in the distance. The hotel also has a lovely garden and a good sized pool.
Day 14 Take a scenic boat ride across Lake Atitlan to the village of San Juan la Laguna. Visit the women's textile co-operative to see hand-weaving and natural dye processes as well as the homes of the celebrated naif painters. From here, continue to the village of Santiago for lunch and a tour of the village, visiting the Maya God, Maximon and learning about the spiritualism and beliefs of the local T'zutujil Maya.
Day 15 Transfer from the lake one hour by road to the famous market at Chichicastenango (Thursdays and Sundays). Here vendors from the nearby countryside and villages come to sell their wares. You have time to explore the colourful food market, and the excellent craft market. Make sure not to miss the catholic church of Santo Tomas, the front of the church has 18 steps accounting of the 18 months in the Mayan calendar. Late afternoon transfer back to Antigua for the night.
Day 16 This afternoon, travel back to Guatemala City for your international flight home. Alternatively, continue for a more extensive tour of Guatemala, visiting Tikal or perhaps even popping into Honduras to visit the Paris of the Mayan world; Copan.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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