Despite Mexico’s soaring popularity as a holiday destination, the rest of Central America seems to have fallen by the wayside. Years of turmoil may have put visitors off, but there are so many sites to see from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific Ring of Fire that have gone unnoticed. Here are 7 places to add to your bucket list.
Semuc Champey, Lanquin, Guatemala
Nestled in the mountains of Guatemala’s Alta Veraspaz region, Semuc Champey really is a sight to behold. A natural water park of clear, cold pools, winding caves and gentle rivers, you could easily spend a couple of days here. Take a tour through the Lanquin cave system and tube down the river before climbing the mountainside to take in the view.
Tikal, near Flores, Guatemala
Whilst Chichen Itza holds the title of most famous Mayan site, Tikal is arguably the most impressive. Once a sprawling city, it is now a mass of deep jungle with stone temples perforating the canopy. There are so brilliant local guides who will show all the secrets of the place – from the acoustics of the temples to the trees used to create weapons.
Copan is another Mayan site worthy of more visitors. Once ruled over by Mayan ruler and fan of the arts 18 Rabbit, Copan is home to some incredible works of Mayan sculpture from detailed stelae to the amazing Hieroglyphic staircase.
The Great Blue Hole, Belize
Famous amongst divers, The Great Blue Hole is an underwater sinkhole some 300m across. Situated in the middle of Lighthouse Reef it offers great snorkeling opportunities, too, and a chance to meet some very friendly stingrays.
Ik Kil Cenote, Yucatan, Mexico
There are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, but this one is something special. A cenote is formed when the roof of a cave collapses, exposing the pool inside, and Ik Kil is a perfect example of this. Stairs lead down to the pool, and you can swim beneath the lush vegetation growing from the walls.
Nicaragua is a country with a turbulent past, and nowhere is this more visible than in the city of Leon. It was originally built in 1524 but abandoned some 100 years later after a series of earthquakes decimated the region. Modern Leon lies 30km from this original site, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pacaya Volcano, Antigua, Guatemala
Whilst the city of Antigua in Guatemala offers plenty for travelers to see and do, one cannot miss a hike to the summit of active volcano Pacaya – that is, if it isn’t erupting. At ‘quiet’ times, local guides lead groups to the crater and if the volcano is behaving well, you can even poke the lava with a long stick. If not, then the climb is worth it for the views alone.