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6 of the best Central American journeys

For those considering Central America for the first time, we offer a handy guide to six of the best Central American journeys. Discover the rainforest canopies of Costa Rica, snow-white beaches of Belize, old colonial towns of Guatemala and much more. Guatemala A breathtakingly beautiful country that is fast becoming one of the most sought-after destinations in Latin America. Plan a Guatemalan itinerary on a bespoke basis, using private vehicles and guides and ‘boutique-style’ hotels located in some amazingly beautiful settings. Choose from an astonishing array of attractions, including such icons as the Mayan ruins at Tikal, the World Heritage Listed city of Antigua and Lake Atitlan, the country’s scenic jewel. Antigua, Guatemala Belize Cross the border into neighbouring Belize and you will discover an equally extraordinary world of jungle-veiled ruins, jaguar preserves and unbroken coral reefs. Most visitors divide their time between the coast, most popularly at the reef protected Ambergris Caye, where we recommend Victoria House, a grand colonial residence located on a quiet stretch of beach, and the jungle, where Chan Chich , part of a privately owned, 250,000-acre nature reserve near Gallon Jug, and Chaa Creek, a secluded riverside lodge in the shadow of the Maya Mountains, are two of the best places to stay. Belize diving The best time to visit Guatemala and Belize is during the ‘dry’ season from December to April. Costa Rica When Christopher Columbus came in 1502 he called it the ‘Rich Coast’, a term which could equally apply to the country’s lush, tropical vegetation or the gold jewellery worn by the local Indian inhabitants. Although gold is a lot thinner on the ground nowadays, the natural landscapes remain, with huge swathes protected as National Parks. Costa Rica’s statistics encompass 800 species of birdlife, 8,000 varieties of orchid and more than 10% of all butterfly species, bringing vivid splashes of colour to the jungles and cloud forests of the country’s volcanic interior. Costa Rica also has both a Caribbean and Pacific coastline and a history of peace and stability. Squirrel monkey, Costa Rica The best time to visit is from December to March. Nicaragua Now at peace after decades of conflict, Nicaragua is the welcome addition to our Central American portfolio. It is a charmingly un-commercialised country with a rich indigenous culture, some of the oldest Spanish settlements in the Americas, vast inland seas, spectacular volcanic peaks and a tropical Pacific coastline. We are particularly happy to recommend the beachfront Morgan’s Rock Hacienda which is the flagship of Nicaragua’s burgeoning eco-tourism. Granada Cathedral, Nicaragua Panama This year is the 100th anniversary of the building of the Canal, a feat still ranked as the most important engineering achievement in history. But there’s more to discover here than just the ‘big ditch’, including the rich tropical forests of the Soberania National Park, remote mountain villages and coffee plantations. For wonderful beaches we would suggest taking a short flight to the San Blas archipelago of some 400 palm-fringed Caribbean islands that are home to the indigenous Kuna tribe. The lithe serpentine geography of Panama is divided by its most famous attraction, the 80km-long Panama Canal, but there is so much more to discover here than just the ‘big ditch’ – the rich tropical forests of the Soberania National Park, remote mountain villages and coffee plantations hidden away in the country’s volcanic interior, and the San Blas Islands, an idyllic Caribbean archipelago of some 400 palm-fringed islands that are home to the indigenous Kuna tribe. Panama Canal The best time to visit either Panama or Nicaragua is from December to March. Mexico Most UK visitors focus on Cancun and the beach resorts to the south, with side trips to the Mayan archaeological sites within a day trip radius of the beach. Our approach is different; a journey from the Sierra Madre to Baja California, a route which will reveal some of Mexico’s most magnificent scenery and one of its most fascinating indigenous tribes, together with the delights of Baja California. From Mexico City you fly north to Chihuahua to board the Chihuahua al Pacifico train for a two-day 400-mile train journey that skirts the mile-deep Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre, home to the Tarahumara Indians, then fly west to the tip of the Baja Peninsula for a three-night stay at a stylish boutique hotel. Palenque Ruins, Mexico The best time to visit is either Autumn (Sep/Oct) or Spring (Mar/Apr). Nick Van Gruisen is Managing Director of The Ultimate Travel Company. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. I have been interested in Costa Rica for a while now, and maybe Mexico, and the trip described here from the Sierra Madre to Baja California sounds like a good way to go.

  2. This is a really helpful article, that highlights some superb destinations. I have been to Mexico, but not in the way described, which sounds wonderful and I have always wanted to go to Belize.

  3. Hi, just like Lee we (Nina and myself) are very interested in Costa Rica. Not only travel-wise but maybe as our new home country in a couple of years. So the more info, the better. As a scuba diver I do like what you mention about the unbroken coral reefs in Belize. A place to put on our bucket-list.

  4. Nice post. I just read the blog carefully. It’s full with information. I have been to Mexico, but not in the way described, which sounds wonderful and I have always wanted to go to Belize. Thanks

  5. These are stunning photos and capture what it is about each country that means central america is probably on everyone’s bucket list! I would love to go but being so far away I think it needs at least a month to really get a feel for it? Jamaica is as close as I’ve gotten to here. I guess it is best to see them soon before the tourists arrive on masse!

  6. They all look and sound wonderful but I think the birds, butterflies and orchids of Costa Rica has the edge for me. I recently visited a forest in the clouds on the volcanic island of La Gomera. It was very atmospheric and wonderful to photograph.

  7. This is a really handy guide with just a brief overview on some key attractions and useful tips on several Central American countries. I haven’t visited anywhere in this part of the world though Heather took a cruise around the Mexican islands and Cozumel a few years ago. She indicated that it was ‘very different’ there even if they visited more of the touristy locations because she was on the cruise.

    I follow quite a few travel blogs focused solely on Costa Rica and the images they display echo the one you have included with a myriad of gorgeous natural landscapes and wildlife.

  8. Antigua is such a pretty town, I can’t wait to walk its cobblestone streets. Tikal sounds like an epic time as well!

  9. It’s disappointing not to see Honduras here. We also have impressive Mayan ruins, rich coral reef and beautiful islands, great beaches, indigenous culture, colonial towns, waterfalls, mountains, lakes and MUCH more…

    Also disappointing is to see Mexico in this list. Mexico is not Central America. Nothing against them but geographically it’s just not part of Central America.

  10. I’m really hoping to go to CR and Nicaragua at the end of the year! It would be great of anyone had more tips on these places!

  11. It’s great to see Nicaragua on this list. Conde Nast listed it as one of the top destinations to watch 2014. It is an off the beaten path destination in Latin America that is slowly being “discovered” by tourists.

  12. Nicaragua is the up-and-coming destination in Central America. All throughout the country you can see the effort in investing in hotel infrastructure, with Ometepe Island and especially Granada leading the way in terms of upscale boutique hotels.

  13. Thanks for all the comments on this article, perhaps it’s time to extend our top 6 list with all your suggestions, such as Eric’s suggestion of Honduras. Glad you’ve found it useful! If you need any help at all planning your Central American adventures please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts, they’d be delighted to help. Nick

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