Central America

Central America

Lying between North and South America, the seven countries of Central America -Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá- take pride in being habitat to 8% of the world’s biodiversity, while covering only 1% of the planet’s surface. Visiting Central America is like dousing yourself in the essence of exoticism and smiles and immersing yourself into a myriad of tourist and cultural activities offered in each of the countries of the isthmus; a region where you can discover the mysteries of an ancient culture that remains intact to this day. In places like Joyas del Cerén in El Salvador, Tikal in Guatemala and Copán in Honduras, you will travel through time and encounter its timeless cities, discover the meaning of the famous ball game they played or see where Maya rituals were carried out.

Photo: Russell Harrison CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8262862

Besides for discovering the 25 indigenous groups that dazzle you with the intense colourful motifs of their hand-woven cloth and the captivating rhythm of the traditional dances of the garífuna (a combination of the Caribbean and Black African races), you will be amazed by the legacy of the colonial era, as you explore the streets of Granada and León, in Nicaragua, the city that saw the birth and gave inspiration to Rubén Darío, and the magnificent architecture of Antigua, Guatemala or the Casco Viejo of Panamá.

 

You can combine this cultural experience with one of the great attractions of the region: its virgin beaches, spectacular images of crystalline waters bathing the Caribbean coast, fine white sand and water sports, hidden within the depths of the world’s second longest coral barrier reef. On the other coast, the beaches of the Pacific are ideal for surfing and sports fishing.  You will find jungles, waterfalls, rivers and majestic volcanoes on your travels through the Central American lands, in search of adventure sports, such as mountain climbing, rafting or skiing on volcanic sands, and, the truth is that in Central America, respect for and enjoyment of nature go hand in hand, this being one of the pioneering regions in the phenomenon of ecotourism.

Belize

Located on the east coast of Central America along the Caribbean Shoreline, bordering with Guatemala and Mexico, this precious country offers paradisiacal, white sand beaches and turquoise waters which cover the world’s second longest barrier coral reef. However, in besides being the dream country for divers, Belize holds a treasure trove of secrets for adventure lovers, archaeology and rainforest enthusiasts.

Maya World Belize

Belize shares a wealth of Maya heritage with Guatemala, México and is considered to be the heart of this civilization during the classic period. Although Maya occupation of Belize began in the year 1,500 BC, it is believed that during the classic period (250 to 900 AD) when the population surpassed one million persons, leaving archaeological remains like ceramics, steles, palaces, temples and ceremonial centres. It is estimated that there are thousands of Maya Ruins in Belize, although only a few have been found and excavated. We propose a route for you to visit the most important sites and while you are at it, do not overlook the legends and their history: their gods, their beliefs and their wisdom … !

Costa Rica

Bathed by the gentle waters of the Caribbean Sea – Atlantic Ocean and by the Wide Pacific Ocean, this country of little more than 51,000 km2 that shares borders with  Nicaragua and Panamá, is the definition of a true paradise for nature and adventure lovers, given that it is home to 6% of the biodiversity of the entire planet. If you are looking for an authentic adrenalin rush, while respecting the environment, Costa Rica is your ideal destination, being one of the world’s pioneer countries in offering quality ecotourism, and having a full quarter of its territory protected by the State.

sun and Beach

Costa Rica is bathed by the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Therefore it offers an impressive number of beaches where you can lay back and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the outstanding water activities. You will find a wide variety of beaches from fine white sands lined with gracious coconut groves, to kilometres of black sand, ideal for practicing wind sports. The provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas, the southern Caribbean and Cocos Island boast some of the pristine settings with crystal clear waters and white sands, perfect for your well-deserved relaxation or exciting unforgettable experiences swimming with sharks or watching romantic sunsets surrounded by nature at its finest.  Many Costa Rican beaches are awarded the Blue Ecological Banner, given to the country’s best, according to the criteria of water quality, services and respect for the environment.

Photo: CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=344616

El Salvador

El Salvador, known as the “Central American Pompeii ”, it lies on the Pacific coast and is bordered by Guatemala and Honduras.  El Salvador boasts marvellous scenery, its area covers little more than 21.000 km2, yet it is replete with impressive volcanoes, sun drenched beaches, virgin forests, indigenous and colonial and archaeological sites. It is also world famous for being one of the best places on earth for surfing.

Indigenous Peoples

As with other Central American countries, El Salvador was a land inhabited by different indigenous ethnic groups prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. Some of them survive to this day, conserving their culture, traditions and habits, exactly as did their ancestors. Among these groups are the Pipiles, a population of náhuat origin that occupied the centre and the western reaches of the country and the Lencas, who populated the Northeast and East.

Photo: By Isaias master, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11960801

The Pipiles, coming from Mexico, settled in El Salvador around the X Century. Their society was divided into classes and used cacao as barter currency. One of their most important crops was indigo, the stain of which became the principal source of income during the colonial period. They are found in the centre and west of the country, in the Departments of Chalatenango, Santa Ana, Ahuachapán and Sonsonate.  Today the pueblo Lenca is 37.000 strong and fights to preserve its ancestral traditions. The archaeological site at Quelepa is considered one of the principal cities of this culture. It is curious that today’s Salvadoran currency, the Lempira, carries the name of one of the most illustrious of the Lenca, who organized the twelve-year war of résistance against the Spaniard Conquistadors. This valiant population can be found in the northeast and eastern parts of El Salvador, in the Departments of Cabañas, Morazán, La Unión and San Miguel.

Guatemala

Located in the northernmost reaches of the region, this country shares its border with Mexico to the north, Belize and the Caribbean to the East, Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the South.  This privileged geographical location has favoured Guatemala throughout its history by blessing it, not only with great natural beauty but also with abundant cultural wealth. To this day, its borders enclose the homes of numerous indigenous pueblos who preserve their aboriginal cultures, and also contain one of the archaeological sites, most representative of the Maya world.  This beautiful, multicoloured country, the jewel of colonial legacy, guards the secrets of the Garífuna culture on the Caribbean coast and is a splendid natural refuge, comprising impressive forests, grand lakes and imposing volcanoes.

Colonial Cities

Delve into the past and see the most beautiful of colonial structures with a touch of syncretism. The unique fusion of the traditions of the colonial times and those of the Maya will astound you. It is no wonder that Antigua Guatemala has won prizes for its beauty and the excellent conservation of its architectonic monuments from colonial times, such as that proffered by the prestigious English magazine “Wanderlust” as “Best city of 2009”. The fact that this beautiful city, embraced by three impressive volcanoes (Water, Fire and  Acatenango), has to be discovered street by street, on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage. Also the panoramic view from high atop the cerro de la cruz, from where you can see the main arch presiding over the city, is a breathtaking sight.

Photo: By chensiyuan, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8886156

It still conserves buildings from the XVI Century, ancient convents, such as that of the Capuchinas and Santa Clara, The Cathedral of San José, the Compañía de Jesús, the Church of La Recolección, The Church and Convent of La Merced and the Convent and Arch of Santa Catarina; treasures from the past that will capture your heart as you explore its streets. You will find hotels of every category, especially those that maintain all of the details of style of the period.

Honduras

Lying in the heart of Central America, this tiny country, covering only 112,000 km2 shares its western border with Guatemala, its eastern boundary with Nicaragua, the south with El Salvador and the Pacific Ocean. The north is bathed by the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea.  Surrounded by dreamlike beaches and the longest barrier coral reef in the western hemisphere, Honduras gives you the opportunity to partake in numerous activities, like lying back on its paradisiacal beaches, white-water rafting on its rivers, immersing yourself in the tropical jungle and discovering the indigenous ethnic groups who conserve their traditions to this day.  Visit its villages, learn of its history and discover where its ancestral civilizations lived or where its colonial legacy persists.

Maya World
Mayan continues awakening the curiosity of archaeologists and scientists to this day. Their beliefs, sacrifices, writings and astronomy have been themes of conversation for years and the fact is that, still we ask how they were able to achieve some of the knowledge, wile lacking the necessary technology. Honduras has this heritage entrenched in its land. In its archaeological sites you can learn of its astronomic centres, its stelae, its writings and its games. Visit these sites to discover and to be surprised by one of the civilizations further ahead of its times. Feel Maya Culture!

Nicaragua

Bathed by the Pacific as well as the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) Oceans, lakes and rivers, Nicaragua is the ideal place to practice your favourite water sports: surfing, diving, sailing…or simply relaxing beside the deep blue waters.  You will fall in love with Nicaragua, not only because of its natural biodiversity, its volcanoes, its pre-Columbian heritage or its colonial cities … but also because of the great kindness of its people, who are perfect hosts, ready to make you feel at home, enfolding you in their warm smiles.

Nature

Known as the country of lakes and volcanoes, Nicaragua is a land of contrasts where there are more than 70 different ecosystems that are home to an ample biodiversity. Its land has 72 protected areas, in addition to forest reserves that help to maintain a natural balance and offer spectacular scenery. It also has 8 Ramsar sites, that is, wetlands of international importance as habitat for aquatic birds. This is a real opportunity to let yourself be taken in by this natural scenario, where the local inhabitant will be your best guide and companion.

Panamá

Panama is bordered on the East by Colombia and on the West by Costa Rica Its coasts are bathed by the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  This country has a surface area of 75.000 km2, where nature, culture, history and this great connection to the sea, it is a place of absolute harmony, offering a destination with an incredible diversity of attractions to visit and enjoy.  A perfect representation of natural exuberance, and boasting a most peculiar mix of races and customs, a colonial witness, Panama is also a vibrant city that contrasts with its paradisiacal scenarios of white sands and turquoise waters. It is the perfect for the demanding tourist seeking variety.

Indigenous Villages

Panama offers the relatively rare opportunity of experiencing the wealth of its culture by actually living with a number of indigenous groups, who survived the Spanish Conquistadors. In the West of the country, you will find Panamanian ethic groups, which include the Ngöbe Buglé or Bokotas, Bri-Bri and  Naso Teribe, of Chibcha origin, who migrated from the North of Colombia and extended their influence as far as Nicaragua. In eastern Panama, you can get to know and live with Panamanian ethnic groups such as the Kuna of Chibcha origin and the Wounaán and Emberá, who originated from descendents of the Caribe indigenous groups and who emigrated to the Amazon river basin and finally to Panama.

 

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