Day - 1
Location: Playa del Carmen - Hola! Welcome to Mexico. Your adventure begins in Playa del Carmen with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early and are lucky enough to have extra time in this beachside playground, maybe try your hand (and feet and lungs) at snorkelling in the freshwater rock pools (cenotes). Maybe stroll along the white sands or reef dive on Cozumel. After the meeting, perhaps head out for a cocktail and a few tacos with your new travel buddies.
Day - 2
Location: Playa del Carmen - Wake up without an alarm – today is yours to explore this beachside paradise at your leisure. Known for its coral-clad reefs, Playa Del Carmen might be the perfect spot to don your snorkel mask and flippers and explore beneath the surface. Keep your eyes peeled for rays, moray eels and turtles. If you’d rather leave the flippers behind and adventure on land, catch a local bus and travel south to Tulum, where white-sand beaches and Maya ruins are just an hour and a half away. In the evening, you could grab a few of your fellow travellers and find a good spot to watch the sunset – muy bien!
Day - 3
Location: Chetumal - After breakfast, enjoy your final morning in Playa del Carmen. Maybe take an early morning stroll to the beach and dip your toes in the sand or simply let the world pass you by with a coffee at a local cafe. Head to your next stop in Chetumal mid-morning and arrive after lunch – a quiet city close to the border of Belize, this place makes for the perfect stop before tomorrow’s adventure to Caye Caulker. You have a free afternoon in Chetumal so you might like to round up your group and head to a local restaurant for the evening.
Day - 4
Location: Caye Caulker - Bid adios to Mexico early this morning as you head south to Belize. After border formalities, arrive in Belize City then hop in a water taxi to the island of Caye Caulker. When you arrive, get acquainted with the island on a guided walk with your leader. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. Be aware that there may be crocodiles in the split area that separates the north and south of the island, so it’s best to take caution while swimming and exploring the beaches.
Day - 5
Location: Caye Caulker - Good morning and welcome to heaven! Today is free for you to explore the island that surrounds you, or just to simply relax. If you feel like snorkelling, ask your leader about organising a trip to the colourful coral reef nearby, or maybe head further afield to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the world’s second-longest coral reef. Manatee spotting is perfect for nature lovers, or you could take a stroll and find a swaying palm tree with your name on it – they make the perfect place to nap, read a book and soak up the island vibes on a beach day.
Day - 6
Location: Caye Caulker - What’s better than one day in paradise? Two, of course! Wake up whenever you like, because you’ve got another free day. Like any good seaside paradise, Caye Caulker is home to super fresh seafood, which you can dig into with your feet planted in the sand at one of the many ‘floor free’ outdoor restaurants. The island's famous lobsters are available between 15 June and 15 February, and you can expect to pay far less than at home (though more than your average island meal). You could even grab some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with firewater from a roadside stall to really get into the island spirit.
Day - 7
Location: San Ignacio - From the islands to the highlands, you’ll bid farewell to Caye Caulker today and catch a ferry to Belize City, then a bus to San Ignacio. When you arrive, your leader will take you on a walking tour of San Ignacio and its twin sister Santa Elena, giving you a sense of how vibrant the local Garifuna and Maya communities are. Tonight, maybe head out in search of a classic Maya dish like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus).
Day - 8
Location: San Ignacio - Today is free for you to discover San Ignacio at your own pace. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the ideal base. If you’re a bit of a history buff, maybe take a day trip to Xunantunich – an impressive Maya ceremonial site on a hill overlooking the countryside. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river. Also nearby is the cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal – a living museum of Maya relics. Wade through cool waters to find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons preserved by the calcium-rich environment of the cave for over 1400 years. Easily spooked? Maybe you'd prefer a cave with fewer (as far as we know) skeletons, like the one in Mountain Pine Ridge. In the late afternoon, the barbecue stalls of Santa Elena start to set up for the dinner rush. It's only a 15-minute walk, so consider wandering over to enjoy a juicy chicken leg and a chat with the locals.
Day - 9
Location: Tikal National Park - Rise and shine for an 8 am taxi ride to the Belize-Guatemala border. Once you've crossed over, board a bus to Tikal National Park. Here, there will be time to buy lunch before visiting the impressive archaeological site. Towering above the jungle, the five granite temples of Tikal are an imposing sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the evergreen forest is a maze of smaller structures waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and the chance to spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. Choose to explore on your own or pay a little more for a guided tour (or maybe see the site from above on an optional zip-line ride).
Day - 10
Location: Rio Dulce - This morning you’ll depart for Flores, where your leader will take you on a walking tour of the island. Then, continue by private minivan to Rio Dulce before transferring to your hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also on the water – a journey that can be organised through the hotel. Alternatively, a 40-minute jungle walk will get you there. The hotel is a great place to relax and look over the water, with reasonably priced meals and drinks served in the hotel restaurant. Now that you are back in a Spanish-speaking nation, why not join an informal Spanish lesson led by your leader?
Day - 11
Location: Rio Dulce - With plenty of free time today, consider taking advantage of some optional activities. Maybe take a scenic boat trip down the river to the coastal enclave of Livingston for a taste of Creole-Caribbean culture. This laidback town on the Caribbean coast feels very different from the rest of Guatemala thanks to its Garifuna population. Or maybe go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot local manatees or explore nearby San Felipe Fort.
Day - 12
Location: Antigua - Leave the 'Sweet River' behind and travel by private minibus to the city of Antigua. The road between Rio Dulce and Guatemala City is one of the busiest in the country. Traffic is slow, there are frequent road works and many, many slow trucks – be armed with patience, music and a good book and the journey will be easier to handle. Though there's not much time in Antigua today, you owe it to yourself to reward your patience with a tamale (meat and dough steamed in a corn leaf). You could also give pepian a try (rich dark sauce served with vegetables and meat, usually chicken).
Day - 13
Location: Panajachel - Today, travel on the winding roads to Chichicastenango – home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country! Nicknamed Chichi market, locals come from surrounding villages on Thursdays and Sundays to sell their wares and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce. Visit a local Mayan Shaman and do a little shopping at the market, then continue to Panajachel. Located on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, great eateries and many water-based activities. Your leader will take you on a brief orientation walk of the town and then the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore. Why not go for a swim, wander the streets or kayak on the lake?
Day - 14
Location: San Juan La Laguna - This morning after breakfast, take a boat to San Juan La Laguna – a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan and the first community to ban single-use plastic. Here, you’ll witness a textile weaving demonstration, seeing how they use local materials and traditional dyeing techniques. Try out some of your newly learnt Spanish to chat with the locals and take a tour of their medicinal garden, watching how they use ancient techniques to transform plants into medicine - knowledge passed from mothers to daughters for hundreds of years. Tonight, you’ll be staying with multiple families within the community in small groups. Enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family and spend the night here – a perfect opportunity to get to know them a little better and immerse yourself in local life.
Day - 15
Location: Antigua - Hit the road again this morning and make the journey back to Antigua – in 1773, the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored, and the architecture from its glory days can still be seen. On the way, stop at Santa Apolonia – one of the last communities in Guatemala to make pottery with traditional Maya techniques. The ancient Maya people could produce perfectly rounded pottery without a potter’s wheel! Here, the local women use their hands, as they move in a circular motion to produce amazing pieces. Watch a demonstration and then try it for yourself. Continue to Antigua, where your leader will take you on an orientation walk to the Cerro de la Cruz lookout. Tonight, maybe take part in a dancing lesson – many dancing schools offer hourly lessons, so you'll be able to perfect your moves.
Day - 16
Location: Antigua - Enjoy a free day exploring photogenic Antigua today. Maybe check out the ChocoMuseo, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, which was first documented by the Guatemalan Maya, as well as its historical importance. Or maybe grab a coffee from one of the myriad shops in central park, sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's chilled-out vibes.
Day - 17
Location: Antigua - Enjoy a free day to explore the city, with nothing scheduled until a meeting to welcome any new travellers joining you on your adventure. Maybe grab some roasted beans from a street vendor and munch them while you stroll around. If you’ve got a historical bent, perhaps check out the 18th-century ruins of the Monastery of Santa Clara.
Day - 18
Location: Copan - Rise and shine early this morning to beat the rush-hour traffic around Antigua. Departing at around 4 am, you’ll drive towards Copan. Along the way, your leader will run an informal Spanish lesson, providing you with some useful phrases to break the ice with the locals. Head into Honduras through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala, arriving in the charming town of Copan in the early afternoon. While most people use Copan as a base to explore the nearby ruins, there are plenty of other points of interest, both along the cobblestone streets and set into the lush surroundings. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to a cafe, or maybe head to the nearby natural hot springs. This optional tour gives you hours of soaking in mud, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools in the lush jungle, with an included dinner.
Day - 19
Location: Copan - This morning, join your leader and explore the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan – the southernmost of the great Maya sites. It's unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae (carved columns) still intact among temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. After your exploration (don’t forget your camera today!) the rest of the afternoon is free to choose your own adventure. Maybe check out some fine feathered friends at the Macaw Mountain Park or visit the Temple of Rosalila. If you didn’t get to the hot springs yesterday, this afternoon is the perfect opportunity to soak away your active morning.
Day - 20
Location: Suchitoto - You’ll wave goodbye to Copan this morning and head across the border to El Salvador. It’s a long travel day, so make sure you’ve got a good book or your favourite road trip games handy. When you arrive in Suchitoto, you’ll head out on a leader-led orientation walk of the town – widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Admire the elaborate building facades, get your bearings and enjoy the surroundings. Then, get your chef’s hat on with a pupusa-making cooking class in a private home. Pupusa (cornmeal flatbreads) is a classic Salvadorian recipe from the Pipil culture and is usually stuffed with some delicious ingredients, like cheese or chicharron (fried pork).
Day - 21
Location: Suchitoto - Today is a free day in Suchitoto. Birders will want to crane their necks towards the sky as Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path! The town also overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande – also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe grab a historically minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the Civil War. Or just relax around town, in a local café or at your accommodation.
Day - 22
Location: Pacific Coast, El Salvador - This morning, head to a local designer’s home for an indigo-dying demonstration – Suchitoto is one of the best places in the world to produce indigo (used to dye clothing or other items blue). You’ll visit a local designer transforming colonial tradition into modern design and learn the history of the indigo trade. This small enterprise supports single mothers by providing them with an income for their children’s education, food and independence. Watch the demonstration, then get hands-on and try it for yourself! To decide who gets to take the creation home, the group will hold a raffle (are you feeling lucky?). After, you’ll drive to the Pacific Coast of El Salvador, home to some amazing dark-sand beaches and some of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to the beach for a swim or relax under the palms with a beer while you wait for sunset. As night falls, you could enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crabs are some of the tastiest around.
Day - 23
Location: Pacific Coast, El Salvador - Today, you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful Pacific Coast at your own pace. Surf culture is big here, so you might like to make like the locals and hit the waves with a surf lesson. Alternatively, simply sit back and relax in a hammock on the beach and soak up the sunshine with a drink – life’s good.
Day - 24
Location: Leon - Rise nice and early for a full day of travel by private vehicle. Cross the border at El Amatillo and then head into Honduras, where you’ll stop for lunch. After, there’s another border crossing at Guasaule before you reach Leon – the second-largest city in Nicaragua. When you arrive, join your leader on an orientation walk through the charming city streets to get your bearings. Leon is surprisingly relatively free of tourists, which makes strolling the murals and contemporary architecture a real treat! Tonight, maybe head out to dinner with your group – as always, your leader will have the best recommendations.
Day - 25
Location: Leon - Today is a free day to make the most of Leon. Maybe visit the street food area behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral and try a Nica taco (made with maize, the taco is rolled, deep fried and then served with shredded cabbage smothered in cream). You could also take on a thrilling volcano sandboarding adventure on the black slopes of Cerro Negro Volcano. Maybe you’d just like to explore the city’s contemporary art or wander the Leon Cathedral.
Day - 26
Location: Granada - This morning, you’ll drive to the oldest city in the 'New World' – Granada. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture, Granada is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. You’ll be travelling by taxi from the hotel to the bus station, boarding a local bus bound for Managua and then hopping on a public bus to Granada. When you arrive, your leader will take you on an orientation walk through the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada' – a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants. The afternoon is yours to explore the city at your own pace. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat, or hire a kayak and find your own way around, waving at the fisherman who live in wooden huts along the way. Just remember not to swim, as freshwater sharks live in the water!
Day - 27
Location: Granada - This morning you’ll have breakfast with your group at Cafe de las Sonrisas – a café run entirely by deaf people. The owner is aiming to bridge the gap and inspire other business owners to employ local people living with disabilities. After, maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of Indigenous stone statues or take a boat tour of Monkey Island. Maybe hit the water again for a kayaking tour of Laguna Apoyo. Tonight, maybe book a special trip to Masaya Volcano National Park and see the lava lake at Santiago Crater at night (this is the best time to see the lava stir, bubble, spew and erupt)!
Day - 28
Location: Monteverde - Today is another early start as you get ready for a full day of travel. Journey to Monteverde, where you can begin exploring this afternoon on an orientation walk with your leader. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers. These environmentally aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are like rainforests, but instead, draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is truly a nature lover's paradise! More than 2000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Monteverde home. Keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal – one of the world’s most elusive birds.
Day - 29
Location: Monteverde - Enjoy a free day to discover this lush reserve at your own pace. Maybe take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the thick canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. Guided tours are particularly helpful for those interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna, as well as the different roles wildlife play in Mesoamerican mythology. For guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes, head to the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium.
Day - 30
Location: La Fortuna - Spend a final morning in the thickets of the Monteverde jungle, maybe taking one last walk to search for wildlife, then depart in the early afternoon for La Fortuna. You’ll drive to the shores of Lake Arenal, where you’ll take a boat across the lake to the little town of La Fortuna. On a clear day, you'll have fantastic views of the surrounding area. Watching the massive Arenal Volcano loom larger and larger as you approach is a spectacular sight. Once you reach La Fortuna, take another vehicle to the hotel, then freshen up and head out on a leader-led orientation walk. La Fortuna is a favourite among travel writers for a reason – words like picturesque and breathtaking spring to mind when trying to describe this town in the shadow of the volcano.
Day - 31
Location: La Fortuna - Why not start today with a smoothie and plan how you want to explore? Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals, or see the forest from a series of hanging bridges that offer a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs – an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Or maybe check out the 70-m-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of the rainforest and hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. A boat safari in Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat, so if you’re craving more wildlife, this option is perfect.
Day - 32
Location: San Jose - Watch the volcano fade into the distance on a local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital – San Jose. When you arrive, head out on an orientation walk with your leader to see the main highlights. When you’ve got your bearings, you may like to visit the Gold Museum, which has a fantastic collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for some shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. Tonight, why not ask your leader for the best recommendations for dinner?
Day - 33
Location: San Jose - With no further activities planned, your trip comes to an end this morning. There's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, so if you’d like to stay for longer, just speak to your booking agent.