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Guatemala and Honduras uncovered

14 days from £3204pp

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Guatemala and Honduras uncovered:
Trip Dossier

This holiday to culture-rich Guatemala and the less well-known, rarely visited republic of Honduras takes you to some remote but extremely beautiful regions dotted with vestiges of a fascinating history. You start off in Antigua, one of the Spanish Empire’s most beautiful cities crammed with colonial mansions and flowery squares. Travel on to two of the Mayan civilisation’s most impressive archaeological sites, Tikal in Guatemala’s jungle lowlands and Copán over the border in Honduras.

Between these two visits you’ll head down the Rio Dulce in eastern Guatemala through mangroves and tropical forest, visiting a 16th century colonial fortress en route to the quirky town of Livingston, with its English-Caribbean-influenced Garifuna culture. Later you have a wildlife experience based at the extremely well-regarded, first-class Pico Bonito Lodge set in intact rainforest. Finally, head out to Roatán, one of the Bay Islands, for some beach-time and maybe a bit of snorkelling or scuba diving on the rich coral reef.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Antigua and transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Optional excursion to Pacaya volcano.

Day 3

Fly to Flores, guided tour of the Mayan ruins at Tikal.

Day 4

By road to Livingston via San Felipe fortress.

Day 5

At leisure among the Garifuna on the Caribbean coast.

Day 6

Drive over the border to Copán in Honduras via Quiriguá ruins.

Day 7

Guided tour of the ruined Mayan city Copán.

Day 8

By road to Pico Bonito via Lancetilla National Park.

Day 9

Excursion to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve.

Day 10

Guided excursion to Cayos Cochinos.

Day 11

Transfer to La Ceiba, fly to Roatán island.

Days 12-13

At leisure on the Caribbean coral island.

Day 14

Fly to San Pedro Sula connect with international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Antigua and transfer to hotel.
 

You will be met by our local representative and taken to your hotel in Antigua. It’s a journey of about an hour along a winding paved road.

Day 2

Optional excursion to Pacaya volcano.
 

The city is a colonial work of art, with cobbled streets, overhanging tiled roofs and a beautiful, leafy central plaza. There’s an abundance of huge ruined churches, convents and monasteries, testimony to a time when Antigua was the country’s capital and its main religious centre. You’ll have plenty of time to absorb this fascinating city, including on a walking tour of the historic centre. It seems that every doorway opens onto a fragrant tiled courtyard. A dramatic backdrop of smouldering volcanoes and ruined churches and convents surrounded by parkland bear witness to the city’s destruction by a volcanic eruption in 1773.

Antigua is a welcoming place to relax and unwind, do some shopping in tempting boutiques and art galleries, and enjoy the excellent food in a large range of restaurants and pavement cafés. Wander around the courtyards and enjoy the floral displays in beautifully tended gardens.

If you fancy something more active we can organise an optional guided 2-3hr ascent of the nearby 2,500m Pacaya volcano. The climb, while strenuous, is not technical and the views from the summit well worth the effort. Pine forest is replaced with scree and ash so you will need to be in reasonably good physical condition. The sulphurous vapour emitted from the cone is sometimes accompanied by small flows of lava: indeed there was an eruption in 2014, but it is still safe to climb. On a clear day it is possible to see all the way to El Salvador.

Walking Pacaya volcano

Day 3

Fly to Flores, guided tour of the Mayan ruins at Tikal.
 

By road to Guatemala City and take an hour-long flight to Flores, in the dense, sticky jungles of northern Guatemala, and from here you continue to your lodge.There will be a guided tour of the archaeological site at Tikal. Steep-stepped and vertiginous temples emerge high above the rainforest canopy; the views over the site from one of these ancient skyscrapers are unforgettable.

Spend the day wandering through the palace complexes. Tikal was one of the largest and most important Mayan city states, reaching its peak around AD800 prior to its mysterious demise. The pyramids and temples seem frozen in time, but you’re brought back to the present by the roar of curious howler monkeys and lithe spider monkeys as they swing through the trees; and by flashes of colour as toucans and parrots take flight.

Tikal Ruins and forest canopy

Day 4

By road to Livingston via San Felipe fortress.
 

Today you are leaving the tourists at Antigua and Tikal to set off to the less-visited, and culturally very distinct, eastern lowlands of Guatemala. The drive from Tikal to the town of Río Dulce takes 3-4 hrs, then you take a 90min boat trip along the along the Río Dulce to Livingston, through an impressive canyon, passing riverbanks thick with tropical forest harbouring abundant bird life.

Visit the well preserved fortress of Castillo de San Felipe, which was built to protect merchandise from pirates when the river was a Spanish trading route in the early 16th century. It has a splendid waterside location where the Rio Dulce meets the vast, yet geographically remote, Lake Izabál.

Lívingston is positioned at the mouth of the Río Dulce estuary and can only be reached by boat. Coconut groves and brightly coloured wooden buildings typify the laid-back little town which shelters a unique fusion of Guatemalan and Caribbean culture. The majority of the inhabitants are Garífuna, who trace their roots back to the Honduran island of Roatán, and now populate the Caribbean coast of Central America from Belize to Nicaragua.

Day 5

At leisure among the Garifuna on the Caribbean coast.
 

At leisure among the Garifuna on the Caribbean coast.

Day 6

Drive over the border to Copán in Honduras via Quiriguá ruins.
 

Depart Livingston by boat passing through the mangroves of Rio Dulce (90mins). Continue overland to the UNESCO cultural heritage site of Quiriguá and take a guided tour of the Mayan site. Its principal features are the enormous stone columns (stelae), exquisitely carved with representations of a dynastic history of the rulers.

It is another 2 hours’ drive to Copán Ruinas over the border in Honduras. The quaint little colonial town of Copán Ruinas is just 12 km from the Guatemalan border. The area's main attraction is the fabulous Mayan ruined site of Copán, just a kilometre away, like Qurirguá renowned for its beautiful sculptured stelae.

 

Ball court at Copan

Day 7

Guided tour of the ruined Mayan city Copán.
 

Guided tour of Copán. It is not as immense as Tikal but the Mayans’ craftsmanship has survived the passing of time - most impressively evident in the intricate carvings of the 21 stelae. Copán is believed to have been in its 'golden era' between 553AD and 738AD, before falling into decline soon after. Also visit the Maya Sculpture Museum, which exhibits artwork of the Mayan site. Access is through an impression of a snake's mouth framing the entrance. Its centrepiece though is a replica of Rosalila Temple, which lies concealed under a larger pyramid at the site itself.

Copan Ruins

Day 8

By road to Pico Bonito via Lancetilla National Park.
 

Set off by road to Pico Bonito, a first-class lodge set in coastal rainforest. En route, stop off at Lancetilla Botanical Gardens in the eponymous national park. It houses one of the largest collections of plantains in the world (Honduras is the original banana republic) and is well respected for its work in conserving Honduran plant species. There is an abundance of birdlife here since many of the trees are fruit-bearing, providing vital sustenance to over 250 identified species. Continue to Pico Bonito, your base for 3 nights.

Honduras wildlife

Day 9

Excursion to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve.
 

Today you’ll have a guided excursion to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve, dedicated to the preservation of the habitat for the endangered manatee, a comical-looking marine mammal also known as the sea cow.  Access is by hand-powered railroad flatcar along the tracks of an old banana train introduced by the Standard Fruit Company. Once within the reserve, there is a boat tour, where you may sight monkeys, seabirds and other fauna. The area is rich in bird life, with 198 different species recorded.

Day 10

Guided excursion to Cayos Cochinos.
 

Visit the unpopulated Cayos Cochinos (Hog Cays) Islands, reached in 45mins by boat from the port of La Ceiba. This exquisite archipelago and marine reserve comprises a collection of forested or palm-speckled coral islets ringed by chalk-white sand beaches and a reef alive with aquatic species. Cruise among the islets, stopping at a Garifuna fishing community and taking a short walk along a forest trail. Plenty of time is available for sunbathing or snorkelling.

Cayos Cochinos ( Hog Cayes)

Day 11

Transfer to La Ceiba, fly to Roatán island.
 

Transfer to La Ceiba and fly to Roatán island. Roatán is situated 50km off the coast of Honduras and is the most developed of the Bay Islands. It was once a hideaway for pirates and the infamous captain Henry Morgan made it his lair. Its people are a mix of Afro-Caribbean, European and Garífuna indian descent with English the main language spoken.

Fishing is still its main economic activity although in recent years it has become a top international destination for scuba diving and snorkelling. Sun worshippers can take advantage of some glorious secluded beaches while others can enjoy the eateries and use the facilities of the dive schools which line the powdery white sands of West Bay.

Days 12-13

At leisure on the Caribbean coral island.
 

At leisure on the Caribbean island. Your intimate resort hotel is set right on the beach. The small resort caters for divers but there are plenty of things to do for those who are not sub-aqua aficionados. Roatán offers a wide variety of adventures which can be organised from the hotel, from zip-lining to swimming with dolphins and horse riding to sunset sails.Kayaking, fishing, glass-bottomed boat tours, golf : there's something to appeal to everyone, and a spa on the premises if you need to relax after your exertions.

Of course, you might choose just to swing in a hammock, or enjoy a cocktail beside the pool.

Kayaking   Roatan Island

Day 14

Fly to San Pedro Sula connect with international flight.
 

Essential information

Transport

3 flights (longest 1 hr ); 4 scenic road journeys (longest 4hrs).

Accommodation

This tour uses small or medium-sized properties with plenty of local colour and special features. They have been selected for their convenience of location; in some more remote places choices of accommodation are limited, , but that said they are all good quality, friendly establishments. Pico Bonito Lodge and Barefoot Caye Hotel on the Caribbean coast are regarded by most as truly first class.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 3, 9, 10; dinner day 8.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Included excursions

• Tikal: Guided tour of Mayan ruins.
• Copán: Guided tour of Mayan ruins.
• Pico Bonito: Guided excursion to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve.
• Pico Bonito: Excursion to Cayos Cochinos.

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Antigua 2; Tikal 1; Livingston 2; Copán Ruinas 2; Pico Bonito 3; Barefoot Caye 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport in Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Guatemala is the quetzal. In Honduras it’s the lempira.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$35-45 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you may pay considerably more. The cost of living can be considerably cheaper in rural areas than major resorts.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns in Guatemala, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. In Honduras, you can change US dollar cash or travellers cheques locally in banks and may be able to obtain cash advances via the few ATMs in larger towns and cities. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited.  However these ATMs do not always accept foreign cards, which are also not usable in many smaller hotels and commercial outlets. Since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. You can obtain cash advances in most banks throughout the country.

We recommend that you also take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused.

You will be off the beaten track for a lot of the itinerary so make sure you have stocked up with cash in the places where exchange is available.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket. However there is a charge of $US40 charged locally for departures from San Pedro Sula.

Journey grade

There are no long days of travel on this trip. This holiday is suitable for all, including families. However, if you have a disability we should be aware of, or other special requirements, please call us. From May to October the weather can be extremely hot and humid, you should bear this in mind if travelling with small children or elderly persons.

Climate

Travellers in May to October should encounter high temperatures (around 35°C) and high humidity in the lowlands and on the coast. There are likely to be some short bursts of heavy rainfall during these months. From December to April visitors will still encounter high temperatures in the lowlands, and plenty of sun, but cooler evenings in Antigua. Rainfall and humidity will be lower at this time.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. Some warm items and good waterproof jackets are also necessary. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper, and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitoes may be hovering around.

Protection against the sun (sun-block, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sun block, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

The airline operating the light aircraft flight to Roatán imposes a hold luggage limit of 15kg.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Central America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to, or via, the USA you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.

This costs $14 per person, and must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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