Guatemala & Honduras: http://travel.webshots.com/album/573873629GpJgRF
Costa Rica: http://travel.webshots.com/album/574292450qMRmxn
Please have a look at my three albums for my June/ July 2009 trip to Central America covering Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
I joined the Volcano Trail tour with GAP Adventures. This tour was a very good tour covering four countries in a short period of time with many different activities to choose from. Almost all the activities are optional, allowing travellers to choose what they want to do.
1. Guatemala – Antigua:
· Antigua Guatemala was the first destination of the tour. As it was the departing point of the tour, I arrived one day earlier.
· Antigua is a world heritage site with beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture. It is very easy to walk around the historic centre. The most stunning churches are the Merced Church and San Francisco Church. I comfortably explored the compact historic centre in a day.
· I took a day trip to the impressive world heritage Mayan ruins of Tikal. The day trip was expensive but I could not resist taking this tour to see this important archaeological site. The tour was very good and Tikal was one of the highlights of my journey.
2. Honduras – Copan:
· I had to wake up early (around 5:30 am) to meet our tour mates and started a six hour journey to Copan, Honduras. We arrived in Copan around 12:30 pm as the journey and immigration went very smooth.
· After lunch, almost all of us went for the interesting world heritage Copan Ruins. Some of us decided to go for the guided tour in English. I visited the impressive Museum of Maya Sculptures afterwards.
· The town of Copan Ruinas is very small but very charming. It is full of pretty colourful houses with cobblestone streets. It is well worth an hour or two to explore its pretty streets.
· Pupusas are very good and cheap local meals.
· The political situation in Honduras started to affect our trip. We could not move onto the next destination – Utila Islands. We stayed at Copan Ruinas for one more day and three of us went to the lovely Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve. The bird park is located in a beautiful tropical setting and very enjoyable! We saw many beautiful birds.
· The decision was to go back to Antigua, Guatemala and flew from Guatemala to Nicaragua to continue our journey. The flight cost would be at traveller’s expenses. Fortunately one tour mate found out that the cancellation insurance might cover trip interruption.
3. Nicaragua – Leon:
· Instead of some long travel days and two days on Utila Island in Honduras, we spent two days in Leon, Nicaragua. Leon offers beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, stunning churches and it is a great place to learn more about Nicaragua’s turbulent history. Leon feels “real” to me and I like it.
· We flew from Guatemala City to Managua – the capital of Nicaragua and soon noticed the changes from Guatemala to Nicaragua. We had a transfer from Managua to Leon. Nicaragua was much hotter than the highlands of Antigua.
· Leon offers interesting activities for adventurous travellers, including volcano boarding. A beach is close by as well. I opted for the tour of the ruins of Leon Viejo and city tour of Leon.
· Nicaragua’s facilities are probably the most basic out of all four countries visited.
4. Nicaragua – Granada:
· Beautiful Granada was the next stop and we went back to our original itinerary.
· Granada’s Spanish colonial architecture is beautifully restored and painted in vibrant colour. It is one of the most beautiful places I have visited.
· Granada offers some fun nature excursions – like the Isletas (a cruise of many small islands in Lake Nicaragua) and the Masaya Volcano.
· I took the cheap local bus to the Masaya handicrafts market and it was an interesting experience as well.
5. Nicaragua – Ometepe:
· We had to leave Granada early to first take a bus to the ferry station. Then we were transferred to the ferry to get to the volcanic island of Ometepe.
· The ferry to Ometepe looked old but the ride was smooth. The view of Ometepe was beautiful. Ometepe is a beautiful island with lush vegetation.
· Main thing to do in Ometepe was to hike one of the two volcanoes. Only two tour mates hiked up the Maderas volcano. Some of us went for a relative easy hike up the viewpoint of the Maderas volcano and saw some interesting petroglyphs.
· The sunset at the beach of Santo Domingo was really nice!
· Other things to do in Ometepe were the watering hole and a museum with a good collection of petroglyphs. I did not go to either of these places.
6. Costa Rica – Monteverde
· Crossing the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was quite an experience. It was a chaotic experience.
· Finally we were in Costa Rica! The scenery up Monteverde was very beautiful. It was much cooler than Nicaragua. The weather got rainy as well.
· The cloud forest is a special nature experience. Most of my tourmates opted for the zip lining. I went for a nice and relaxing canopy walk.
· The coffee plantation tour was interesting as well. I got a chance to see the beautifully painted Costa Rican oxcart.
· Scenery en route from Monteverde to Arenal was really pretty. The boat ride across the lake was scenic. Unfortunately the weather was very overcast.
7. Costa Rica – La Fortuna / Arenal
· La Fortuna/ Arenal offers plenty of nature to explore. Other tourmates opted either to chill out or white water rafting. I took a day trip to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge and saw many interesting creatures!
· As I wanted to explore a bit of Costa Rica’s aboriginal culture, there was a reconstructed Maleku village at Arenal Mundo Aventura Park. The adventure park is lovely to explore as well.
· La Fortuna / Arenal’s setting is beautiful. I did not go to the waterfall as it was quite far from the town centre. The town itself does not have a lot to offer except for some interesting souvenir stores and the pretty main square with a lovely church.
· Perhaps the nicest experience I had in La Fortuna / Arenal was the hot springs at Baldi. The facility was really nice and it was very relaxing to soak in hot springs. I highly recommended it!
8. Costa Rica – San Jose
· The capital of Costa Rica - San Jose may look like a busy city with non-descriptive buildings. Upon further exploration, San Jose boasts very interesting museums. The Jade Museum and the Precolombian Gold Museum are very impressive.
· The splendid National Theatre is a great piece of architecture well worth exploring right in downtown San Jose. There are some pretty old buildings in downtown worth exploring as well, like the Post Office Building.
· As a city person, I really enjoyed San Jose and it was a great end to this wonderful vacation.
Some other thoughts:
· There are quite a few exit fees and entrance fees for countries visited.
· I was glad to take out the cancellation insurance to provide some protection for trip interruptions due to unforeseen events.
· I found the weather to be much nicer than I thought at this time of the year (late June / early July). It was not as rainy as I thought, except in highlands of Costa Rica. Honduras and Nicaragua were hot, but still very manageable for sightseeing. At night it was very pleasant even in hot places.
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Photos - Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
Guatemala & Honduras: http://travel.webshots.com/album/573873629GpJgRF